2010 Subaru Legacy Review

Expert Reviews Subaru

2010 Subaru Legacy

By Bill Clark


  • New styling looks great
  • It’s big
  • Very well-appointed – even in base trim
  • All things Subaru – affordable, practical, all-wheel drive
  • Very comfortable road car


  • Lethargic engine – especially at freeway speeds
  • Leans like a wet noodle when pushed hard around corners

Don’t tell the Editors, but let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic when I was told I would be testing the new 2010 Subaru Legacy sedan. While I reluctantly waited outside the house for the demo vehicle to be delivered, a number of cars drove by, including a very sharp, muscular, modern-looking sedan. The sedan slows in front of me while I am taking a long look at it – ‘nice’, I think to myself. Then I notice the Subaru emblem on the front grille. Wait… What? Is that it? That’s a Subaru? Well, things are looking up! Let’s just say the word ‘new’ does not do the car justice – I’d say transformed!

Driving Impressions
The base 2.5i model comes with a very long list of technical features. Most notable are its Symmetrical AWD, PZEV status, VDC, CVT automatic transmission and… paddle shifters? Heh – yeah, that made me chuckle too. Paddle shifters on a 4-cylinder with CVT? Blasphemy! What’s the point? I couldn’t wait to give this thing a workout and give it all the bad press it deserves… more on that later.

The base-model 2.5i has plenty of grunt to get you moving around town. Also a revelation for someone with little experience behind an AWD car is that you can accelerate around tight corners enthusiastically!

The 2.5i is lacking a bit on power at freeway speeds, but just recall the EPA ratings of 23 MPG city and 31 MPG highway in a roomy, mid-sized car and it all makes economical sense. Load up with passengers and luggage and point it uphill at highway speeds and it’s just anemic. If that bothers you, there are two other models available for a bit more coin – a 2.5GT with a 2.5-liter DOHC intercooled, turbocharged 4-cylinder horizontally opposed SUBARU BOXER® engine – the same engine used in the WRX STI – good for 265HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. For those drivers who think size is king and want a transmission with real gears, they can opt for the 3.6R with a normally aspirated 3.6-liter DOHC 6-cylinder horizontally opposed SUBARU BOXER® engine and 5-speed SPORTSHIFT automatic with downshift rev-matching control. Either of those models should provide more zip and go on the highway or anywhere else. The price of entry on the 3.6R jumps to $24,995 and the 2.5GT Turbo jumps to $27,995. You gotta pay to play!

Handling is also a mixed bag. The suspension felt a bit clunky on certain small, square-edged bumps , but overall very smooth for most driving situations. The Legacy leans more towards freeway and boulevard cruising than canyon carving.

2010 Subaru Legacy

This is a very solid-feeling car. The doors shut with a solid “thunk” and there’s not a hint of rattle or buzzing anywhere. The doors are also very lightweight and well-sealed so a bit of effort while shutting them is needed.

There are some nice touches like an electronic parking brake. That’s right; you can set the e-brake at the touch of a button. To release the e-brake, place your foot on the brake pedal and gently “pull” that same button. Kind of odd that they made a pull button for the e-brake release – like we are not used to the same button for on and off behavior. Or maybe for those that really like the pull-to-release e-brake and have a hard time learning buttons versus handles. At least there’s an idiot mode if you forget to release the brake – just start driving and it releases itself.

The CVT is very smooth under normal operation, but I found that it lags a bit shifting from drive to reverse and back to drive – as when making a 3-point turn – just make sure you are not in a hurry when doing so. Also when the engine and CVT tranny are cold, I detect a slight bit of chatter shifting between drive and reverse. Under normal driving, the CVT tranny gives a faint turbine noise like that of a jet engine. After a few hours I was used to it and never noticed it again. It was still there, but was completely unobtrusive – just a new sound.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Subaru used quality looking and feeling materials throughout the cabin. The front seats were neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. Weird, I know… They can be best described as crunchy on the outside and squishy on the inside. Like they used a layer of firm foam to hold a shape on the outside and underneath, they used very soft foam. Either way, they always felt too big for my small frame – like I was sitting in a seat made for my big brother. But they did not bother me after extended driving so they weren’t too bad.

The rear seats are decently comfy and Subaru provided a fold-down center armrest with cup holders, but the story in the back seat is that there are FOUR more inches of rear leg room over the outgoing model. Combine that with the scalloped backs on the front seats and you get a car that can comfortably hold four full-sized adults. You can leave that “you must be this short to ride in the back seat” sign at home. Thank you, Subaru…

60/40 fold-down rear seats allows access to the trunkextended cargo space with the rears seats folded downSubaru Legacy rear seats

The trunk is among best in class at 14.7 cubic feet and the rear seats fold down so that you can take large objects with you. Oh, and this is not one of those cars where you fold down 5-foot wide seatbacks only to reveal a two-foot-wide pass-through to the trunk. You really get a huge opening to the trunk with the seats folded down. To illustrate this point, I put my 52cm road bike in the trunk fully assembled!

The steering wheel is perfect, in my book. They used a nice and thick grip on the wheel. The spokes are longer and the center airbag unit is smaller. This allowed for top-left thumb buttons side-by-side for volume and preset select – the most commonly used buttons. Oh, and the steering wheel is tilting AND telescopic – very nice.

Legacy driver's cockpit 2010 Subaru Legacy interior

The center console reminded me a bit of a smallish barrel. The radio controls were a bit high and the volume knob was a bit small for even my small hands, but I prefer using the steering wheel controls anyway. Dual-zone automatic climate control si only available with some trims, but the manual HVAC controls are simple, intuitive, and effective. I have driven cars before whose auto climate controls can only be decoded when stopped and studying the layout, so the simplicity here was appreciated. The A/C cooled down the hot, sun-baked interior in no time.

The base stereo isn’t much to write home about, but I will tell you to leave the bass setting at zero. It sounds like it is centered at 125Hz and bumping it up will induce clipping. If you want to hear the bass, use the menu button on the left side of the unit and scroll through until you get to “CS-auto” and select 1 for normal to loud listening and 2 to hear the bass with low volume. The manual talks about some phantom center speaker hocus-pocus, but it’s mostly a bass-boost at around 60 Hz.

A nice touch to the stereo is that after turning it off or shutting the engine off, the music gently fades away rather than instant full-off or full-on. There’s also a steering-wheel mounted mute button that provides the same effect.

(Continued on page 2)

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