Driven

Bubble: 2020 Subaru Legacy

2020 brings all-new and technology-laden Subaru Legacy. It’s been almost five years to the day since we last climbed behind the wheel of a Legacy. This new eighth-generation Legacy is more spacious, more refined, and more watchful than ever before. This year also marks the return of a turbocharged engine to the Legacy lineup. We spent a winter week with the top-trim Legacy Touring XT to test out its turbocharged engine and tablet-style infotainment system.

2020 Subaru Legacy XT 3

The all-new Legacy is built on the Subaru Global Platform, resulting in a chassis that is much stiffer and, in areas, lighter than the previous generation. The new platform allowed Subaru to strengthen and lighten the all-new suspension setup and lower the Legacy’s center of gravity. That improves ride and handling, in addition to crash protection. Another benefit of the all-new platform is a reduction in NVH. Subaru paid careful attention here, fitting new door weather stripping, increasing glass thickness, and fitting sound-insulating glass in the windshield and front doors. The result is a very quiet cabin with very little wind noise. Unfortunately, we did hear quite a bit of tire noise over choppy surfaces.

2020 Subaru Legacy XT 6

Front and center for passengers in the 2020 Legacy is the 11.6″ tablet-style infotainment display. Flanked by several actual buttons, the big screen can split its real estate to show two displays at once. With in-car Wi-Fi that features easy NFC connectivity, built-in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, the Subaru packs plenty of connectivity. Subaru also continues to expand on its suite of active driver safety technology, as well. EyeSight is now standard on all Legacy trims, and includes adaptive cruse control with lance centering function. There’s also optional front-view monitor, reverse automatic braking, and blind sport detection with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. This suite of features are some of the best in class in terms of reliability and reactivity to real-world scenarios that we’ve experienced. But Subaru may have taken it too far.

In our Touring XT trim, Subaru fits a dedicated camera and facial recognition software focused on the driver. This can impress your friends by recognizing you and offering a custom greeting while simultaneously setting your seat, mirror, and radio to your preset positions. But that same system is also constantly monitoring for driver fatigue or distraction. If you get a little tired, the system will display a warning and play an alert tone on the big center screen. If you look away from the road for too long, perhaps to set a radio station favorite or send a text message, the system similarly scolds you with a warning tone and a reminder to pay attention. I haven’t been so chided behind the wheel since learning to drive at 16 with my mother in the passenger seat. Perhaps that says something about the state of my driving. But big brother is always watching in the new Subaru Legacy. Perhaps I’d have paid more attention if the Legacy’s driving experience was at all engaging.

2020 Subaru Legacy XT 1

The XT marks the return of a turbocharged Legacy. The 2.4L Boxer engine produces 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft torque. I’ll be completely honest, until I began reading the marketing materials after my week of driving, I was convinced I was driving the 2.5L naturally-aspirated Boxer producing only 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft torque. Nothing about the Legacy’s responsiveness, sound, or demeanor hinted at a turbocharger. The Lineartronic CTV, standard with both 2.5L and 2.4L turbocharged engines, frustrated me endlessly. It’s programming is designed to keep the turbo from spooling and the torque tucked away where you can’t find it. Only the Sport trim features an SI-Drive switch for multiple drive modes. In the XT Touring, you’re left to suffer. With the economic programming, we averaged 23.4mpg over our 213 miles of driving. And almost none of it was boosted by the woefully slow and dim-witted start-stop programming. So with a suspension and chassis set to deliver comfort and quiet operation, the linear steering and symmetrical all-wheel-drive are the only bright spots to the Legacy’s back road performance.

2020 Subaru Legacy XT 7

Wrapped in a cocoon of high strength steel, sound insulation, and constant inward and outward active monitoring, the 2020 Subaru Legacy is the helicopter parent of the mid-size sedan market. It is designed not to let you wander outside of a set of prespecified criteria. There’s no pushing boundaries, no testing limits, no distractions. In in Subaru’s quest to put the driver in a bubble, it has taken away some of the freedoms and responsibilities of driving. I couldn’t even enjoy a bit of turbo boost. That too is gone, in the name of efficiency. But while I’m personally not on board with this erosion of personal freedoms, it is very hard to argue that the Subaru Legacy isn’t an excellent family sedan. Safe, efficient, practical, and filled with technology to further those three endpoints, the Legacy manages to check all of the boxes in the segment.

-Christopher Little

2020 Subaru Legacy Touring XT
$35,895
Destination Charges $900
As Tested MSRP $36,795

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