• Jun 29th 2009 at 11:55AM
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2010 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT – Click above for high-res image gallery

For one reason or another, we've always thought that if you delved deep enough into the history of Subaru, you'd discover the Japanese automaker is, in fact, Swedish. One can imagine rifling through the company's dusty archives, only to discover that at some point in time, through some quirk of fate – or perhaps a common love of fish – Subaru was born in Scandinavia, yet it ended up turning Japanese (I really think so). Just look at the evidence: Quirky styling? Check. Steadfast adherence to left-field drivetrains? Check. Time-honored emphasis on honest utility? Check. Willfully different clientele base? Check. Good in winter? Uh-huh. Sound like any Swedish automakers we know?

There's one key difference between the Nipponese automaker and its kindred spirits over at Saab and Volvo, and it's a biggie: Subaru is making money, and they're picking up share. Year-to-date, Subie has lost just 1.8% of its sales year-over-year in America's wretched, turd-down-the-toilet economy. In this "flat is the new up" market, that's a stellar performance – far better than any other mainline automaker, including current industry darlings Hyundai/Kia. And after a day's drive in the firm's new-for-2010 Legacy, we think they're poised for even greater success. Follow the jump to find out why.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

2009 marks the 20th year of Subaru's Legacy lineup, and in a happy bit of self-gifting, the boys and gals at Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) have popped out this brand-spanking new fifth-generation model. As is the way these days, the all-wheel drive sedan has grown in all dimensions. Use of a new platform ensures that the new car is 1.4-inches longer (to 186.4), 3.6-inches wider (to 71.7), and 3.2-inches taller (59.3) than the exiting model. Overall length may have only grown fractionally, but the wheelbase has swollen by 3.2 inches, prioritizing additional space in the passenger compartment.

One might reasonably fear that the Legacy has picked up a whole mess of additional poundage in the embiggening process. Not so. According to Subaru, the base car weighs 3,270 pounds, and all models are no more than 65 pounds heavier than their 2009 counterparts – an eminently reasonable trade-off for a massive increase in interior room and superior content levels.

Outside, the 2010 model is much more assertive than the outgoing car, which itself was a bit of a shrinking violet. After the departure of designer Andreas Zapatinas and his Edselian B9 Tribeca, the Pleiades brand seemed to lose a bit of its design nerve and the will to create a unified corporate face. But now, it finally seems to be seeking out its mojo once again with this new Legacy.

We're not entirely sure this is a good thing, as the Legacy has gone from understated confidence to a jumble of incomplete ideas (Chrysler Sebring hawkeye headlamps, chrome-happy "wing" grille, hulking flared fenders to emphasize the car's all-wheel drive) that fail to live in complete harmony with each other. We'll leave final judgment up to you, only with the knowledge that the whole package looks better on the street than it does in photos (particularly when fitted with larger alloys that don't get lost in the cartoonishly overemphasized wells) and our divisiveness towards it softened over time. Thankfully, Subaru sales have never been predicated on beautiful sheetmetal, and we can't see this model being any different.

Open up the wider-angle, newly-framed doors (the old, rattle-prone sashless jobbies are gone), and a significantly larger and much-improved interior awaits. Dominating the instrument panel is a silver-effect center stack topped with a birdbath-like information display. The vertical array houses the usual complement of audio and HVAC controls (along with an eight-inch navigation screen if so-optioned), and it has a deep storage pocket for odds-n-ends. Plastics are nicely grained and solid fit-and-finish was in evidence, but greater use of soft-touch surfaces and more sincere-looking faux wood trim on Limited models wouldn't go amiss.

All the controls are easy to reach and intuitive to use, with the exception of a too-crowded and too-low panel that houses the power mirror controls, electronic parking brake, hillholder and traction control defeat buttons, trunk release, gauge brightness control, and a couple of odd-looking blanks. It's simple enough to use once you get the hang of it, but we'd prefer to see the parking brake located on the center console and a larger, separate trunk release. We were a bit surprised not to see the availability of some sort of keyless start system, but as they're often more trouble than they're worth, the absence isn't worth grousing over.

In addition to its obviously heightened quality, the big story with the 2010's interior is its newfound space. In particular, rear accommodations are now genuinely large, with an extra four inches of legroom thanks to the longer wheelbase and deeply scooped-out front seatbacks. Our six-foot, five-inch co-driver had no trouble getting comfortable, and even when he was in situ, there was plenty of knee- and toe-room left behind him for full-grown adults. Total EPA volume is up by 9% to 117.7 cubic feet and betters that of the Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat, while trunk space swells by 29% to 14.7 cubic feet (more capacity than Honda's larger Accord).

