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Anyone who has ever owned a Subaru Legacy knows two things for certain: One, they take forever to finally break down, and two, they can handle slick surfaces and off-roading like nobody's business. Live in a state where winters get harsh? Then a Subaru - complete with standard all-wheel drive - is a safe bet for you and your precious cargo.
The 2021 Subaru Legacy offers, well, its legacy. The lifted station wagon-style Outback might not appeal to everyone, which is where the Legacy steps in. The Legacy was once also styled as a station wagon, and you can still see plenty of them cruising along the road. That's right, these things can last for a good two decades if you just treat them right. That's part of why we think this unassuming sedan is a solid investment.
Well, that, plus it is super comfy. As a mid-size sedan, comfort is paramount, and Subaru nails it, as they have done for decades. The Legacy's seats ooze comfort, front and rear. And the ride quality? It's a tough one to beat. Even the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT for short) is more hushed than most of its rivals.
We also really like the power put forth by the optional 2.4-L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. Generating 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque, the engine delivers this power through the use of the CVT to all four wheels - no simple feat! But the turbo engine and CVT do so with ease.
There are, of course, a few issues to be taken with the Legacy since no vehicle is perfect. The Legacy's base engine is really nothing to write home about and is best skipped over entirely. The touchscreen is also an issue since it has a steep learning curve. And the voice controls are utterly useless. To top that off, the engine stop-start function can be invasive.
Overall, the 2021 Subaru Legacy should appeal to a lot of buyers looking for a powerful but practical mid-size sedan. In this review, we will go over what is new for 2021, what we like about the Legacy, a few things we would like to see changed, and how it stacks up against the competition. Read right on through until the end so that you can get our final verdict on this year's Legacy line-up.
What's New for 2021?
Akin to its sister (the Outback), the 2021 Subaru Legacy only receives three noteworthy updates: an optional rear seat alert, a front passenger seatbelt warning, and standard adaptive headlights. Other than that, everything carries over from the 2020 line-up.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Subaru Legacy – The Pros
1. All-Wheel-Drive Comes Standard
As is the case with all Subarus, the 2021 Subaru Legacy receives standard all-wheel drive. While this might make it a little pricier than front-wheel drive models, it puts it right on-par with those that offer AWD as an option. AWD is truly a trademark of Subaru, and it is one that will literally get you out of a slippery situation. Hill descent control and traction control help keep all four wheels firmly planted regardless of what type of road surface you are gliding over. If you live in a place where inclement weather is frequent, AWD can be a lifesaver.
2. Comfortable Seats
The Legacy is packed to the brim with comfort, starting with the seats. Upgrading to the second trim level will get you power adjustability on the driver's seat, and that lends to the ease of finding comfort. Heating also comes standard on both of the Premium's front seats. Lateral and lumbar support is plentiful up front, and in the rear, taller adults will fit just fine in the 60/40-split folding rear seat. If you upgrade all the way to the Touring XT, you get standard ventilation on the front seats and leather upholstery that is breathable in the hot weather.
3. A Pleasant Ride Quality
While some wind and road noise seep in, nothing about it is invasive. You get a nice, smooth ride from the compliant, well-tuned suspension, which dispatches bumps of all sizes in a jiffy. Nothing will ever reverberate throughout the cabin. Overall, the ride quality is well-mannered and comfortable, as should be expected from a mid-size sedan.
4. A Quiet Powertrain
Normally, CVTs can be noisy little gremlins lurking beneath the hoods of vehicles. The Legacy's CVT, however, remains well-behaved, working well with either engine option to remain quiet during normal driving scenarios. You really have to rev it up to get the engine roaring, and when she does, it is more of a pleasing sound than a grating one. If you aren't used to quiet engines, you might find yourself checking to make sure the car is still running when you are stopped at a light.
5. The Optional 2.4-L Turbo Engine
The XT - Subaru's name for the 2.4-L turbo engine - is where it's at, power-wise. Skip the base and go right to the XT. This little powerhouse generates plenty of power and gets the Legacy going with more of a thrust than the base engine. And that is saying something, given that the Legacy's accelerator lacks tap-on power.
