2015 Subaru Legacy – Ruge’s Subaru – Detroit Free Press

7 Jan

What’s Subaru’s secret? Other automakers looked on in wonder as the little Japanese automaker racked up one sales record after another for the last several years. Competitors shook their heads, unable to figure out the secret of Subaru’s magic.

How about selling good cars at good prices, with popular features, high reliability and a strong brand image?

The 2015 Subaru Legacy makes a strong case that Subaru won its sales gains the old-fashioned way: by delighting its customers.

There’s nothing flashy about the Legacy. The midsize sedan quietly excels.

It’s a simple formula, but “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.”

Like every Subaru but the BRZ sport coupe, the Legacy has standard all-wheel drive, but its fuel economy is as good or better than most front-wheel-drive midsize sedans. The Legacy is also loaded with safety and convenience features.

Prices for the 2015 Legacy start at $21,695 with a 175-hp 2.5L four-cylinder engine. All the Legacy models feature a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). A 256-hp 3.6L six-cylinder engine is available starting at $29,595. Both engines have the horizontally opposed cylinder layout that’s called the boxer design because the pistons appear to be punching toward each other. That horizontal movement makes boxers very smooth, with vibration-free running that, like all-wheel-drive, is a Subaru hallmark.

I tested a nicely equipped Legacy 2.5i Premium. Features included Bluetooth phone and audio compatibility, a touch screen, adaptive cruise control, lane departure, blind spot and cross traffic alerts, heated front seats, eight air bags, a power driver’s seat, and automatic braking to avoid collisions. It stickered at $24,990, a very good price for a midsize sedan with those features.

Outstanding value, all-wheel drive set midsize sedan apart. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press

The Legacy competes with the Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat.

That’s Murderers’ Row of competitors, but the Legacy’s value and features stack up exceptionally well. Most competitors don’t even offer all-wheel drive. Those with an AWD option — Fusion and 200 — can’t match the Legacy 2.5i’s fuel economy or price. The availability of features like radar-based adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and automatic braking for less than $25,000 also set the Legacy apart.

The Legacy is a car, not a magic carpet, so there are some trade-offs. The 2.5L engine produces less power than the competitors’ comparable engines.

The Legacy 2.5i’s acceleration is fine for leisurely jaunts around town, but the boxer is punching above its weight when asked to perform quick maneuvers at highway speeds. The drivetrain has a droning note at higher speeds. That’s not uncommon with CVTs.

The Legacy 2.5i’s EPA fuel economy rating of 26 m.p.g. in the city, 36 on the highway and 30 combined tops comparably powered models of the Malibu, 200, Fusion, Sonata, Optima, Camry and Passat.

The adaptive cruise control, collision alert and lane departure warnings operate smoothly, without the frequent noodging that mars some driver-assistance features.

The interior is roomy. The passenger compartment is one of the largest in the segment, trailing only the 2015 Hyundai Sonata in size. Head, leg and shoulder room are generous. The trunk is one of the segment’s smallest, but a wide opening and even shape make it useful.

The interior looks and feels terrific. My car had soft materials on most surfaces and attractive aluminum-look trim.

The gauges are big and legible. The voice-recognition works well for hands-free phone calls. The touch screen icons are small for use in a moving car, and the touch screen itself responds slowly.

The Legacy uses a new platform, but its exterior styling makes it easy to overlook, despite the car’s many virtues. Subaru seems to have replaced its traditional quirky looks with a conservative, almost generic approach.

That low-profile appearance will undoubtedly add to competitors’ puzzlement at Subaru’s success. The secret: build a better car.

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