Even skinflint buyers of base $19,995 2.5i models (a decrease of $800 versus 2009) receive such niceties as an electronic parking brake with a nifty defeatable hill-holder feature as well as automatic headlamps and a 3.5 mm auxiliary audio jack. Stump for the Premium package (available regardless of engine and transmission selection) and you'll get a well-judged leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel, ten-way power driver's seat, 16-inch alloys, and the availability of more option packages, including uprated nine-speaker Harman-Kardon audio, a moonroof, and a cold weather package featuring heated seats, mirrors, and windshield wiper de-icer. The top-shelf Limited brings with it a set of easy-to-use dual-zone HVAC controls, leather, and four-way power for the passenger's seat. If you want to get Subaru's new voice-activated navigation system (Try telling it "I'm hungry") with backup camera and Bluetooth audio and telephone, you'll have to open your wallet for the Limited trim before you can order it.

We were actually afforded brief drives in most of the 2010 Legacy variants, including a 2.5i equipped with the company's new Lineartronic constant-velocity transmission (CVT) and another with a six-speed manual, as well as the 3.6-liter Limited and 2.5GT Limited, and ended up coming away impressed with the value and variety of attributes each model delivered.

We started in the shallow end of the pricing pool with the fuel-economy king 2.5i paired with the optional paddleshift CVT (a six-speed manual comes standard). The 2.5-liter flat-four nets 170 horsepower (@ 5,600 rpm) and 170 pound-feet of torque (@ 4,000 rpm), a combination that ought to be perfectly acceptable for around-town pottering and low-demand interstate motoring. A PZEV emissions compliant model is available for an additional $300 and does not affect the engine's power rating.

Like most other continously variable transmissions, the chain-driven Lineartronic almost always lives in the motor's sweet-spot, so it makes the most of the engine's meager reserves. It should be noted, however, that it does so with plenty of the stretched rubber-band sensation that tends to accompany this sort of transmission. This isn't a driveline combination that invites any sort of sporting behavior, but at least it returns strong fuel economy figures of 23 miles-per-gallon city and 31 highway – numbers that are right near the top of its class – a particularly remarkable feat considering this sedan lives with the added parasitic drag of all-wheel drive.

Like all other auto cogswappers in the new Legacy lineup, the CVT features manual shift paddles. In this case, the paddles summon six pre-set "speeds" (right lever upshift, left lever downshift), and they work quickly with minimal shift shock. Better still, the paddles are active all the time whether you slot the gearlever into "M" for full manual control or when opportunistically called upon in "D" to induce engine braking on a downhill grade or summon additional acceleration for passing. Subaru figures the CVT is good for a solid four miles-per-gallon on the highway, or up to 75 extra miles per 18.5 gallon tankful of regular gas – nothing to be sneezed at. There's even an "eco-meter" in the instrument cluster to help you gauge exactly how many species your locomotion is endangering at any given moment.

For our part, we prefer the 2.5i with the row-your-own six-speed manual gearbox, but the $1,000 premium for the CVT is easier to justify due to its far superior fuel economy. The DIY transmission can only muster 19 mpg city and 27 highway, and if anything, it's the slower (if more rewarding to drive) combination.

In the outgoing model, the high-end 3.0-liter six-cylinder was always something of a curiosity, as it cost about $1,000 more than the turbocharged 2.5 liter GT model, and it returned less impressive power (245 hp and 215 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm versus the smaller engine's 243 hp and 241 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm). We couldn't help but feel like the six was Subaru's gesture to placate the cylinder-count snobbery that still affects many American consumers. Simply put, the 3.0 never felt as competent as the GT – let alone as fun or flexible – yet it still sucked down premium fuel.

For 2010, Subaru has significantly addressed the value equation on six-cylinder Legacy models. Now dubbed 3.6R in deference to its larger engine capacity, the big boxer offers a bit more power (256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm) and much improved torque (247 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm), but only requires 87 octane hooch. The Tribeca-sourced 3.6 is available exclusively with a conventional five-speed automatic, but at least it packs rev-matched downshift blips. It's a markedly better package than its predecessor, one that's well suited to a more relaxed driving style, yet it offers plenty of juice under all conditions.

