Driven: 2020 Subaru Legacy
  • Car Review

Driven: 2020 Subaru Legacy

By David Undercoffler | August 27, 2019

Autolist rating: 3/5
But would we buy it? Probably, especially if you need AWD
Price range: $23,645 - $36,795, including destination but before options

Key takeaways

  • All-new generation for the 2020 model year.
  • This version ditches the optional six-cylinder for a new turbo four.
  • Interior execution, space and massive touchscreen are outstanding.
  • Handling on models with either powertrain is lukewarm.
  • Exterior styling is on the bland side.

13. 2020 Legacy copy

What is it?

The Legacy is Subaru’s largest sedan and it competes in the midsize segment, against some of the industry’s best-known models. These include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, Volkswagen Passat, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Subaru redesigned the Legacy -- and its wagon cousin, the Outback -- from the ground up for the 2020 model year. Now in its seventh generation, this new model rides on an all-new global platform that Subaru uses for nearly every new model it offers. This includes the Ascent, the Forester and the Impreza and Crosstrek.

The 2020 Legacy is a bit longer than before (but still shorter than most rivals) and it gains a bit of interior space, making it one of the roomiest sedans in its class.

The Legacy is powered by one of two engines. Most models come with the base engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder unit that makes 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque.

Optional on the 2020 version is a new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that replaces the previous model’s optional six-cylinder. This new turbo -- which the Legacy shares with the Outback and the larger Ascent three-row crossover -- makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.

Both engines are paired with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters and eight artificial shift points built into the manual mode.

The Legacy -- like all Subarus except for the BRZ sports car -- is full-time all-wheel-drive.

This sedan comes in six trim levels: Legacy, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT and Touring XT (XT models come with the optional turbo engine).

What’s good

TLDR: Upgraded interior, space everywhere, strong value.

20MY Legacy int copy

Interior: Subaru worked hard to upgrade the interior on the Legacy and it shows. In addition to benefiting from the improved refinement the new platform brings with it, the materials and layout of the Legacy’s cabin are impressive. Add to that the massive 11.6-inch touchscreen mounted in the dashboard that controls the infotainment and climate control, plus available baby-soft Nappa leather seats and acoustic glass and you have a refined, comfortable sedan whose insides rival anything else in the segment.

Space: Subaru is quick to point out that despite being shorter than nearly every rival midsize sedan, this new Legacy packs in more interior space than its peers. This is obvious the moment you sit inside, particularly in the rear seats. Five six-foot-plus passengers will have no problem riding in comfort on long trips -- both in terms of headroom and legroom. The trunk easily swallows four large suitcases with room to space.

20MY Legacy 5 copy

Value: We were pleasantly surprised by how much value-for-money Subaru packed into this Legacy. For starters, all Legacys across all trims come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of active safety tech (adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist). The base, $23,645 Legacy also has dual seven-inch touchscreens in the dash; all other trims come standard with the massive 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment screen, plus heated seats, dual-zone climate control, four USB charging ports and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

What’s bad

TLDR: Boring on the outside and not much more thrilling behind the wheel.

Bland exterior: Style has never been a strong suit of Subaru (and I say that as a former owner of a beloved Legacy) but we were still hoping the brand could pull more of its concept car styling into this production model. Especially since rivals like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Ford Fusion and upcoming Hyundai Sonata are all bringing a healthy dose of style to the segment (especially the Hyundai and Mazda). Making matters worse was the fact that there were almost no styling cues on the higher-end trims to denote that you spent more money. The highest-level Touring version (which is turbo engine only) did have some nice brushed silver side-view mirror caps but that was it. Even the wheel styles and sizes didn’t change much.

F8A2275 copy

Uninspired drive: Though its power is on par with the rest of the segment, the base engine on the Legacy felt underpowered at nearly every point in its acceleration curve. Mix in numb steering and a little too much body roll and the Legacy’s general drive experience wasn’t particularly exciting. We’re not expecting Corvette levels of performance here, but many of the Legacy’s midsize sedan rivals have shown that it is possible to inject a little dynamic handling into an everyday car.

