Test Drive: 2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Touring 6MT

As reported recently by autoTRADER.ca, next year’s Subaru Legacy will enjoy a few updates with the hope of reversing the sales tailspin the model is currently enduring. Some of these updates – like the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – are overdue, while others (like mild styling revisions), will do little more than help maintain a family resemblance.

...it's still a darn fine machine.

For those who can’t wait for the refreshed Legacy, the local dealer will be all too happy to sell you a 2017 Subaru Legacy and you can be assured, it’s still a darn fine machine.

The mid-size sedan segment in North America is facing abandonment by consumers at a startling rate – it’s not just the Legacy. Once popular with families and business-folk alike, these handsome and comfortable machines are being passed over in favour of trendy crossover SUVs of varying sizes and blob-like shapes. And it’s a shame, too, since today’s mid-size sedan offerings provide safety, comfort, luxury and performance measures exceeding those we’ve ever seen before, making for a group of very impressive machines.

Our test car is somewhat of a rarity amongst press fleets, being a non-sporting model equipped with a manual transmission. Of course, finding a stick-shift anywhere these days is becoming increasingly rare. But if a mid-size sedan with a stick shift and all-wheel-drive for less than $30,000 is on your shopping list, it’ll be a very short list. The Legacy is it. Ford offers a Fusion SE model with AWD for just under $30-large, but a computer will be tasked with swapping gears for you.

When paired with the stick-shift, the Legacy can be had only with Subaru’s venerable 2.5 L horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine. Without the forced induction employed by some competitors, the Legacy strains out 175 hp at 5,800 rpm and 174 lb-ft of torque at a fairly lofty 4,000. This means that when hauling around 1,544 kg, acceleration is adequate if not exciting. A more powerful 3.6 L H6 engine is also available on costlier trim levels of the Legacy.

Nevertheless, the six-speed manual is decently precise and enjoyable to operate; working in concert with a light and progressive clutch. When driven with enthusiasm, the boxer engine’s fueling allows the revs to hang annoyingly between shifts – a trait we’ve noticed in some other Subarus, though admittedly, not as pronounced here in the Legacy.

Truthfully, the manual transmission seems a little out of place here in a family sedan. Buyers looking to hang on to their sporting youth while driving around the family brood might well consider Subaru’s much sportier (albeit smaller) WRX sedan for a modest additional investment. The CVT transmission also improves fuel economy.

Still, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the shifter was rowed enthusiastically every chance presented. Pulling away from stoplights, up-and-downshifting for corners and on-ramps, there is an unquestionable improvement to driver engagement with a manual transmission.

It’s only too bad Subaru’s engineers didn’t tune in a bit more steering feel for the Legacy to elevate that driver engagement even more. As it is, steering effort is very light and feel is particularly numb. By comparison, a Honda Accord or Ford Fusion feels closer to a sport sedan steering configuration than the Legacy, however, those would-be sport sedan buyers should again be re-directed to a WRX.

Subarus tend to shine brightest when driving conditions are at their worst. And as luck would have it, during our week with the Legacy, Mother Nature provided a mixed-bag of winter precipitation (on the day the car was to be photographed, naturally). As if to thumb its generic-looking sedan nose at the weather, several playful minutes were spent (legally) drifting around on a piece of private pavement, sending white rooster tails everywhere. This is where the lifeless steering is somewhat forgiven, when the unmatched connection of four powered wheels (shod in excellent Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires) claw at the road surface. It’s fun when driven in a hoodlum way like this, but also brings to light the superior controllability of the Legacy in emergency manoeuvers out in the real world, regardless of road conditions.

Braking, too, is a strong point for the Legacy, with ample stopping power, a solid feeling brake pedal and good initial bite.

Reportedly the 2018 Subaru Legacy will enjoy an improvement to ride quality, which is surprising since our press car, riding on small-ish looking 17-inch wheels, provided a smooth and supple platform, particularly cruising the highway. Hopefully an even cushier Legacy won’t be at the expense of the 2017 model’s capable handling.

Virtually every new vehicle purchase is accompanied by at least a modicum of emotion, and it’s that emotional level that can be placated by attractive styling. Mid-size sedans run the gamut of appearance from dowdy to downright beautiful. The Legacy – especially in this near-entry-level trim skews much closer to the former than latter. The blue oval Subaru logo on the grille could be interchanged with a blue oval Ford logo and very few people would notice. It’s not unattractive, just uninspiring.

Inside, it’s a similar story. This Touring trim car is a step up from the basement-level Legacy, offering pleasantries like a sunroof and leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel. Heated seats are standard fare, but the seats themselves are finished in beige cloth upholstery that is sure to show every mark and stain accumulated from daily use. What’s more, they’re wide and flat and offer little by way of lateral support.

The plastics used throughout are mostly of the soft-touch variety, and have been well assembled by the folks in Indiana, but many parts have a cheap appearance to them. Of particular note, the painted-silver accent trim across the door panels and dashboard looks especially chintzy.

Ergonomically, the Legacy is quite good. Primary controls are operated by straight-forward knobs and the 7.0-inch infotainment system employs touchscreen functionality. Unfortunately, Subaru’s STARLINK system is not among the industry best thanks to its slow response rate, making next year’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto implementation a big win.

Interior space is decent, but both cargo volume and passenger space (particularly in the rear seat) lag behind the segment’s top three sellers (Camry, Accord and Fusion). Likewise, fuel efficiency is mid-pack at best, likely due in no small part to the all-wheel-drive system. Still, it’s important to note that the Legacy is neither inefficient, nor is it small in size – just not top of the class.

With its strong reputation for quality and unparalleled all-wheel traction, Subaru’s Legacy makes a compelling case for itself in the mid-size segment. And buyers who truly can’t wait for 2018’s improvements may be able to press for bigger discounts on a 2017 model creating an even better value on a very good machine.

2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i MT
Engine Displacement: 2.5L
Engine Cylinders: H4
Peak Horsepower: 174 hp
Peak Torque: 178 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 10.7/7.9/9.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 425 L
articles_PricingType 2017 Subaru Legacy 2.5i MT
Base Price $26,595
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,595
Price as Tested $28,290
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment