You know what sucks about the state of Subaru sales figures these days? NOTHING.
That’s because Subaru has enjoyed the enviable position within the automotive industry of posting healthy gains year over year, for the last several years. The combination of brand hallmarks like Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and the EyeSight suite of safety features make for a compelling security blanket that many drivers are apparently clamouring for. As such, it must be a party atmosphere in the boardroom amongst company brass when the bean counters break out the line graphs charting profit and growth which continually trend in the upward direction. Somewhere in Australia, Paul Hogan is surely drinking his Foster’s Lager out of a solid gold, diamond studded chalice.
So yes, it’s a good time to be aboard the good ship Subaru. With models like the Ascent, Forester and Outback seeming to hog the headlines- not to mention the bestselling Crosstrek with its recent polishing, some of the other offerings within the portfolio can get overlooked. The BRZ and WRX, both in the infancy of new generations respectively, generated a red-hot buzz that has since cooled now that their newness has worn off. That leaves the venerable Legacy, one of the older school models Subaru is shilling these days. You’ll be forgiven if you had not thought about ye olde Legacy for a while, because they aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as their SUV and crossovers and therefore enjoy a degree of exclusivity. We think it deserves a closer look, especially so when said Legacy is decked out in the enthusiast’s choice in GT trim. It’s a textbook case of excellence hiding in plain sight, and we’re going to talk about its many virtues, which should in turn spawn a tidal wave of demand for Subaru’s oft-forgotten model, thrusting it to the top of the sales charts which will prompt Subaru to make an STi version…maybe?
Within the Legacy hierarchy, the GT model is tops. The lower rung trim choices are fundamentally OK, but they are hobbled by a naturally aspirated 2.5 litre boxer four-cylinder making them almost tragically underpowered; 182 horsepower just isn’t going to get the job done these days. No, you want the turbocharged 2.4 litre unit that’s cribbed from the brand’s family bus, the Ascent. In this application, it endows the Legacy the urge it has always clamoured for and changes the game from a car that was glacially slow to a much fleeter footed conveyance- it is just over 2 seconds faster in the times sprint from naught to 100 kilometers per hour thanks to the turbo. The drivetrain would really sparkle if the muscular engine wasn’t paired to a mooing CVT. OK, so this one isn’t the worst we have encountered, but it’s not the best, either. There are shift paddles and a spicier Sport # (that’s Sport Sharp folks, not hashtag) Drive Mode but using either one felt like we were forcing the Legacy into fits of hooliganism it just wasn’t down for.
Tight ribbons of tarmac are not where the Legacy shines anyhow. It’s more at home obediently fetching the dry cleaning and dropping the little ones of at swimming lessons and really comes into its own on the highway. Once up to speed it settles into a relaxed lope and passing is accomplished with nothing more than a squeeze of the throttle. It is in this context that you notice how comfortable it is, the seats holding you gently in place while the suspension sops up the worst of the craggy lesions and potholes you’re travelling over. In these circumstances the Legacy GT does indeed live up to its Grand Touring billing, as this would make for a great choice for a far-flung family road trip. It gets commendable fuel mileage as well giving it impressive cruising range.
After getting to know the Legacy GT more intimately during the time it spent in the Carpages Garage, we arrived at the conclusion that in our opinion, it is the best all-wheel drive Subaru on sale today (the BRZ, which is rear drive only, takes the top spot overall- notice how we specified ‘all-wheel drive’.) Our position might waver once we have had a go in the new WRX (stay tuned for that Road Test coming soon), but for now, we think the Legacy represents the best of the breed. We checked our notes from the last time we drove the Legacy back in 2018 and the 2.5 litre engine smothered any enjoyment we might have found, but with the turbo engine, that issue has been fixed in short order.
Not much has changed inside since our drive years ago but there are some notable appointments the old model didn’t have, first and foremost being the 11.6” iPad-like infotainment screen, a significant improvement. It isn’t perfect though, as we noted some seriously laggy behaviour when performing mundane commands like switching from Sirus XM radio to AM. Audiophiles will be pleased to know that the Harmon Kardon sound system is much better than the tinny audio quality we noticed last time around. In GT trim, our tester has the latest EyeSight safety systems which monitor a slew of activity yet serve the sole purpose of keeping driver and passengers safe.
The concept of the EyeSight system which uses constant vigilance to keep you safe is in the right place, but man, is it ever intrusive. While navigating a rural two lane road at a very sedate speed, we noticed a roadside farmers market and shot a quick glance to our right to see if it was worth stopping at. The Legacy freaked, admonishing us for takin our eyes off the road and then repeatedly suggesting we take a break. We found that kind of hyper attentiveness slightly off putting and promptly turned the system off, thus negating any of its benefits. One component of the Legacy GT experience that did not have an off button was the constant din from the drivetrain. There’s a surprising lack of refinement, from the turbo boxer engine’s grumbles (which has its legions of fans of Subaru faithful who genuinely enjoy the soundtrack) and the secondary vibrations that are transmitted to the tips of your fingers and toes. The CVT is not much of help in keeping the engine room racket at bay, and it suffers from its own Achilles heal of sounding very unimpressed when asked to get to work on frigid mornings. The somewhat suspiring lack of refinement is brought to your attention each time you slam a door which elicits the tinny, insubstantial sound of the wheezy screen door at the cottage. Still, we’d hardly call these issues deal breakers, and if you have ever spent any time behind the wheel of a Jeep Wrangler the Legacy will feel almost ambrosial in its luxuriousness and quiet.
When we were poring over the Legacy’s press materials, we noticed that Subaru refers to it as “The SUV of Sedans”, which made us laugh. It also made us scratch our heads because we’re not sure exactly what that means. Be that as it may, we think Subaru should celebrate the Legacy’s sedan-ness and leave the SUV part to, well, SUVs. Insipid marketing bumf not withstanding, the Legacy GT remains a great car and other than the BRZ and WRX represents a bright spot in the lineup for those who value driving engagement. Its potent engine and unflappable traction in any sort of weather make it an interesting alternative to a mind-numbing crossover. There’s a lot to like with Subaru’s Legacy GT and it flies totally under the radar- just make sure you don’t sleep on it.
2023 Subaru Legacy GT- Specifications
- Price as tested: $44,226
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.4L Boxer four-cylinder turbo, DOHC, 16 Valves
- Horsepower: 260 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 277 @ 2,000 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
- Curb weight: 1,715 kg (3,781 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 11.2L/100km (21 mpg)