The Subaru Legacy has been selected as the 2015 Canadian Car of the Year, based on the rigid vetting process conducted by AJAC – the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada – giving it a major stamp of approval.
But it's not just the more than 70 experienced auto journalists who voted on the award that have been impressed by the newest generation Legacy. So have Canadian consumers.
In a record year for total sales, the mid-size or family-car market in which this Subaru competes was down more than 11%. But the Legacy swam upstream against that sea change, enjoying a whopping 45% hike in sales!
Obviously more Canadians are discovering that Legacy has moved into the mainstream, not only in terms of style but content.
Away from the fringes
While Fusion, Camry and Accord continue to lead the sales race in this category, the Legacy is finding converts among people like myself who have discovered the Fuji Heavy Industries subsidiary makes an excellent family car.
That was my overall impression after spending more than 1,000 km at the wheel of the latest Legacy.
Subaru has a well-earned reputation for rock-solid reliability, all-weather prowess and, let’s be honest, quirkiness – after all who else would have thought of the Brat! The company has steadfastly stayed with horizontally-opposed four and six-cylinder engines while the rest of the auto world puts their cylinders in a row or V-formation.
But Subaru has been getting more conservative of late, moving away from the fringe toward the centre.
The completely new 2015 Legacy is a perfect example. From the outside or inside this is a well-crafted mid-size family car. My tester, with all the available bells and whistles cracked the $35,000 barrier – which puts it right in there with similarly equipped segment leaders.
But the Legacy has more to offer, not only in terms of its all-season capability – only a couple of others in this class offer all-wheel-drive – but also some unique technologies.
Best New Family Car
Keep in mind also that one doesn't have to shell out that much coin to get into a very well-equipped Legacy. On its way to becoming Canadian Car of the Year, it first won AJAC laurels as the Best New Family Car for under $30K.
It's available in four- and six-cylinder variants starting at $23,495. The flat-four version is available in base, Touring or Limited trim with a technology package available on the latter two. The six-cylinder Legacy comes in Touring or Limited trim and the latter can be had with the technology package – as was my test vehicle.
The Legacy shares its platform with the Outback, both of which have been completely redesigned for 2015. Their exterior lines are conservative yet contemporary, nothing jarring or quirky about them. The low belt line affords exceptional visibility in all directions.
The Legacy has grown 7 cm in length, which enables one of the largest interiors in the class, with an especially commodious rear seat. Four big adults fit comfortably with plenty of head and leg room. The trunk is large, easily accessed and has a flat floor.
Kudos for interior
Legacy's development team deserves kudos for ensuring that its interior is more than competitive in terms of design, fit/finish, layout and function. Everything is where you would expect it to be and operates with the smoothness and precision worthy of a luxury car.
There is plenty of soft touch material and a pleasant blend of finishes and shades. The overall impression is one of an upscale vehicle, more luxurious than one might expect. The front seats are wide and supportive and, as mentioned, the rear offers more space than most in this class.
The infotainment system is equally competitive with others offered in this class. A 16-cm screen is standard but with the Technology Package it is replaced by one with an 18-cm touchscreen. The Harman Kardon sound system offers clear, crisp audio.
My test vehicle showcased Subaru’s array of safety features, including the company's unique EyeSight setup. It uses a pair of cameras behind the rear-view mirror to monitor the road ahead over a wide range, constantly searching for objects and situations that may be a problem and automatically applying the brakes if the driver has not seen and reacted in time. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given it a “Superior” rating.
Subaru’s four-cylinder boxer engine has a characteristic sound and slight vibration born of the basic cylinder layout. The opposed six-cylinder in my tester, on the other hand is incredibly smooth and quiet, much more refined.
In both cases Subaru pairs them with a Continuously Variable automatic transmission. While still not my favorite type, this one is as good as a CVT gets thanks to the ample torque of the six and simulated shift points programmed into its operation.
Unlike most CVTs where attempts to accelerate are accompanied by an annoying drone as vehicle speed catches up to that of the engine, this one goes about that chore with much more refinement.
The all-wheel-drive system is so unobtrusive one never notices or thinks about until winter. Then the driver can smile at storm warnings and poor road conditions. That's not to say one should show any less care behind the wheel, but it does inspire greater confidence if the road is snow or ice covered.
Subaru is noted for its quality and reliability. The former is clearly evident throughout and there is no reason to believe the new American-built Legacy will be any different when it comes to the latter.
On the road
I have always been a fan of Subaru suspensions – their long travel and exceptional shock absorbing abilities continue to impress here. There is nothing else in this class to compete with the way the Legacy simply absorbs both minor and major bumps, potholes and irregularities.
If your regular drive includes poor roads, take a Legacy for a test drive on that route. Mine includes 10 km of poorly maintained secondary roads, riddled with frost heaves, rocks sticking up through the surface, severe ruts and potholes.
I drive a great variety of vehicles over this road – dozens every year. Normally it is necessary to slow down, to watch carefully and try to steer around the biggest blemishes, accompanied by a bone-jarring ride.
In the Legacy I proceed at normal speed with minimal efforts to seek the smoothest line. The suspension simply soaks up the nasties. And it does so without surrendering anything in the handling department.
That same road includes a couple of favourite turns I have come to use as “test” corners. The Legacy acquits itself very well here, too. It's no sports car, but there's no teeth-rattling ride harshness either.
Additional sound proofing and vibration reducing efforts are clearly evident in the new Legacy, adding to the pleasant experience on less-than-perfect roads.
The 2015 Canadian Car of the Year is likely to find a new set of fans if they take the time and make the effort for a test drive.
Model: 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited with Technology Package
Price: $35,395 base; $36,990 as tested including freight.
Engine: Horizontally-opposed DOHC 3.6-litre six cylinder, 256 horsepower, 247 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: CVT automatic, full-time all-wheel-drive
Fuel Consumption – (NRCan city/highway): 11.9 / 8.2 L/100 km
Length: 4,796 mm
Width: 1,840 mm
Wheelbase: 2,750 mm
Mass: 1,677 kg