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Car Reviews The 2020 Legacy is a quality sedan that benefits from Subaru’s off-road pedigree

The 2020 Subaru Legacy on the roads of the Okanagan Valley.

Neil Vorano

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is clearly Subaru territory. On any drive through cities and towns such as Kelowna, Vernon or Salmon Arm, or out on the winding country roads, these Japanese all-wheel-drive cars are everywhere, an acknowledgement of their capabilities in the difficult and sometimes dangerous driving situations in the mountains. So it’s really no surprise that Subaru chose this area to launch the seventh generation of its Legacy mid-sized sedan.

A sedan, you ask? Are people still buying those? Yes, much has been written about the demise of the four-door car and the rise of the ever popular SUV. But Japanese and European carmakers don’t want you to write off sedans just yet. (Though perhaps in a nod to North American buying tastes, the tagline for the Legacy here will be “The SUV of Sedans.”)

Regardless of what you want to call it, this latest AWD Legacy is a leap ahead for the model in many ways. From the ground up, it’s all-new, now riding on Subaru’s Global Platform chassis, which debuted with the Impreza. And if you’re wondering why you should care, the stiffer platform helps make the handling sure-footed and unruffled through all manner of road conditions; it’s almost as smooth and solid on a dirt road as it is on the highway. Additional sound-absorbing materials mean it’s also extremely quiet, contributing to a very serene drive. Steering is well-weighted but doesn’t offer much feedback from the road.

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An 11.6-inch vertical touch screen is standard on all models except the Convenience.

Neil Vorano

While the exterior is new and handsome overall, inside is where you’ll see a big difference. Front and centre is the giant 11.6-inch vertical touch screen, standard on all but the base Convenience model (that one gets two 7-inch screens). It can be customized like a smartphone to control entertainment, vehicle, navigation and climate. Thankfully, there are still hard buttons and knobs for simpler use. All throughout, the interior uses leather, soft-touch materials and solid-feeling switchgear to create a more luxurious atmosphere. Here again, sound-deadening makes conversations in the cabin effortless.

Adding to this luxury feel is the plethora of safety and convenience features available. For the first time, the excellent EyeSight suite of safety features is standard on all models, which includes pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist, to name a few. Also available is DriverFocus, which monitors for drowsiness, and Starlink Connected Services, a telematics system for roadside assistance, stolen-vehicle immobilization and vehicle-tracking. These are all on top of other features such as a heated steering wheel, adjustable seat-cushion length and ventilated front seats.

High-quality finishes give the interior a high-end feel.

Neil Vorano/The Globe and Mail

One addition outdoorsy folks will appreciate is the integrated roof-rack ports in the roof rails, allowing you to easily snap in carriers for your bike, kayak, carrier box or whatever you want to transport. You’ll find getting things on and off this sedan’s roof easier than that of a taller SUV, too.

Under the hood, a 2.5-litre boxer four-cylinder is standard, generating 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Given that the engine design is much the same as previous models (thought it does sport 90-per-cent new parts and auto start/stop and direct-injection), the performance is slightly better but still just adequate, and gets a bit raspy under heavier acceleration. That’s mated to an updated continuously variable transmission (CVT). But the bigger news is the return of the Legacy GT with a 2.4-litre turbocharged four, pumping out 260 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft. of torque; here, it’s the added torque that really shines, making passing cars a breeze. It’s also mated to a CVT, which sometimes struggles to keep up with the engine’s power under acceleration.

But in this package, it’s the all-wheel drive that has always been the big draw of the Legacy and its Subaru brethren; in the mid-sized sedan market, only the Nissan Altima and the soon-to-be-discontinued Ford Fusion offer AWD. And yet, the market leaders are far and away the front-drive Honda Accord and Toyota Camry; it seems the Legacy is battling both other sedans and SUVs for market share (not to mention its wagon sibling, the Outback, which is debuting soon). But it would be a fine choice in either segment. The raft of refinements brings it up to par with other sedans, and its sure-footed performance will take it anywhere you would drive one of today’s “soft-roader” SUVs.

The Legacy comes in four different trim levels, with the GT engine available on the top two; prices range from $26,395 for the Convenience up to $39,095 for the Premier GT, and it will be available later this year.

Tech specs

  • Base price: $26,395
  • Engine: 2.5-litre naturally aspirated boxer four-cylinder; 2.4-litre turbocharged boxer four-cylinder
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
  • Fuel economy (L/100km): 2.5-litre engine: 8.8 city, 6.7 hwy, 7.9 combined, 2.4-litre engine: 9.9 city, 7.3 hwy, 8.7 combined
  • Alternatives: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, Buick Regal Sportback

Looks

The new Legacy has a slightly more aggressive look.

Neil Vorano

Nothing too exciting here. Subaru has played it more conventional here, though taller haunches give it an aggressive look – for a family sedan, that is.

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Interior

The interior is a step up from previous models.

Neil Vorano

Big improvement in quality and materials. Interiors have long been a bane for Subaru, but this one is just about on par with other mid-sized cars in the segment.

Performance

The base 2.5L is about mid-range in the segment when comparing power and refinement. It’ll do the job adequately without too much excitement. The GT’s turbo engine is a big upgrade under acceleration, without the raspy note.

Technology

Kudos for making Eye Sight standard on all models. The base Convenience trim is a bit more expensive compared with other entry levels of the segment, but it also offers much more standard equipment, so it’s actually a pretty fair deal when you factor that in.

Cargo

With a slightly larger chassis than the previous generation, the trunk – at 428 litres – can now take four large suitcases instead of three. Rear leg room is also substantial, even for taller folks.

The verdict: 8.0

The all-wheel-drive Legacy could please both sedan shoppers and those in search of a 'soft-road' SUV.

Neil Vorano

It may not be perfect, but the many improvements in the Legacy should make it not just a notable alternative in the mid-sized sedan market, but could even make your list if you’re looking for an AWD SUV that can handle Canada’s worst weather and roads.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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