2017 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited
As you may know already, Subaru isn’t the type of brand that whimsically tweaks styling details every couple of years, probably one of the reasons its resale values stay so high, so the 2017 Legacy 3.6R Limited I recently drove is outwardly identical to the 2015 Legacy 3.6R Limited tested previously, even down to its stunning machine-finished 10-spoke 18-inch alloys with gray painted pockets and 225/50R18 Goodyear Eagle LS2 all-season tires. Likewise inside, I couldn’t find a single difference. Always practical, Subaru seems to understand that change for the sake of change costs money that inevitably needs to be passed onto consumers, leaving less remaining for real value-added improvements.
Therefore, the 2017 Legacy carries forward most of the 2015 model’s features as well as enhancements made to last year’s car, the latter including more reactive steering with better feel, plus the inclusion of wiper-linked auto on/off headlights and rearview camera parking guide customization across the line, while Subaru’s optional EyeSight active safety system, which comes as part of its Technology package, was upgraded to include proactive lane keeping assist, this being the first-ever availability on any Subaru model other than the directly related Outback. Additionally, the Limited model’s larger seven-inch infotainment touchscreen was upgraded for Siri compatibility, plus SiriusXM advanced audio features, Traffic and Travel Link capability, plus access to the Subaru map update program.
Not willing to take a back seat to competitors, Subaru has kept the upgrades coming for 2017, with enhanced driver assist technology, additional comfort and convenience features, plus a new trim: 2.5i Sport, which at $25,995 sits between two lesser trims including $21,995 2.5i and $23,995 Premium, plus the $28,840 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited above.
Upgrades in mind, for starters, literally, all 2017 Legacy trims get a more powerful battery that cranks the engine over better in low temperatures. New Sport trim can only be had with the smaller 2.5i engine, that being a horizontally opposed four-cylinder “boxer” capable of 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, whereas the 3.6R produces a much more substantive 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. Before you start thinking the bigger six-cylinder is the only way to go, I’ve driven many Subarus with the 2.5i, even the larger and heavier Outback, and found it plenty responsive while fully appreciating its excellent 26 mpg city, 35 highway and 29 combined EPA rating, and ultra-clean available PZEV emissions ranking, this even more impressive when factoring in its standard AWD. Still, considering its added performance, the 3.6R’s 20 city, 28 highway and 23 combined rating is very good, likely because the continuously variable transmissions (CVT) conjoined to these engines are extremely thrifty.
Unlike other markets there is no six-speed manual offered in the U.S., the CVT standard across the Legacy line. Before you sigh in normally justified disdain, let me assure that Subaru’s version comes as close to a conventional automatic as possible. It features stepped “gear” changes and even steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for maximizing all that power, or alternatively short-shifting in order to minimize fuel consumption. This is where I’d recommend leaving the capable transmission alone to do the work it was designed for, however, as it achieves the aforementioned results all on its own.
You’re probably wondering what this new trim level I’ve been mentioning comes with, so I’ll give you an abbreviated snapshot: dark gray, satin-silver and gloss black gets added where chrome normally goes, the 18-inch wheels come in a sportier machine-finished twinned five-spoke design, side sill extensions give it a more hunkered down look, and the interior includes two-tone gray sport fabric upholstery with blue stitching, while blue, black and silver thread is used elsewhere around the cabin. Lastly, carbon fiber patterned dash and door panel trim join piano black lacquer for the door switchgear and steering wheel buttons.
Additional features with the Sport upgrade are the same as offered with my Limited tester, and include fog lamps, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, a handsome full-color five-inch multifunction display within the primary instrument cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Homelink garage door opener, and a powered glass sunroof, while worthwhile options include auto-dimming side mirrors and EyeSight, Subaru’s advanced autonomous emergency avoidance system that utilizes a pair of cameras mounted high on the windshield to detect potential problems up ahead and then react with or without your involvement via pre-collision brake assist and throttle management.
EyeSight features include auto high beams, steering responsive fog lamps, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, pre-collision braking, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, and reverse auto braking, much of which qualifies the car for coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status, while all trims received five stars in every NHTSA crash test category. You may have seen Subaru’s TV spots showing a Legacy heading toward a crash test barrier and then automatically screeching to a stop before hitting it, which makes its capability clear.
That navigation upgrade comes in the same seven-inch capacitive touchscreen infotainment display as my Limited tester, which features dual USB ports and SMS text messaging. Both systems also include Subaru’s new Starlink smartphone integration along with its own dedicated apps, Aha radio, iPod control, and more, while all of the Legacy’s infotainment systems now get HD radio and support all SiriusXM features.
Other than a fancy “STARLINK” animated graphic that initiates the infotainment system when turned on, you probably won’t initially notice any difference between the new system and outgoing version, as they incorporate the identical white-outlined six-box menu page with the same map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings functions. Even the rich blue background hasn’t changed, but the apps section now includes unique internet-sourced Starlink features such as news, food, weather, music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other multimedia content via its own apps and those mentioned earlier, while there’s also a free downloadable app for your iOS or Android smartphone that works well for Aha and Pandora, but is limited in its capabilities for much else.
Actually, search for Subaru Starlink in Google Play (or do likewise on the Apple Store if you’re using iOS) and you’ll likely be turned off by countless reviews that give it two stars at best (most just one) along with title posts such as, “Very disappointed”, “Disappointed so far”, “What a joke”, “Why in the LOVE of Subaru”, “Needs work!”, “Absolutely Horrible!”, “What a completely disappointing app”, “Missed the Mark”, “Why did they bother?”, “Subaru dropped the ball”, “Subaru actually paid to have this developed?”, “Love my Subaru, hate this app”, “Worthless!”, “Really bad”, “Lame beyond explanation”, and “Waste of time Subaru”, with the only remotely positive titles being, “Second star only for great idea”, and “Not all bad”, this kindest commenter giving it a mere three-star rating because he felt both aha and Pandora synced well. Of note, I wasn’t cherry picking the bad; these are peoples’ comments in the exact order they were displayed, without edits. To Subaru’s credit, its customers are smarter than average with excellent grammar, even when complaining, while more to Subaru’s direct credit it promises updates to the Starlink app, as it’s obviously not quite ready for primetime.
