CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Despite not looking all that different, the 2020 Subaru Legacy pictured here is a brand-new sedan. And while it might not stir emotions with its design, those who look beneath the conservative sheet metal will discover a spacious interior chock full of new technology, not to mention a more robust chassis that makes the Legacy much nicer to drive.
The 2020 Legacy rides on Subaru's new global platform that also underpins the Ascent, Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza and Outback. This stiffer, stronger frame forms the bones of a sedan that's about the same size as before, with a 108.3-inch wheelbase.
For those hoping the stiffer platform translates to tighter, more responsive handling, I'm sorry to say that's not the case. Tossing the Legacy Sport into curves, you'll experience some dive under braking and a bit of controlled roll at turn in. The car's road-holding abilities are just OK through bends, but pushing it moderately hard results in howls from the 18-inch Yokohama Avid GT BluEarth tires. Even with the most aggressive Sport Sharp drive mode activated, the Legacy's steering is numb off center, though weight builds progressively as you turn. The brakes boast strong initial bite at the top of the pedal stroke and are easy to modulate.
Where the Legacy really shines, though, is in the ride comfort department. The softer-sprung suspension and 50-series sidewall tires are great for comfy jogs around town, smoothing out impacts from bumps and ruts along the way.
The 2020 Legacy has a new 2.4-liter turbo engine option that replaces the old boxer-six. Rated at 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, it's the same turbocharged flat-four you'll find in the Ascent and Outback.
My Sport trim, however, rocks an updated version of Subaru's 2.5-liter naturally aspirated boxer-four with 182 hp and 176 lb-ft, mated to a continuously variable transmission and standard all-wheel drive. In the Sport Sharp setting, the engine delivers adequate grunt to get the Legacy hustling up to speed for highway merging. With the car in the default Intelligent mode, however, and acceleration is leisurely at best.
The Legacy's CVT does a fairly seamless job of switching between ratios so the engine won't annoyingly buzz like mad during wide-open throttle applications. Opting to change ratios yourself via the steering wheel paddles can be done, too, but the responses are so frustratingly muted that it's best to let the computers handle "shifting."
As for fuel economy, the base drivetrain setup returns an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. That's not shabby considering the Legacy comes standard with all-wheel drive.
The Legacy is unquestionably understated compared to more fashionable midsize sedans like the latest Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6 and Nissan Altima. Even with the Sport model's additional touches like its unique grille, black mirror caps, black wheels and trunk spoiler, the car simply gets lost in the crowd. Then again, if you prefer to fly under the radar, this might be the sedan for you.
Things do get more interesting inside, at least. The Legacy's cabin is airy with a lot of glass letting in oodles of natural light. There's generous room for passengers up front or in back, with the latter gaining an additional 1.4 inches of legroom compared to the old Legacy. The interior has a relatively straightforward design and everything is built from high-quality materials with leather-wrapped, soft-touch and nicely stitched surfaces throughout. Even the hard-plastic portions feel sturdy and are nicely finished. The seats are cushy, there are numerous cubbies to stash things and the trunk, with 15.1 cubic feet of space, will swallow just about anything you throw at it.
There's a massive, 11.6-inch center touchscreen housing the Subaru Multimedia Plus infotainment system. It's packed full of goodies such as a TomTom navigation system, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio and Bluetooth. While those occupy the middle portion of the display, the bottom houses climate adjustments like fan speed, vent settings and three-stage heated front seats. For the most part, I like the intuitive infotainment interface. It's got big, clearly labeled icons and quickly swaps pages between different menu screens. Thankfully, Subaru doesn't put everything in the touchscreen, with a couple of knobs and a few hard buttons on the side to adjust radio volume, tuning and cabin temperature.
On the driver-assistance technology front, every Legacy comes standard with Subaru's EyeSight suite of features including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with lane-centering and pedestrian detection. My test car is also outfitted with available blind-spot monitoring, reverse automatic braking and lane-change assist that all work as advertised.
After spending a week with the serviceable, but slightly underwhelming base engine, my ideal Subaru Legacy would have to have the turbo. I'd go with the Limited XT that begins at $35,095, including $900 for destination. With options like heated seats, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert standard, I'd leave it at that and be happy as a clam. It's a fair amount more than the $30,090 car reviewed here, but trust me, if you can swing the turbo, get it.
Midsize sedan entries offering all-wheel drive aren't as sparse as before with the Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry now available with this tech, though the Legacy remains the only one in the category with it standard. And with its $23,645 base price, the Subaru is the most affordable option if you are on the hunt for a midsize sedan with power going to all four wheels. To get all-wheel drive in the Altima you'll have to part with at least $26,575, while the Camry will set you back $27,365 to start.
Yes, the Legacy lacks standout style and isn't a hoot behind the wheel, but it's a very well-rounded, comfortable sedan, packed with tech and features a spacious cabin at an affordable price point. It won't set hearts ablaze, but those are nevertheless some strong merits to stand on.