Subaru has taken a scythe to the six's pricing as well, with the least-expensive model tumbling from $27,290 to $25,690. Regardless of what 3.6R is selected, Subaru reckons you'll save $1,600-$1,900 over a comparable model from last year, and you'll need less gasoline too (fuel economy nudges upward from 17/24 to 18/25).

Improved value or no, make no mistake that the most engaging Legacy is the 2.5GT – by a winding country mile. While the force-fed four may require premium gas to achieve its 265 hp (@5,600 rpm) and 258 lb-ft of torque, it's worth it. The engine has been retuned to deliver maximum torque from 2,000 rpm on up to 5,200 rpm, and there's a 30% reduction in turbo spool up time, according to Subie officials. Combined with a 25% larger intercooler core and a relocated turbo (now bottom-mounted for better flow and noise characteristics), it's a flexible gem with fuel economy equal to that of the 3.6R.

Paired exclusively with a new six-speed manual, the $27,995 GT quickly outed itself as a fun-to-drive sport sedan. While the gearshift itself won't lead any Honda or BMW engineers to seek counseling, the slightly notchy lever worked well enough with its nicely weighted clutch (though a crisper engagement point would be nice), and it was a pleasure to keep the distinctive-sounding flat-four on song. We'd guess that this combination is good for a 0-60 mph time in the mid-to-high fives, but no official performance figures have been released.

More importantly, the blown four combines with a retuned rack-and-pinion steering setup to deliver a whoopin' good time on the twisty tarmac we found on the roads outside of Seattle. The combination of all-wheel drive and a longer wheelbase might lead one to think that the new Legacy would be a bit reluctant to respond when asked to quickly change directions, but that isn't the case at all – this is a sedan that shrinks around its driver at speed. Subaru has fitted the quicker variable power-assist setup that was previously a GT-spec item to all 2010 models, and the 14.5:1 system delivers a more confident steer, with noticeably quicker turn-in and good accuracy arriving from the P225/45 18-inch tires. As ever, we might wish for a bit more weight at elevated speeds, but it's a minor quibble.

In an effort to further improve the Legacy's dynamics and ride, Fuji Heavy's engineers have tweaked the front MacPherson strut suspension and completely binned the outgoing car's multi-link rear suspension in favor of an isolated subframe-mounted double-wishbone setup. The result is both a quieter, more comfortable ride and more composed handling with less roll, along with greater trunk space. Subaru's boffins have also redesigned the brake booster with a stiffer housing and redesigned valves to result in a 20% better response time from the four-wheel discs. Combined with the new chassis' stiffer structure, this 2.5GT is as planted and entertaining as anything we've driven in-class.

When we inquired about the possibility of selling a Legacy equipped with the torque-rich 2.0-liter diesel boxer currently on offer in Europe, Subaru officials were decidedly non-committal. While the price of U.S. diesel has dropped precipitously over the past several months, significant reengineering costs would have to be figured in accommodate North America's far inferior fuel quality, and the company is unsure about being able to produce such models at a profit. By their own estimates, Subaru officials confide that they believe that that the leader in affordable diesel, Volkswagen, is "subventing" their stateside TDI offerings "by several thousand dollars" – a nice way of saying that they're losing money on each unit sold in order to test the waters and gain share.

Oil-burning model or no, given that this new Legacy is at once larger, more refined, and less fuel-hungry than its predecessor, it was reasonable to fear that Subaru might have sacrificed some of the Legacy's character and fun-to-drive nature in exchange for a thicker slice of America's often banal mid-size sedan pie. We needn't have worried. While its considerable virtues may end up appealing to a broader consumer audience, this Indiana-assembled sedan remains very much a Swede-in-Japanese clothing, one with all the makings of a winning package that should appeal to both marque loyalists and a few additional new faces. More's the better.

Photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Paukert / Weblogs, Inc.