It’s important to note these complaints only reflect the app and how it lets your phone connect to the car, not the system within the car itself, which I had no problems with and actually found quite intuitive to use. Even bigger news than Starlink, per se, is Subaru’s choice of making a 6.2-inch display standard on the base Legacy, so even entry-level buyers appear as if they sprang for a better-equipped model while enjoying most of the features reviewed thus far.
As for the rest of the car, it seems built to a higher standard than others in the mid-size family sedan class, especially noticeable when closing the doors, tapping its various surfaces, folding its 60/40-split seatbacks to expand its already sizable 18.5 cubic-foot cargo hold, and closing its trunk lid. Likewise interior trim bits are higher in grade than some rivals, the woodgrain, for instance, feeling denser and therefore more genuine, while Subaru even wraps the A-pillars in fabric for a premium look, feel and sound absorption. Subaru also surfaces the entire dash top, most of the instrument panel, and the door uppers in nice pliable synthetic, while the door inserts and armrests are finished in an upscale padded leatherette, perforated for the former and contrast-stitched on the latter. The leather seats feature perforated inserts, just like those on the doors, and they’re comfortable and supportive in all positions, the rearmost offering a full eight inches of space ahead of my knees when the driver’s seat was set for my five-foot-eight body, plus about three inches above my head, so taller folk should fit in just fine, while when back up front I found its ergonomics first-rate with ample seat and steering wheel adjustability.
The first thing I noticed when getting on the road was the Legacy’s ride quality, which is superb, its smoothness and overall compliance actually surprising. It just seems to roll along so effortlessly, the Limited model’s upgraded Stablex ride control dampers no doubt assisting the model’s standard fully independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension setup over poorly paved sections of tarmac, not to mention excellent balance and control when pushed hard, stabilizer bars at both ends helping in this respect. Its 3.6-liter boxer certainly moved things along when prodded, and as noted the CVT’s six artificial gear increments worked nicely when left on their own. I did find the paddles helpful when downshifting, holding engine revs as needed, but it’s not a particularly sporting transmission, the shifts a bit lethargic and response at takeoff more about smoothness than thrills. Still, it delivers strong highway passing power, and together with its adept suspension and the brand’s legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive, is a pleasure to snake through a canyon pass. Don’t expect WRX STI levels of at-the-limit grip or anything remotely similar, as the Legacy Limited is clearly biased toward comfort, but it holds its own respectably when compared to other mid-size family sedans.
On that note, all Legacy trims come standard with Subaru’s much-lauded AWD, the 2015 redesign ushering in a new configuration that works in concert with brake-based active torque-vectoring, which slows the inside front wheel to sharpen turn-in and minimize understeer. The Legacy’s new active-torque-split symmetrical AWD is totally user-friendly too, allowing you to merely plant your foot on the throttle and let the electronics and mechanicals take it from there, the Legacy’s Vehicle Dynamics Control with lateral-g and yaw-rate sensors also helping to maintain stability in nearly any situation.
The Legacy is quiet too, Subaru obviously expending a lot of energy on sound deadening in this Limited model, which made this trim’s standard 576-watt 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system all the more enjoyable, especially while listening to classical at lower volumes. It manages all types of genres well, mind you, including dance, rock, alternative, jazz, and even talk, while it played my podcasts via Bluetooth streaming perfectly.
Notable features not yet mentioned that get grandfathered up to Limited trim from lesser varieties include a windshield wiper de-icer, a tilt-and-telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather shifter knob, auto on/off headlights, electroluminescent primary gauges, an electromechanical parking brake, powered heatable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a backup camera, dual-zone auto HVAC, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, a four-way powered front passenger seat, heatable front seats, a sunglasses holder, all the usual active and passive safety features including a full assortment of airbags, and much more.
Additional Limited trim features not yet mentioned include matte woodgrain interior trim, leather upholstery, memory for the driver’s seat, heatable rear outboard seats, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, and more, all for just $28,840 plus freight and fees, while standard features included with the $31,640 3.6R Limited include HID headlights (optional with the 2.5i Limited), larger 12.4-inch front and 11.8-inch rear brake rotors (the standard rotors measure 11.6 and 11.8 inches front to rear), and dual chrome exhaust tips.
The only option with the 3.6R Limited is the aforementioned EyeSight package with navigation, high-beam assist and reverse auto braking for $1,595, included with my tester, while the auto-dimming side mirror are available from the accessories catalog, as are bodyside moldings, door edge guards, and all-weather floor mats.
All-wheel drive and top-tier safety aside, Subaru quality is probably the brand’s most salable asset. It was the top rated volume brand in Consumer Reports’ 2016 report card on reliability, while Subaru’s Forester and Outback models (remember, the latter is basically the same car as the Legacy) swept AutoPacific’s owner surveyed 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards. Also notable, Consumer Reports gave last year’s Legacy the second highest score among mid-size sedans, sandwiching the Subie between two Camry trims.
In the end, the Legacy is a very well built, nicely finished, wonderful riding, strong performing car that’s especially well-equipped in top-line Limited trim, while its AWD and EyeSight technologies deliver a rare level of safety focused sophistication in its mainstream volume class. I highly recommend it.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press