6. A Long List of Standard Driver Aids
Subaru offers Subaru EyeSight - a bundle of standard driver aids - on every trim level. With this suite, you get access to forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane centering with the adaptive cruise control system, and lane departure warning accompanied by lane keep assist. Blind spot monitoring becomes optional as part of a package on the Premium trim level and is standard on the Limited and above.
7. Getting In and Out is Simple
Entering and exiting the Legacy is simple. The ride height is spot-on, and the door frames provide enough width and height for adults to get in and out of both rows of seats. Taller adults won't need to worry about bonking their heads along the way due to the ride height.
8. A Clear Outward View
Drivers will appreciate the expansive outward view they get from the cockpit. The Legacy has slender roof pillars, which equates to wide glass panels and minimal blind spots. A rear-view camera comes standard and can help you get out of a tight parking spot, but chances are you will not find yourself relying too much on it.
9. A Well-designed Cargo Area
15.1 cubic feet of cargo space is about .5 cubes shy of the average for this class, but Subaru makes the most of every cubic foot. The cargo area is deep as well as tall, meaning you get a lot of ways to configure your cargo and store bulkier items. The rear seats are able to be folded flat by the push of a button, making it all the easier to store bigger items.
10. A Respectable Fuel Economy
AWDs aren't exactly known for their stellar EPA estimates. The XT is rated for a combined 30 mpg (with 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway), and real-world tests reflect this number in a totally spot-on manner. This places it right on par with the Nissan Altima, one of the Legacy's top contenders.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Subaru Legacy – The Cons
1. The Base Engine
The base 2.5-L flat-4 cylinder engine is nothing short of a snooze-fest. Its 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque feel dreary, and the accelerator being so sluggish means that acceleration feels weak. Flat-4 (or 'boxer') engines aren't widely used in vehicles these days because of how overly complex their mechanics are, even though they tend to make for better handling. Subaru's boxer engines are notorious for being slow, and this one is no exception.
2. The Touchscreen Display
The Legacy's touchscreen display is an utter nightmare. Its learning curve is too long since so many of its controls are buried deep within touchscreen menus. You could spend minutes aimlessly digging around for one function that should ideally come up right away. And the infotainment system itself is slow to respond, causing further delay.
3. Voice Controls are Ineffective
Voice controls in this vehicle are, quite frankly, rubbish. They require a very strict manner of speech when making commands, as the system fails to understand natural speech patterns. You also cannot rely too much on smartphone app integration to do the work since Apple CarPlay and Android Auto seem to crash a lot with this system.
4. Engine Stop-start is Intrusive
Engine stop-start is something that you might want to permanently disable in this vehicle. While it is supposed to be a fuel-saving measure, it ends up being kind of scary. When it restarts, it actually causes the Legacy to buck forward with as much force as if it had just been rear-ended in a low-speed collision. Disable the function, and you will feel more secure at stops.
How It Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Subaru Legacy vs. 2021 Nissan Altima
The 2021 Nissan Altima is going to be a top contender this year with its huge list of semi-autonomous driving functions. You also get a fuel economy that rings in above the class average, and real-world tests confirm its high numbers. The Altima is an easy-going vehicle that makes driving feel relaxing. However, it doesn't have anywhere near as much road feel as the Legacy, and the interior decor leaves something to be desired. Considering its higher price, the interior quality could be a lot better.
2021 Subaru Legacy vs. 2021 Honda Accord
The ever-popular Honda Accord is a top-rated vehicle again for the 2021 model year. Its engine options all blend fuel efficiency with power, and its sporty handling capabilities make the Accord a remarkably thrilling sedan. Upscale in its materials and classy by design, the Accord packs in a ton of comfort. It does sit a bit lower to the ground, so the lower seats make getting in and out slightly more difficult.
The 2021 Subaru Legacy is one of the top competitors in the midsize sedan segment this year, continuing its - ahem - legacy of excellent performance. While the infotainment features are in dire need of an overhaul, basically everything else meets, if not exceeds, expectations.
• Why buy a 2020 Subaru Legacy? w/ pros vs cons