New Legacy is bigger and brighter, but not necessarily better

The Subaru Legacy, one of Japan’s quiet achievers, is getting a makeover. New looks, a bigger body and a brighter cabin feature on this fifth generation of the car, due in the UK this autumn.

The UK won’t be getting the Legacy saloon this time, nor the 2.5 turbo, just as Japan loses out on Subaru’s 2.0-litre Boxer diesel, which will be updated to Euro 5 trim when this new Legacy lands in Europe.

Still, the car you see here and which we drove in Japan, the Touring Wagon with a 2.5-litre normally aspirated engine and the Legacy’s first CVT transmission, will be more or less present everywhere.

What’s it like?

It show straight away how the Legacy has matured, becoming more comfortable and refined. This is the biggest Legacy yet, but CO2 and economy are on a par, if not better, than the outgoing car’s.

For the keen driver, though, it’s a less involving machine to punt around, with softer reactions, plenty of body roll and only moderate speed on tap with the CVT in tow.

The contrived new styling will divide opinion too. Inside, the news is good; you get big, comfy seats, a fine driving position, more space and (another Legacy first) an eco gauge to help you save fuel. As ever, the Legacy is a practical, capable hi-tech car and that can haul an awful lot of stuff around.

The new combo of improved 2.5-litre flat four and Lineartronic CVT makes the Legacy a mechanically sweet machine. It’s a seamless drivetrain, complete with steering wheel paddles and a manual mode.

By the same token, it feels sluggish low down, and you feel the six-speed manual shift (that will be offered with the 2.5 in the UK) will liberate more top-end punch.

Once you get used to the degrees of body lean and the need to wind on lock, the Legacy can attack corners with aplomb, and its four-wheel drive grip and traction are never in dispute. Steering, while consistent and accurate, is short on centre sharpness, but braking is superb: strong and powerful, and with good fade resistance.

In the Japanese range this model version gets trick dampers and 18-inch tyres. Bump absorption on less-than-perfect roads is quite harsh, so we’d tick the box marked 17in or 16in for a more supple ride.

Should I buy one?

Subaru has moved its own goalposts with the new Legacy, which feels as if it’s moved up a class, but we fear that it has lost something in the process. We’ll have to wait to try a Boxer diesel in Europe to get a full handle on Subaru’s revamped flagship.

Peter Nunn

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ericheadley 5 June 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.5i 5dr Estate

I own a 2003 estate, and I can't ever see myself replacing that with this. They have taken a graceful car and rendered it unspeakably hideous. And apparently Subaru has forgotten how to make cars handle, the current WRX handles far worse than an Evo and apparently this also now handles like a barge. I fear I'll have to replace my current one with a clean used 2007 or 2008 model and that will be my last Subaru.

jelly7961 5 June 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.5i 5dr Estate

The roly-poly comment re the handling is exactly what was said when the new Forester came out. Subaru are on track to alienate their traditional buyers I fear

SpecB 4 June 2009

Re: Subaru Legacy 2.5i 5dr Estate

I will be keeping mine for some considerable time if this is what they have come up with.