2010 Subaru Legacy
Performance 2.5i 2.5GT 3.6R
Engine 2,457 cc flat-four 2,457 cc turbocharged flat-four 3,630 cc flat-six
Configuration/Valvetrain SOHC, four valves per cyl., AVLS DOHC, four valves per cyl., AVCS DOHC, four valves per cyl., AVCS
Max Horsepower @ RPM 170 hp @ 5600 RPM 265 hp @ 5,600 RPM 256 hp @ 6,000 RPM
Max Torque @ RPM 170 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM 258 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,200 RPM 247 lb-ft @ 4,400 RPM
Drive Type All-wheel drive All-wheel drive All-wheel drive with VTD
Transmission Std: 6-speed manual, Opt: CVT 6-speed manual 5-speed automatic w/ paddle shifters
Fuel Injection EFI EFI EFI
Compression Ratio 10:1 8.4:1 10.5:1
Recommended Fuel 87 octane 91 octane 87 octane
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gallons
EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy) 6-spd: 19/27, CVT: 23/31 18/25 18/25
0-60 mph time (MFR est.) Not available Not available Not available
Top Speed Not available Not available Not available
Front MacPherson, with anti-roll bar
Rear Double wishbone
Steering Rack-and-pinion w/ variable power assist
Turns Lock-to-Lock Not available
Turning Circle (feet) 36.8 ft.
Front Brakes Dual piston, 11.6-inch Dual piston, 12.4-inch Dual piston, 12.4-inch
Rear Brakes Single piston, 11.3-inch Single piston, 11.4-inch Single piston, 11.4-inch
Wheels (front) 2.5i: 16-in. steel w/covers
Premium: 16-in. alloy
Limited: 17-in. alloy
18-inch alloy 17-inch alloy
Wheels (rear) Same as above
Tires (front) 205/60R16
Limited: 215/50R17
225/45 R18 225/50 R17
Tires (rear) 205/60R16
Limited: 215/50R17
225/45 R18 225/50 R17
Exterior Dimensions
Length 186.4 inches
Width 71.7 inches
Height 59.3 inches
Wheelbase 108.3 inches
Curb Weight 2.5i 6-sp.: 3,270
2.5i CVT: 3,379
Premium 6-sp.: 3,275
Premium CVT: 3,384
Limited CVT: 3,451
2.5GT Premium 6-sp.: 3,440
2.5GT Limited 6-sp.: 3,477
3.6R: 3,481
Premium: 3,518
Limited: 3,557
Interior Dimensions
Maximum Seating 5
Trunk Capacity 14.7 cu-ft
Head Room (Front/Rear) 40.3 in. / 37.5 in.
With moonroof: 38.1 in. / 37.5 in.
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 56.3 in. / 56.1 in.
Leg Room (Front/Rear) 43.0 in. / 37.8 in.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      subaru and volvo would make beautiful babies together.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The pictures are superb. Thank you.
      I was impressed with the way the car drives. Very nice and cheap compared to the cost of the competition. I see an Altima, Accord, Lexus, and Azera in the design. I do not find it ugly. CVT is a plus and the mileage is up. I think Subaru will be stealing many sales.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I just don't like the body design. It doesn't really have a good angle. Most angles are bleh, and then a few are horrible. The grill and headlight slant are mistakes.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I for one am a new potential customer -if ONLY because they've dumped the rattle-y cheap-ass frameless windows. Nothing says 'budget' louder than jiggly, wiggly windows, to me. (I do wish they'd sell a Legacy GT wagon again though -Outback's plastic-cladding is a little too 'Aztek' for me).

      The interiors were always weak in Subaru cars before but this one (aside from the stupid looking Chrysler-wood) looks ok. Competitive for sure. The wheels in the photo-sample look great too. Profile is nice. Front... eh, dorky as usual with those upswept Sebring/granny-glasses headlights.. not pretty. Quirk lives on.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "rattle-y cheap-ass frameless windows"

        do you really think so? i've got an '08 outback with the frameless windows, and haven't as much heard a shake when tearing down the pothole-lined freeways in norcal.

        now, if only i could do something about my father in law using the window glass as a handle when egressing the vehicle, and trying to kill the door by slamming it repeatedly....
      • 6 Years Ago
      Mommy! That mean car scares me.

      In realism, This sounds like a good car. If I were in the market, I'd still just probably ignore it since the styling is yelling at me. The Interior looks fantastic though.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Come on, Pickle.

        Considering Honda makes the ugliest cars on the road, why even bring up the Accord? Now THAT'S a pathetically clumsy attempt at ripping off every other car manufacturer if I've ever seen one. The only thing uglier is the bloated coupe version.

