While there are plenty of reasonably sized, reasonably priced family sedans out there, only one offers the peace of mind that accompanies having all-wheel drive as part of the standard equipment list. It's the 2014 Subaru Legacy, a roomy, fuel-efficient family cruiser that also happens to be one of the best year-round cars on the road starting just a hair over $21,000.
Although the Legacy doesn't have the ground clearance of the Forester or Outback, its standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is still more than capable of pulling the sturdy sedan through deep snow berms and icy roadways. Beyond its all-wheel drive, the Legacy stacks up well against such heavyweights as the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. It has a huge back seat and a massive trunk, offers two engine choices and boasts an excellent safety record.
What's New for 2014?
Subaru's EyeSight system can now be added to the 2.5i Premium trim along with the Limited trim's electroluminescent instrument cluster. The Premium trim loses the Harman/Kardon audio option but gains as standard the Cold Weather Package (heated seats, mirrors and windshield de-icers) and a new 4.3-inch display screen radio. Premium models can also now be equipped with a touchscreen navigation system. The 3.6R base is dropped from the lineup.
What We Like
Standard all-wheel drive; IIHS Top Safety Pick; reasonable base price; windshield wiper de-icers
What We Don't
Poor fuel economy on 6-cylinder model; clunky manual transmission; no rear parking sensors or blind spot warning devices; complex and slow navigation radio isn't user friendly
The Legacy's two available engines give the car two distinct personalities. The economy leader is Subaru's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. Although you can have a 6-speed manual with this engine, we'd recommend the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which delivers the best fuel economy (21 miles per gallon city/28 mpg hwy vs. 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy). Those who require better acceleration and passing power should opt for the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine. With 256 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, this engine provides smooth operation with only a slight decrease in fuel economy at 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Subaru Legacy is offered in four trim levels and two models: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Sport, 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited.
The base 2.5i ($21,090) includes a 2.5-liter engine, 6-speed manual transmission, AM/FM stereo with single CD and USB port, power windows, locks and mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio control, remote keyless entry and 16-in plastic wheel covers.
The 2.5i Premium ($24,090) adds a CVT, 17-in alloy wheels, the Cold Weather Package (heated seats, side mirrors and windshield defrosters), upgraded audio with 4.3-in LCD display, fog lights and a 10-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support.
The 2.5i Sport ($25,490) adds a power moonroof, rearview camera, alloy pedal covers, black cloth seats with silver stitching, 18-in alloy wheels and faux carbon fiber dash trim.
The 2.5i Limited ($26,690) adds leather seating, Harman/Kardon 440-watt audio system, a power passenger seat, automatic climate controls, rear-seat vents, fog lights, electroluminescent gauge package and wood trim.
The 3.6R Limited ($29,690) adds a 3.6-liter engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Options for the base 2.5i CVT include a new 17-in wheel and fog light package, while the Premium trim can be equipped with a navigation radio with Aha infotainment smartphone app and the EyeSight driver assist system (but not together). Other options for the Premium include rear-seat DVD system, a power sunroof with rear backup camera and a 110-volt outlet. The Limited can be equipped with navigation, a sunroof and the EyeSight driver assist system.
The 2014 Subaru Legacy's EyeSight driver assist system uses stereoscopic "eyes" mounted behind the rearview mirror to detect obstacles and provide automatic pre-collision braking when necessary. We tested the system by driving toward a mocked-up image of a person at around 20 miles per hour, and the car recognized the shape and gradually started braking on its own before escalating the rate of deceleration and coming to an abrupt halt. Above 20 mph, the system will do its best to avoid a collision using the pre-brake function, but this does not guarantee that contact will be avoided entirely. EyeSight technology also monitors lane markers to detect when the car is veering from its intended path. If the driver applies his turn signals, the system recognizes that the turn is intentional and doesn't emit a warning beep. The system also offers adaptive cruise control.
Safety has always been a Subaru strong point, and the Legacy excels in both government and nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. IIHS named the Legacy a Top Safety Pick. Standard equipment includes front side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In addition to all-wheel drive, Subaru also equips the Legacy with electronic traction and stability control. The Legacy's electronic parking brake has a hill-hold feature that prevents the car from rolling backward on inclines of more than 5 percent.
Behind the Wheel
How quickly you can reach 60 mph will depend on the engine powering your Legacy. How quickly you can round corners won't matter as much, as both trims -- 2.5 and 3.6R -- use the same MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension setup. On the road, the Legacy's cabin is remarkably quiet, with very little engine, tire or wind noise apparent. The steering feel is nicely weighted, and the all-wheel-drive system provides excellent traction, even on the most treacherous roads.
We like the way the CVT paddle shifters help the 2.5-liter make the most of its power. The standard 6-speed manual might have been our first choice if it was not so rubbery and vague when looking for the right gear. Although the 2.5-liter surprised us with its acceleration and smooth operations, we still prefer the authoritative power provided by the 3.6-liter engine. If only we could have the 4-cylinder's fuel economy on the 3.6R, it would be a match made in heaven.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Accord -- The Accord is every bit as safe and reliable as the Legacy, and it has better resale value. But the Accord doesn't offer all-wheel drive, and the base LX costs about $1,000 more than the entry-level Legacy.
Ford Fusion -- The Fusion offers the option of all-wheel drive but not on every model as the Legacy does. The Legacy has more interior room than the Fusion, but Ford's sedan offers more advanced choices in audio, information and entertainment and electronic safety devices.
Dodge Charger -- The Charger can also be equipped with all-wheel drive, and its standard V6 is more powerful and gets better fuel economy than the Legacy's 6-cylinder. However, Dodge doesn't offer a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder model, and the Legacy will hold its value better than the Charger.
The Legacy model that offers the best value is the 2.5i Premium. Its sticker price remains right around the $27,000 mark, even with the optional navigation or EyeSight and power moonroof package. If power is more important to you than price, go for a loaded 3.6R Limited instead. The leather seating is much nicer than the cloth, and the 3.6-liter engine delivers all the power you'll need without much penalty in fuel economy.