5 stars of execution

Safety Features? YES

  • As we mentioned, all 2020 Legacy models come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of active safety features. These include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.
  • The automaker is also expected to get a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Value? YES

  • Another point we’ve already touched on is the Legacy’s value; the base model starts at a wallet-friendly $23,645 (including destination) and packs comparable features to the base Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
  • Even better: this base model starts at about $1,000 less than the Accord and the Camry -- and it comes standard with all-wheel-drive when the other two are front-wheel-drive only.
  • The rest of the Legacy lineup is well-stocked with trim levels that offer competitive features and amenities for the money.

20MY Legacy 10 copy

Efficiency? NO

  • The base non-turbo Legacy is rated by the EPA at 27/35/30 MPG city/highway/combined while the optional turbo models are rated at 24/32/27 MPG city/highway/combined.
  • Those fuel economy numbers are decent, especially for an all-wheel-drive sedan.
  • But they trail most of the Legacy’s front-wheel-drive competitors.

Driving experience? NO

  • As we mentioned, the Legacy (particularly the base engine) feels a little down on power, especially in passing situations on the highway or on onramps.
  • The steering and handling were also less responsive and crisp than other rival midsize sedans.
  • These gripes are relatively minor, however, and likely won’t be a priority for most of Subaru’s fan base. So be sure to test-drive a Legacy and its competitive set.
  • We did like the CVT and its paddle shifters and shift points. Most CVTs we encounter suck all of the fun out of driving.

Execution? YES

  • Overall, the 2020 Legacy is a vast improvement over the outgoing model, which was no slouch itself.
  • It’s quiet, spacious, refined and comfortable and it nicely blends safety and poor-weather handling into a compelling package.
  • Add to these attributes the value and you have a sedan that is worth considering for any sedan shopper.

20MY Legacy 8 copy

Total Rating: 3 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Legacy starts at $23,645 (all prices include destination) and comes standard with the 182-horsepower base engine, full-time all-wheel-drive, the EyeSight suite of safety tech, LED headlights, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electronic parking brake, front-seat USB ports, a dual seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and keyless entry with alarm.

The Legacy Premium starts at $25,985 and adds Subaru’s new 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color side mirrors, 10-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear-seat USB ports, dual-zone climate control and a six-speaker stereo.

24. 2020 Legacy copy

The Legacy Sport (seen above) starts at $27,845 and adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels, LED fog lights, subtle trunk spoiler, 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, unique upholstery with red stitching, push-button start and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

The $30,645 Limited is the highest-end Legacy with the base engine. It adds leather seats, steering-assisted headlights, power driver and front passenger seat, heated rear seats, a 12-speaker, 576-watt Harman Kardon stereo system, blind-spot detection and automatic reverse braking.

Then there’s a jump to the two turbo models. The Legacy Limited XT starts at $35,095 and in addition to the 260-horsepower engine, this model also includes a driver-attention tracking feature that alerts distracted drivers, a moonroof, dual exhaust, heated steering wheel and a navigation system.

Finally, the new Touring XT trim starts at $36,795 and adds to the Limited things like chrome side-view mirror housings, ventilated front seats, Nappa leather trim on the seats and interior panels, a CD player (yes, seriously) and a 180-degree front-view monitor.

If it were our money on the line, we’d choose the Legacy Limited (the non-turbo version). We think it hits the sweet spot of amenities, comfort, practicality and cost. We like the turbo engine but not enough to justify the considerable price jump it commands. We’d also consider adding the only option package available on this trim, a $2,045 add-on that includes a moonroof (which we’re suckers for), a navigation system, heated steering wheel and driver-mitigation system.

20MY Legacy 4 copy

Also consider

As we mentioned, the Legacy competes in a big group of well-known sedans that includes the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, VW Passat, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu, and Mazda6.

Our favorites in that group are the Accord (most well-rounded) and the Mazda6 (best-handling model and the best looking). If all-wheel-drive is a priority in your sedan, then the Legacy is hands-down the model you should consider.

Final thoughts

Generally we liked the new 2020 Legacy. It’s a practical, comfortable car that offers excellent safety and value. Our biggest complaints -- ho-hum driving dynamics and a lack of exterior styling -- are likely low priorities to many of Subaru’s shoppers.

They’ll come for the bullet-proof AWD system and interior space and they’ll stay for the impressive interior refinement and amenities. So while the Legacy isn’t the most well-rounded sedan in the segment, it’s definitely worth a look.

More Photos

See more 2020 Subaru Legacy Photos.