        This Legacy, sadly embiggened, still looks nice. I'd take it over a generic Camry/Accord any day...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not so sure it's mean...it's just ugly. The rear looks like an Accord (fine...good enough), but the front looks like someone punched it and now it's got a fat lip/mouth...side shot...gag! What's with the over-pronounced wheel arches! Fk that's ugly. I'd def stick with last years car...or better yet, get an AWD Fusion Sport instead. WAAAAAY better looking/easier on the eyes. Ya still gotta wash it (I almost always wash by hand), and keeping this thing clean with all the vomit you'd be spewing on it might be tough! Blech!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Chris, a very well-written piece that exhibits the enthusiast-bias, full-disclosure and snarky wit that got me hooked on Autoblog years ago. It's nice to see the fine art of autoblogging alive and well. Thanks for a good read.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I totally agree. A great write-up by Chris, and one that makes me, a long-time Subie fan, breathe a sigh of relief that the new Legacy, though too big for my taste, still hasn't lost its Subaruness while becoming more refined.

        Also good to see Chris reply to our comments, which is something I wish the Autobloggers did more often.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The AWD system in the CVT 2010 Legacy is the same system that was in the prev. gen AWD so it is still a AWD system ( 80% ront 20% rear to start off ).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Nice car and performance as well. Make me wonder why the new Ford Taurus SHO weighs some 700+ lbs more than this new Subaru and costs a huge amount more.
      • 6 Years Ago
      it's official. Subaru can actually do an interior. anyone who picks an accord or crapry over that is insane.

      Or American
      • 6 Years Ago
      Autoblog, I'm afraid that you got this one wrong.

      This Legacy feels like such a different car from the old one, that it could have been called something else. Where are the trademark rimless doors, where is the boxer growl, where is the manual 'box?

      Instead it feels much more like a Subaru Camry. What Toyota has failed to understand is that its killing Subaru's unique quirks and trademarks. People who want a Legacy wanted something else....more unique than the regular flavor cars.

      I understand its much more quieter, comfy, efficient, more value for money....but then if that was my priority, why didn't I just buy a Accord/Camry/Altima?

      Oh well, nice knowin' ya Legacy (1988 - 2008), think i'll miss you.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Affelterbach -

        Subaru has now dumped sashless door panels across its entire range because of their inferior ingress/egress, crash and sound properties. Since they aren't in the business of building convertibles, their disappearance shouldn't be a major worry.

        Additionally, the 2.5i is available with an improved six-speed manual, and the performance-minded 2.5GT comes with it exclusively. All models still have Subaru's distinctive boxer growl, too.

        Believe me, I had my reservations that some of the company's character would be sacrificed, but this new Legacy is still very much a Subaru.

        • 6 Years Ago
        What Toyota has failed to understand? They only own 10% of Subaru, and their purchase wasn't a one way street either, Subaru wanted it to happen too.
        Subaru wants to sell more cars by making more more appealing cars, since they have a lot more plants than they used to, so making niche cars to sell 10,000 units a year isn't affordable.
        Anyways most people will prefer the newer Subaru's to the older ones. I think fanboys have to get over the days when Subaru ruled the WRC, because they don't even compete there anymore.

        I'm sure since Toyota only owns 10% they'd much rather the Legacy not go exactly after the same market as the Camry so it'd a little retarded to blame Subaru wanting to sell more cars on Toyota.

        That said I hope they adopt the Toyota style door handles, because the Subaru door handles and locks annoy the heck out of me. And the ride in the Impreza could honestly use some work because on pot-hole ridden norther roads (where Subaru sells the most vehicles because of their AWD) the Impreza is bearable only for short trips. I don't mind that the WRX has an obscenely uncomfortable suspension (especially in the back seat) but the regular Impreza could use a nicer ride compared to it's competitors.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Chis (maybe you're the one from WR), I didn't just look at press release photos to determine if the new Legacy was better, I drove the 2.5i.
        Yes, it has gained some strong points like less understeer, better cornering at limit, more refinement; but look back at my original points again.

        I said that this car just doesn't stand out anymore: it feels more detached from driving, and I'm sorry, but I just couldn't hear the boxer growl.

        Maybe I'm a bit too harsh by pronouncing it to be dead, but it surely isn't something I would buy anymore.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And oh, its better to drive at the limit as well: credit goes to the improved suspension design and stiffer body.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Thankfully Autoblog has provided a rationale for the loss of frameless doors other than the "Toyota is killing Subaru's character" excuse.
      Great review and great car.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The rear looks like a accord, the front looks like....shut up. The car looks great, it's the NEW subaru. If you want old buy a small, uncomfortable, primitive 2009. And that ugly a$$ car will pass you easily when your stuck in a snow storm or in a driving rain.
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