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2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R First Drive

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author photo by Autotrader May 2011

Subaru used to be sort of a one trick pony, specializing in odd looking cars for a seriously low price – oh, and every car came standard with all-wheel drive. Subaru’s off-beat reputation was solidified by fiercely loyal owners who primarily lived in the Northeast or Northwest and essentially drove them into the ground often racking up 200,000 miles or more before replacing the car – usually with another Subaru.

Rather than shun their well deserved, quirky reputation, Subaru has embraced it. Sure, Subaru could have patterned the Legacy after cars like the Toyota Camry, but it didn’t. All-wheel drive is still standard on all Subaru models and the Legacy is offered with some interesting engine choices.

The Legacy 3.6R has a 3.6 liter six-cylinder engine. But it’s not a V6 like most other cars in the Legacy’s class, it’s a flat-6. That means the pistons lay flat in a horizontal position rather than the more vertical “V” design most other cars use. The result is a lower center of gravity and Subaru says make for a more balanced engine, eliminating some harshness and vibration. Subaru’s 2.5 liter, four cylinder engine is arranged in the same manner.

Unique or not, there’s a point where the Legacy has to be as good as or better than cars like the Camry, and it is. On the road, the Legacy’s 256 hp, 3.6 liter engine has an urgency that instantly brings a smile to your face when you stomp the accelerator. Those expecting Subaru WRX-like handling might be disappointed because the Legacy is much softer. The result is a car that has little bit of an edge yet remains comfortable on the highway and around town. In this respect, the Legacy feels more like a Nissan Altima or a Mazda6 rather than a Toyota Camry. Like the Altima, the Legacy has a remarkably spacious interior. After a 2010 redesign, the Legacy grew in size and space and no longer feels like a compact.

The Legacy’s interior is warm and inviting especially when finished in the available “ivory” color. The quality of the materials is average – it’s about what you’d expect from a $25,000 car (the base Legacy with a four cylinder engine is about $20,000). There are a few hard plastic-y pieces but most are finished in very convincing faux metallic color. The Limited has simulated wood trim throughout the cabin and with this trim the Legacy’s interior starts to look a little like an entry level Lexus. Otherwise, the seats are comfortable, the steering wheel mounted control buttons feel solid, the back seat is roomy and the car even manages to look sharp especially with the Limited’s 17 inch wheels.

The Legacy 3.6R Limited is the top of the line sedan in Subaru’s line up. Standard equipment includes power front seats that are also heated, leather seating, dual zone climate control with air-filtration, power moonroof, Bluetooth and 440 watt Harman Kardon audio system. The Limited comes in at just under $30,000 which might seem like a lot at first. But do a little comparing right here on AutoTrader.com and you’ll quickly find that midsize sedans with an automatic transmission, six-cylinder engine and all-wheel drive aren’t plentiful and they’re certainly not cheap.

With the Legacy, Subaru has managed to do what plenty of rock bands, Hollywood directors and fashion designers wish they could do – keep their independent spirit while still achieving mainstream success. If you’re shopping for a midsize sedan, at least drive the 2011 Subaru Legacy, you many end up becoming one of those super loyal fans.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2011 Subaru Legacy 3.6R First Drive - Autotrader