2014 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2014 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited Review
After some major changes to its Legacy sedan lineup last year, including a new, more economical 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, freshened styling, revised suspension setup, and a new Sport model, one would expect Subaru to coast comfortably into 2014.
One would be wrong. While changes to this year's Legacy aren't as obvious, they are important. The EyeSight driver-assistance system that debuted as an option for the top-level Limited model last year is now offered for the Premium trim level as well. EyeSight uses a Subaru-developed forward-facing stereo camera system and integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, and Vehicle Lane-Departure Warning systems.
There's more. The Lineartronic® continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which fills the automatic role, gets adaptive control for improved performance and response. The Premium gets a number of interior upgrades. Aha® smartphone integration has been added to the navigation system that is available for upper trim levels. And of course there are the usual changes to wheel styles and colors.
So, useful changes, but the Legacy is still a Subaru, which means a horizontally-opposed engine -- a 173-horsepower 2.5-liter four for the 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Sport, and 2.5i Limited or a 256-hp 3.6-liter six-cylinder under the hood of the 3.6R Limited -- and full-time all-wheel drive (AWD) for all-season, all-weather traction. Done right, AWD gets the power to the ground better than front- or rear-wheel drive only, and Subaru knows how to do it right. Yes, there is a weight penalty, but with the compact Subaru system it's not much. And while the added weight and mechanical losses (from the additional drivetrain components) can decrease fuel economy, Subaru claims the Legacy 2.5i offers the best of any AWD car in its class with EPA estimates of 24 mpg city, 32 highway, and 27 overall. I saw 26 overall, with minimal highway driving, in the 2.5i Limited that is this week's test car.
What's not to like? With excellent traction, a properly-tuned suspension that combines comfort with a pleasant driving experience, good performance and mileage, and one of the best CVTs around, the latest Subaru Legacy should work well for anyone needing a sedan with year-round capability even in parts of the country where snow and ice are facts of life for half the year. It's smaller, more nimble, and far more economical than a 4x4 truck, and more capable than most crossovers. Ground clearance is car, not Outback, but with proper care good forest roads shouldn't present undue difficulty for summer camping trips. And AWD traction is as good in warm, dry weather as it is in cold and wet.
APPEARANCE: This is a sedan that's not afraid of looking like a sedan. A three-box design, its windshield and rear window are less-sloped than is the current norm, all the better for interior space and rear-seat headroom. The shape is familiar, as are the details. The chrome-trimmed hexagonal grille sits above a similarly-sized lower intake. Lines sculpted into the front bumper fascia give a bit of a performance look, hinting at racercar aero devices, as do the flared side sills and prominent fender flares. The headlights are L-shaped, and vee-section lines in the hood add visual interest. Chrome around the side windows adds a luxury touch. Rear styling is plainer and simpler than the front.
COMFORT: Open either of the Legacy's front doors at night, and lamps in the bottoms of the doors illuminate the ground. That's a courtesy usually found in more expensive vehicles. The instrument panel is as sculpted as the car's exterior, but form still follows function. Electroluminescent main instruments are bright and easily visible in all lighting, with odometer, information, and a relative fuel economy gauge between the tach and speedometer. Warnings from the EyeSight system are also displayed there. More useful information is displayed at the top center of the IP, near the base of the windshield. The center stack has the display screen for the audio, car systems and info, and navigation (if fitted) systems. It's a touchscreen, with hard buttons for major functions, and is reasonably self-explanatory. The climate system has its own controls, it is not integrated into the touchscreen.
At Limited level, seating surfaces are leather, with power adjustment and heat in front. Front seat comfort is very good, and the rear has a comfortable back angle and plenty of room for the Legacy's size. The steering wheel has a leather rim, and manual tilt and reach adjustability. Audio, cruise, and information system controls are on the front the horizontal spokes, with (virtual) shift paddles on the rear. The audio system has AM, FM, and XM/Sirius radio, a CD slot, with a jack and USB port in the console box with a power point. Interior storage includes a locking glovebox, the console box, door pockets with bottle holders in all doors, and small pockets for rear passengers on the backs of the front seats. The trunk is usefully large, with hydraulic struts preventing accidental luggage crunches and a bit of hidden storage and a space-saver spare under the load floor. The rear seat folds 60/40 when additional carrying capacity is needed.
SAFETY: Like all Subarus, the 2014 Legacy uses the "Ring-Shaped Reinforcement" unibody structure for sturdy, rigid construction and maximum passenger safety. A full complement of airbags and the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) stability and traction control system plus strong antilock brakes add further safety. For the ultimate in protection, the EyeSight system combines adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning systems to alert the driver to possible danger. It does sometimes show false positives -- I doubt that the tree on the outside of the corner on a local road is going anywhere -- but so do other similar systems. It did allow the Legacy (and Outback) to be the only vehicles to get the highest score in IIHS to get a "Superior" rating and be rated "Top Safety Pick +".
RIDE AND HANDLING: The Legacy Limited is closer to entry-luxury than sport in specification, so don't expect WRX-level cornering ability. Its fully-independent MacPherson strut/double-wishbone suspension is tuned for luxury in the contemporary international manner, so it is still quite capable, and is an enjoyable car to drive on the backroads. The interior is quieter than expected, which improves the highway experience. Brakes are very good, with twin-piston calipers gripping the front discs and regular single-piston calipers at the rear. The "Active Torque Split" AWD system is transparent in operation. It uses an electronically-controlled continuously-variable transfer clutch to actively distribute power between the front and rear axles.
PERFORMANCE: The 2.5-liter twincam boxer four makes 173 horsepower (at 5600 rpm) and 174 lb-ft of torque, with a nice broad, strong torque curve and plenty of low-rpm grunt. Which is what works in everyday life. Upgrades to the Lineartronic CVT keep it in the sweet spot more, and even though it is programmed for fuel economy I found that it worked quite well in D even on tight and hilly roads. Better drive out of corners was easily available by using the shift paddles, but never an absolute necessity. Fuel economy is good for a medium-sized AWD car, with mid-20s around town and low 30s on the highway. My 26 mpg average reflected my aversion to highway travel.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2014 Legacy 2.5i Limited show Subaru's luxury side, in a very Subaru manner.
2014 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited
Base Price $ 26,195 Price As Tested $ 31,030 Engine Type DOHC aluminum alloy 16-valve horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower 173 @ 5600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 174 @ 4100 rpm Transmission electronically-controlled CVT Wheelbase / Length 108.3 in. / 187.2 in. Curb Weight 3424 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 19.8 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline Tires P215/50R17 91V m+s Bridgestone Turanza Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, Brake Override standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent double wishbone Drivetrain longitudinal front engine, full-time all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 24 / 32 / 26 0 to 60 mph 8.6 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Option Package 43 -- includes: Moonroof Package -- includes: power moonroof, rear-vision camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink Navigation System with Aha Infotainment -- includes: SiriusXM NavTraffic with 4-month free trial, voice-activated control EyeSight Driver Assist System -- includes: Pre-Collision Braking System, Pre-Collision Throttle Management System, Lane-Departure Warning and Lane-Sway Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control Total Package Price $ 4, 040 Destination Charge $ 795