KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/29/2011
Now in its third year since a total redesign, the 2012 Subaru Legacy remains an appealing alternative to category stalwarts like the Accord and Camry. And buyers have taken note, with significantly increased sales year over year. Combining good fuel economy, top safety ratings and the sure-footed traction provided by its standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD), the Legacy is an extremely attractive family sedan, especially when one considers the base model's sub-$20,000 starting price. For added versatility, the Legacy's sister model, the Outback, provides similar virtues in a wagon body style.
You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you appreciate the handling virtues of all-wheel drive or need to navigate winter's worst, you'll find the 2012 Subaru Legacy to be a roomy, comfortable sedan with an edge in confidence over its front-wheel-drive competition. Wide front seats and a cavernous trunk are standouts, and the Legacy combines top-rated safety with a generous list of features.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a silky-smooth 6-cylinder sedan, the Legacy's boxer engine feels less refined than the traditional V-6 Camry and Accord offerings. The boxer 4-cylinder can feel slightly sluggish under hard acceleration, and the Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is not to everyone's liking. The sole turbo model, the GT, is manual-only.
What's New for 2012
Subaru's penchant for an abundance of trim levels continues, with seven 2012 Legacy models in total. The popular mid-level Premium models add an improved 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone and wireless audio streaming plus an iPod connection. Top-tier Limited models now have standard foglights
While the three engine choices offer differing acceleration, the Legacy 2.5i, 2.5GT and 3.6R all share the same suspension, so ride and handling are consistent across the lineup. Ride quality is among the best in class, aided by the quiet cabin. Along with responsive steering and brakes, the low center of gravity of its boxer engine and all-wheel drive make handling stable and sporty. The 2.5-liter engine's 170 horsepower provides adequate though unspectacular acceleration and passing. The optional CVT works better than most and features a set of paddle shifters that allow manual-style gear changes. Fuel economy with the CVT is actually quite better than with manual, estimated at 23/31 city/highway. The 3.6R is, as expected, better at moving the Legacy, though there's a hint of vibration at idle. The 265-horsepower turbocharged Legacy 2.5GT is the real performer, with minimal turbo lag and a nice flat torque curve. But buyers who want an automatic transmission will have to choose the 3.6R or shop elsewhere.
Voice-Activated Navigation System
Available only on Limited trims, Subaru's voice-activated navigation system offers a big 8-inch high-resolution screen, a rearview camera and Bluetooth hands-free phone and streaming music capability. The system also includes a 440-watt harman/kardon sound system, single-disc CD/DVD player, USB auxiliary audio input, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and iPod integration.
Electronic Parking Brake with Hill-Holder Function
The traditional parking brake handle is replaced by a soft-touch push/pull switch on the dash. The electronic brake system includes a feature that holds the brakes for a moment on inclines greater than 5 degrees, for easier takeoffs without unwanted rollback.
The spacious interior is elegant in both its design and function. Front seats are superbly comfortable, with most models including one of the best driver-seat lumbar supports we've tested. Legroom and headroom are excellent front and rear, and split-folding rear seats expand the cargo space from large to huge. The thick tilt/telescoping steering wheel includes controls for audio and cruise, as well as Bluetooth on all but the base models. Gauges are stylish, legible and include a trip computer and fuel-economy gauge. An electronic parking brake frees up the console for added storage and generous cup holders. Large windows with low sills offer excellent views out.
The Legacy's styling became more modern with the 2010 redesign but not necessarily more exciting, though few sedans in this category raise one's pulse. Still, the clean design remains fresh in its third year. Other than wheels, foglights and, on all but the base model, color-keyed mirrors, there is little to distinguish the seven trim levels. Even the hot-rod GT model is set apart only by its wheels and functional hood scoop, a disappointing degree of subtlety from the makers of the aggressively sporty WRX STI. The previous generation's frameless door windows have been banished in favor of a quieter cabin.
Notable Standard Equipment
The base Legacy 2.5i Sedan features all-wheel drive, a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch wheels, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary jack, manual air conditioning, power windows/locks, height-adjustable driver's seat, front side and side-curtain airbags, keyless entry and stability control. A 6-cylinder 3.6R version is similar, though with a 5-speed automatic and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 2.5i Premium adds an automatic transmission and 17-inch wheels, while both 2.5i and 3.6R Premium models include a 10-way power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 6-speaker audio with Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity. The 2.5i and 3.6R Limited trims add a power passenger seat, dual-zone climate control and All-Weather Package (heated front seats, mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers). Limited models add leather and 440-watt harman/kardon premium sound. The turbocharged 2.5GT Limited adds 18-inch wheels, power moonroof, leather and sportier trim.
Notable Optional Equipment
2012 Subaru Legacy options are clustered according to trim. The base 2.5i offers only the CVT automatic, plus the All-Weather Package (heated seats, mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers) and an alloy wheels/foglight package. The 3.6R base trim offers no options, not even heated seats (all 3.6R trims come with a 5-speed conventional automatic). Premium trims with either engine offer the Harman/Kardon audio, moonroof and All-Weather Package. Limited trims offer voice-activated navigation with rearview camera and auto-dimming mirrors. Subaru dealers also offer a relatively wide array of accessories, from auto-dimming mirrors to SiriusXM satellite radio, to a Media hub for connecting MP3 devices.
Under the Hood
Subaru offers three boxer engines in the 2012 Legacy, a low-profile and naturally balanced design in which the pistons lay flat in a horizontally opposed configuration. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder delivers 170 horsepower, which is not best in class but does provide satisfactory performance. Equipping this engine with the literally seamless CVT automatic will produce the best fuel economy (23/31 mpg city/highway), but the 6-speed manual is a better choice if performance and fun are priorities. The turbocharged version of the same engine bumps output to 265 horsepower and is recommended for enthusiast drivers. The most refined choice for the Legacy is the 6-cylinder, which offers strong acceleration and passing power, but fuel efficiency drops to an estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway, the same as the turbo.
170 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
170 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (manual), 23/31 (CVT automatic)
2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-4
265 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
247 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25
The 2012 Subaru Legacy has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $20,000 for the 2.5i with the manual transmission, with the Premium model adding $1,300 to that. The 2.5 Limited starts around $26,000. The base 6-cylinder 3.6R has an MSRP of just over $25,000, rising to nearly $29,000 in Limited trim. The 2.5GT Limited starts close to $32,000. Pricing starts lower than in 2011 but evens up above the base 2.5i. A similarly priced Honda Accord or Toyota Camry can't match the Legacy's standard content list nor do they even offer the option of all-wheel drive. To get the best deal on your new Legacy, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price, which shows what others in your area are paying for their cars. Over a 5-year period, the Legacy is expected to retain excellent resale values, with the 3.6R models besting the 2.5i, and the GT falling somewhere in between the two.