New Midsize Sedan
Subaru debuts the all-new seventh generation Legacy for 2020 — the only midsize sedan on the market offered exclusively with all-wheel drive. While other automakers are adding new SUVs models and even eliminating their car lines, Subaru remains true to its existing vehicle mix — a strategy that aims to build on over a decade of sales increases, with the company on track to achieve 12 consecutive years of year-over-year sales increases at the close of 2019. As with all Subaru models except the rear-wheel drive BRZ coupe, the next-gen Legacy is offered exclusively with Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive as standard equipment, as well as EyeSight driver-assist technology.
Subaru Global Platform
The new Legacy is based on Subaru’s Global Platform, and with the use of high-strength steel and industrial adhesive the new model is 70 percent stiffer but lighter than the previous generation. The 2020 Legacy is quieter and smoother than its predecessor, with less body roll, improved safety performance and handling upgrades. Crash protection also is improved, with the new structure absorbing 40 percent more energy in front /side crashes than the previous model. Subaru anticipates the new Legacy will receive a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — the highest rating possible.
While the underpinnings are all new for the Legacy, the exterior design is not a huge departure from the previous version, although it does adopt a new headlight design, frameless hexagonal grille as well as a new lower grille. Wider fenders include more pronounced wheel arches to emphasize the all-wheel-drive capability, while the sedan’s profile reveals a fast roofline and higher trunk lid. A new side mirror design improves both aerodynamics and interior quietness.
The new Legacy is offered in four trim levels with the standard engine, and two trim levels with the optional 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. The standard Legacy is offered in Base, Premium, Sport and Limited, with the turbocharged model available as Limited XT and Touring XT. The base starting price for Legacy is $22,745; at the top of the range the Limited XT starts at $34,195, and the Touring XT rounds out the lineup at $35,895. Standard equipment includes the Subaru STARLINK multimedia system, automatic climate control, LED headlights and a sound-insulation windshield.
New Touring XT, Updated Sport
The 2020 Legacy adds the Touring XT as the top-line version and updates to the Legacy Sport. The Legacy Touring XT features high-gloss vertical window pillars, chrome door handles and satin-finish mirrors as well as a Nappa leather interior. The Legacy Sport has a grille with a high-gloss black bar, high-gloss black mirrors, a unique rear bumper, a trunk lid spoiler and dark metallic 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the Legacy Sport receives aluminum pedals and red stitching for the instrument panel, door trim, seats, shift lever boot and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Legacy Sport also includes SI-Drive with Intelligent and Sport Sharp modes that vary engine characteristics and responsiveness.
EyeSight and DriverFocus
Standard on all trim levels of the 2020 Legacy, Subaru’s Eyesight Driver Assist Technology with Eyesight Assist Monitor is designed to help prevent collisions and includes advanced adaptive cruise control with lane centering, pre-collision braking and throttle management; and vehicle lane departure and sway warning. New for 2020 is the DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, which uses an infrared camera and facial recognition to determine if the driver is fatigued or simply not paying attention. If the system determines the driver is drowsy or not paying attention, it provides both audio and visual alerts.
Under the Hood
The 2020 Legacy is powered by a new direct-injection 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine producing 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, combined with a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with a new 8-speed manual shift mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Legacy Limited XT and Touring XT trims are powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 2.4-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine producing 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque, also combined with the Lineartronic CVT.
For improved ride and handling, the 2020 Legacy front suspension features MacPherson struts with a new internal rebound spring, aluminum lower L-arms and a new 23mm hollow stabilizer bar. The rear suspension features a double-wishbone layout with subframe, coil springs and a new 19mm hollow stabilizer bar. The Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive with active torque split uses an electronically-controlled continuously-variable hydraulic transfer clutch to actively control torque distribution in response to driving and road conditions.
A new highlight of the Legacy interior is the available Subaru STARLINK 11.6-inch Multimedia Infotainment system that features a tablet-style interface but retains physical controls for functions such as audio volume, audio tuning and climate control. The standard STARLINK system utilizes two 7.0-inch touchscreens, with the upper screen controlling the audio system while the lower system provides access to climate control, controls for EyeSight and other vehicle systems.
The new Subaru STARLINK 11.6-inch Multimedia Plus system features an 11.6-inch high-resolution touchscreen with new on-screen controls for audio, climate control and vehicle features. The smartphone integration includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as new STARLINK SmartDeviceLink apps. Standard on Touring XT and available for Premium, Sport and Limited trims, the navigation system adds TomTom navigation with three years of complimentary map updates and SiriusXM Traffic and TravelLink with three-year complimentary subscriptions.
The interior of the 2020 Legacy is noticeably quiet, with a standard sound-insulation windshield, a new mirror design and sound-insulation front windows on the Touring XT. Much appreciated is the interior design with a hood over the instrument cluster and an 11.6-inch touchscreen integrated into the center stack. The touchscreen is responsive and easy to use, and the physical buttons for volume, radio tuning and temperature are the right size and welcome for those high-level tasks. For those who might be considering a crossover, the Legacy trunk adds 1.4 inches of additional cargo floor length and a wide opening to accommodate four full-size roller bags.
On the Road
The revised 2.5-liter boxer engine provides the 2020 Legacy with good power for a vehicle of this size, and is on par with the competitors in the segment. The CVT does a pretty good job of mimicking a traditional automatic transmission under easy acceleration, but with more aggressive acceleration the rpm hang in the peak range to access more power. With the paddles, the driver can manually shift through set ratios for a more old-school driving experience.
The 2020 Legacy receives turbo power once again as standard equipment on the XT trims; the turbocharged 2.4-liter boxer engine is a big jump from the standard engine. Although it possesses more power than most Legacy owners will need, according to Subaru the Legacy Touring XT will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is a pretty respectable time for a Subaru that doesn’t say WRX on the back. The extra power makes passing maneuvers much easier and overall drivability much better as well thanks to the extra torque on tap.
According to Subaru, the new Legacy is the best-handling Legacy ever — and it is — but it’s still not a sport sedan. The ride is comfortable and well-controlled; the steering is pretty good and it is even pretty fun to drive. But if drivers push it a little bit on a curvy road that’s a little rough they’ll get bounced around a bit. Standard all-wheel drive is a plus for those who need it, and it’s not even an option for several of the top competitors, although fuel economy does suffer a bit at 27 mpg city / 35 mpg highway / 30 mpg combined for the 2.5-liter.
Right for You?
Subaru has done an excellent job over the last 12 years producing the right cars for its loyal customers, and the new Legacy is the best midsize sedan they have produced. The styling may be a bit conservative for some, but it’s a really good-looking sedan that offers the choice of two powertrains as well as the advantage of all-wheel drive. The interior is an equally pleasant design and comfortable, with the Nappa leather interior adding an upscale look and feel. For buyers seeking a midsize sedan with the advantage of all-wheel drive, the 2020 Subaru Legacy might be the answer.
Pros: Nice design; available turbocharged engine; standard all-wheel drive; great high-def touchscreen infotainment; Nappa leather for new Touring XT.
Cons: Conservative design (yes, both conservative and nice); CVT transmission; too many puppies in advertisements.
Bottom Line: Attractive sedan with standard all-wheel drive for those who need it, and an available powerful turbocharged engine.