When the Subaru Legacy debuted two decades ago, it began a seemingly quixotic quest to claim a share of the huge market for family sedans. Today, some 3.7 million Legacies later, the model has carved a small but distinctive niche in a segment now dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Fuji Heavy Industries recently renewed the quest with the unveiling of an all-new, fifth-generation 2010 Subaru Legacy flagship, as well as its high-stepping wagon offshoot, the 2010 Outback. The reworked vehicles are bigger and sleeker, but styling cues such as the winged brand badge on a characteristic Legacy grille mark them as recognizable descendants of the Legacy and Outback lineages. Both models should be available in late summer.
The midsize car is constructed on a new platform that provides more room and comfort while preserving the nimble handling of its predecessor, said Tom Doll, Executive Vice President. The car thus grows 1 in (25 mm) in length and around 3 in (76 mm) in wheelbase, width, and height dimensions. “We’ve widened the Legacy’s rear-seat legroom by four inches,” he reported, a fact that was evident when we tried out the back seat on the Javitz Center stage.
The new Legacy comes with three Boxer engines, a naturally aspirated four-cylinder, a “revised” turbocharged flat-four, and a flat-six. The 2.5-L four generates 170 hp (127 kW) and 170 lb·ft (230 N·m) at 4000 rpm. The redone turbo four puts out 22 hp (16 kW) more than the earlier version, for a maximum of 265 hp (198 kW). It also develops 17 lb·ft (23 N·m) more torque. The six, which expands from 3.0 to 3.6 L, produces 256 hp (191 kW) and 258 lb·ft (350 N·m).
All the powertrains will be all-wheel-drive, of course. A new Lineartronic link-belt CVT option joins a six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmission. The CVT will presumably help to improve the smallest engine’s mileage despite a 50-lb (23-kg) rise in vehicle mass.
Subaru says that the chassis is stiffer and the ride quieter and smoother. The front suspension has a MacPherson-type strut, while a double-wishbone in the rear reportedly improves stability and handling over the previous multilink configuration.
The matte-finish interior materials are reasonably attractive, but the feel of the cabin is one of late-inning penny-pinching. Hard to the touch, for example, is the dashboard material. On the other hand, the seat comfort seems adequate, and the driver seat features 10-way adjustments. Notable additions are the voice-activated GPS navigation system with backup camera and an iPod/USB input.
Also all-new is the fourth-generation Outback. The big news here is the same; the Legacy’s size translates into more out back in the Outback. Ground clearance is a correspondingly tall 8.7 in (221 mm). The 2.5-L four-cylinder and 3.6-L six-cylinder engines and the CVT are available on a half dozen Outback variants.