If you think that Americans have become a frivolous bunch, consider this: Subaru has gained U.S. market share for nine consecutive years. Despite the presence of the rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ sport coupe, this is a company that sells the automotive equivalent of sensible shoes.
Much like Crocs, Ecco or Clarks, the beauty to be found in a Subaru is its functionality, not its sensuality. And so it goes with the Subaru Legacy, an unassuming all-wheel-drive sedan redesigned for 2020, and returning this year with minor updates.
Once again offered in Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT trim levels, the Legacy gets minor updates for the 2021 model year, but remains largely unchanged. A rear seat reminder is now standard on all models, in case you forget that your child or pet is back there. (Of course, if you’re that forgetful, perhaps you shouldn’t be driving.)
All 2021 Legacy models also get standard steering responsive LED headlights with automatic height adjustment. For 2022, the entry-level Legacy’s base price rises by $100, but gains standard 17-inch black alloy wheels.
Subaru loaned The Detroit Bureau a Legacy Limited XT for a weeklong evaluation.
If any vehicle personifies the finest qualities of life in the middle of the road, it’s the Subaru Legacy. It forgoes the usual juvenile flourishes of some of its Asian midsize sedan competitors in exchange for an attractive, amicable appearance.
Built on the Subaru Global Platform that supports the Impreza, Crosstrek, Forester and Ascent, its structure is 70% stiffer in both torsional and front-suspension rigidity, and 100% stiffer in both front lateral flex and rear subframe rigidity compared to the previous-generation Legacy. And a sound-insulated windshield is standard on all models, quelling the clamor from outside the vehicle.
There’s an indulgent feel to this Legacy, with soft leather-clad front seats that feel as comfortable as your favorite recliner, but far more supportive. Legroom is generous in front and accommodatingly roomy in the rear, although taller rear seat passengers might feel claustrophobic with the scooped-out headroom.
Thoughtfully, the driver’s seat has a manual thigh seat-bottom extension that noticeably enhances driving comfort for taller drivers, and the center console is trimmed with padding for the driver to rest their right leg against. The front seats are heated, but not ventilated unless you opt for the Touring XT, which also gets heated rear seats. Outward visibility is excellent. The car’s interior has a solid, substantial feel, although some bits remind you of this car’s $22,895 starting price — a true bargain.
Most Legacy models come with a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine rated at 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Subaru says this engine requires 8.4 seconds to reach 60 mph.
If that’s not quick enough, opt for one of the XT models and you’ll get a 2.4-liter turbocharged horizontally opposed 4 cylinder putting out 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Sixty mph arrives in a brisk 6.1 seconds. Both engines mate to a surprisingly well-behaved continuously variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard, but you probably already suspected as much.
Safety and Technology
As you might expect, the 2021 Subaru Legacy is safe choice when it comes to safety. Its driver assistance technology is fairly comprehensive, featuring lane centering assist, adaptive cruise control, distraction mitigation, reverse automatic braking, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and an optional front view monitor.
NHTSA rates the Legacy’s crash test performance at five stars overall, with five stars in side crash and rollover tests. Front tests returned five stars for the driver, four for the passenger. The insurance Institute for Highway Safety designates the Legacy with a “Top Safety Pick +” designation, it’s top safety rating.
An iPad-like 11.6-inch touchscreen controls the audio, climate, navigation and essential functions. Its large buttons work easily, but the display suffers from a lack of visual hierarchy, making finding the right button an intimidating task until you’re acclimated to it. The Legacy base gets two 7-inch screens, separating the infotainment display from the climate controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is standard, in-car Wi-Fi is optional.
Despite the power and speed provided by the turbocharged engine, you’ll find using the XT’s paddle shifters delivers a sprightlier reaction compared with leaving the CVT transmission to its own devices. Turbo lag is noticeably absent unless you’re at highway speed and demand more juice. The Legacy favors smooth, stable inputs; it’s effortless to drive smoothly. But the automatic stop/start shuts off the engine with an irritating shudder.
With all-wheel drive and active torque vectoring standard, grip is excellent regardless of the weather or road conditions. While the Legacy is agile, it’s not sporty. The suspension is remarkably compliant, delivering a very comfortable ride without excess body motion or surplus lean in corners. Steering is quick and nicely weighted, and the cabin remains remarkably quiet.
It makes for a memorably capable and comfortable driving experience, although its personality never entices you into indulge your right foot. It’s far too rational for that. This is an Ecco, not a Ferragamo; substance outshines style.
2021 Subaru Legacy Limited XT specifications:
|Dimension||L: 180.3 inches/W: 72.4 inches/H: 59.1 inches/Wheelbase: 108.3 inches|
|Powertrain||2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer 4-cylinder; Continuously Variable Transmission; AWD|
|Fuel Economy||24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $34,445; As tested: $35,370 including $925 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2021 Subaru Legacy Limited XT seduces you with its ordinariness. Built in Lafayette, Indiana, it possesses a healthy dose of old-fashioned midwestern competency, a no-fuss demeanor that gets the job done while comforting you at every turn with an extravagant interior that doesn’t seem fancy, even though it is.
It’s a great value for those who prize substance over style.
2021 Subaru Legacy Limited XT — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Subaru Legacy reliable?
Consumer Reports recommends the Subaru Legacy despite having merely average reliability, according to the magazine. J.D. Power ranks Subaru reliability below average in bot initial quality and after three years of ownership. According to Repaipal.com, the Subaru Legacy Reliability Rating is 3.5 out of 5. Subaru ranks 14th out of 32 for all car brands for reliability.
Is Subaru discontinuing the Legacy?
In Australia? Yes. In North America? No. It’s available in six trim levels: Base, Premium, Sport, and Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT.
How many miles will a Subaru Legacy last?
A Consumer Reports article stated that the Subaru Legacy is the second most likely vehicle to last 200,000 miles.