The 2018 Subaru Legacy probably won’t turn many heads with its looks. Its conservative sheetmetal harks back to a time when inoffensive styling ruled the midsize sedan realm, but in recent years the segment has received an injection of pizzazz. Vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and even the Toyota Camry have all traded in their uninspiring threads for more visually stimulating attire. That has left the Volkswagen Passat and Legacy to duke it out for the title of the most milquetoast offering in class.
But that’s not to say the Legacy doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. If you can get past its sterile appearance you’ll discover a solid car that brings a comfortable and spacious cabin, large amount of technology and impressive all-weather performance with standard all-wheel drive to the table.
Updated for 2018! Yes, really
Believe it or not, the Legacy did receive styling updates for 2018 with new front and rear fascias, grille and headlights in hopes of producing a sportier-looking specimen. On my 2.5i Sport test car, a dash of aggression comes courtesy of a WRX-like grille, LED fog lights, chrome trim for the rocker panels and model-specific wheels with painted insets. The changes are subtle and, honestly, do little to move the needle of the Legacy’s clean but conservative design.
Revisions continue inside, where upgraded materials with Sport-exclusive blue accent stitching, a new steering wheel and revamped HVAC controls compliment the cabin’s cushy front seats, generous front- and backseat space and 15 cubic-feet trunk. The front seats could use some more side support to better hold occupants in place through turns, but that’s nitpicking in a car built to be a daily commuter. For that, the cabin is fine — comfy, quiet and nicely screwed together.
For 2018, Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system receives a new CPU, resulting in faster startup speeds and better response to inputs. The sharp-looking 8-inch touchscreen is indeed quick to carryout commands with no detectable lag when paging between menus, changing radio stations or calculating navigation routes.
Starlink is intuitive to use, with a home screen featuring large tiles to easily get to a desired menu. Those who don’t care for Starlink will be happy to know that both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is included in the Legacy’s infotainment, too.
For safety, an optional EyeSight system bundles in adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. Tuning for auto braking and lane departure are on point — not overly sensitive and only triggering audible and visual dash warnings at warranted times. To further help in parking lots, the backup camera and rear cross traffic alert are joined by a reverse automatic braking system for 2018 that’ll engage the brakes while backing up in hopes of preventing potential collisions.
Like the exterior design, the Legacy’s drive character isn’t going to raise heart rates, but it is a solid all-around performer. Retuned dampers provide a complaint ride around town, softening the blows from bumps, while body roll is minimal through curves. Steering is both light and direct and the brakes are strong with firm pedal feedback.
Where the Legacy scores big points is in snow. As the only entry in the class with standard all-wheel-drive, it easily tears through 7 inches of powder on the stock Goodyear Eagle LS2 all-season tires.
Power comes from a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder making 175 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, connected to continuously variable transmission. Power is adequate and the CVT is among the best ones on the market with ‘steps’ tuned in to make it behave like a conventional automatic transmission. The powertrain is smooth and responsive, and returns 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, which is excellent considering the added effort of all-wheel drive.
The Legacy 2.5i Sport test car with the optional EyeSight safety tech carries an as-tested price of $29,300, and this is exactly how I’d spec my car if I was set on putting one in my garage. I’m a fan of the Sport model’s exterior tweaks, the cloth interior with heated front seats and tech features that don’t annoy the driver with false alarms. For a sub-$30,000 vehicle, the Sport model offers great value and year-round performance.
A safe but unsexy choice
With comfortable ride performance, admirable fuel efficiency, a spacious cabin, large trunk and full menu of infotainment and safety technology, the Legacy checks all the requirements to be a player in the midsize sedan class. Setting it apart from everyone else are excellent snow capabilities with all-wheel drive that should instantly put the Subaru on shopping lists of people living in harsh winter climates.
Those who put more value in style and fun behind-the-wheel will definitely want to look elsewhere.