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Subaru: Legacy now has right stuff for the tough midsize segment

Automotive News reports on Subaru's most recent Legacy model.

Automotive News

Subaru says its redesigned Legacy, with a more spacious interior and a starting price under $21,000, finally can compete in the tough midsize sedan segment.

"Legacy is now a proper-sized midsized sedan, and it will be successful," says Tom Doll, COO of Subaru of America. "We had to put this car in a competitive position."

Subaru unveiled the 2010 Legacy and the Outback crossover at the New York auto show in April. The sister vehicles, which go on sale this summer, have 4 inches more rear legroom than the current models.

Like all U.S. Subaru models, the new Legacy has standard all-wheel drive. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder version starts at $20,640 including shipping--$800 less than the current model. Doll says the price reflects Subaru's attempt to position vehicles closer to transaction prices as they are replaced or face-lifted.

The Legacy is priced $975 below the base Honda Accord LX, which does not have AWD.

The Outback, which sits on the same platform, starts at $23,640--$700 less than the 2009 model.

Subaru sold 22,596 Legacy sedans and 44,280 Outbacks last year. Doll says he expects annual sales of the 2010 versions to be higher. Subaru's overall sales were down 1.8 percent in the first five months of 2009--the best performance of any brand.

New styling

Subaru has been moving the Legacy into the mainstream since 2004, when the current generation shed its quirky styling for a more streamlined and upscale appearance. The redesigned Legacy has a more aggressive front end.

"Our styling is becoming more accepted," Doll says. "It was not necessarily a strength in the past."

The Legacy gets new transmissions, including a continuously variable transmission. A more powerful, range-topping 3.6R six-cylinder engine uses regular fuel; the outgoing 3.0R required premium. Options previously not available include a rear backup camera, voice-activated global positioning system and a Bluetooth wireless connection.

But size is the most important difference.

Phil Porter, owner of Subaru of Jacksonville in Florida and Center Subaru in Torrington, Conn., says the added room will make the Legacy competitive in Southern markets, where buyers don't care that AWD is standard.

"We will be better equipped to compete with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Mazda6, which do very well in the South," Porter says.

Says Doll: "One of the major reasons why people rejected Subaru when they looked at the sedan was because of its size in the rear passenger section."

Dealer deliveries start later this month out of Subaru's plant in Lafayette, Ind. Advertising will start in September; Subaru hasn't disclosed details. But Doll says the Legacy and Outback will be marketed differently.

"We never had a sedan that we thought was this good and competitive," he says. "We need to devote some marketing resources to its launch."

(Source: Automotive News)