Used Vehicle Review: Subaru Legacy, 2015-2019

Vehicle Type

Owners report a pleasing, relaxing, and comfortable ride; adequate cabin and trunk space; good build quality; good mileage; plenty of confidence in inclement weather; and smooth, predictable operation from the adaptive cruise control system.

Mid-size sedan

History/Description

Affordable family sedans with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) are hard to come by – though Subaru’s 2015–2019 Legacy is a solid choice in the segment for shoppers after that just.

Launched in 2014 for the following model year, this generation of Subaru’s high-traction sedan is coming to a close as the all-new 2020 model readies for launch.

Look for feature content including a back-up camera, navigation, premium audio, multimedia connectivity, Bluetooth, and a sunroof. Higher-end models got heated leather and a punchier stereo.

Subaru’s high-tech EyeSight safety system was available, too – and included a networked array of advanced functions, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert, collision alert, and more.

Shoppers new to the Legacy can expect respectable fuel mileage from four-cylinder models, as well as driving dynamics that support comfortable and laid-back cruising, regardless of the weather.

A used Legacy might make a compelling alternative for a shopper after AWD confidence, but who prefers to drive a sedan, not a crossover. Since Legacy offers AWD as standard, regardless of configuration or trim grade, the shopping process may be easier for shoppers determined to get into an AWD sedan.

Key competitors for your used-car dollars may include AWD-equipped variants of the Buick Regal, Buick Lacrosse, and Ford Fusion.

Engines

Most used Legacy models will run the brand’s bread-and-butter 2.5-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine, with about 175 horsepower. Various improvements to the driveline for this generation help improve fuel mileage over earlier four-cylinder units.

Available in the top-line Legacy 3.6R was a 3.6-litre flat-six engine, with 256 horsepower.

Some four-cylinder models were available with a six-speed manual transmission, though most used copies of this-generation Subaru Legacy will come equipped with Subaru’s continuously variable transmission (CVT).

What Owners Like

Owners report a pleasing, relaxing, and comfortable ride; adequate cabin and trunk space; good build quality; good mileage; plenty of confidence in inclement weather; and smooth, predictable operation from the adaptive cruise control system. Front seat space and at-hand storage for smaller items are also highly rated.

What Owners Dislike

Common gripes include a central command touchscreen that looks dated compared to many competitors, and higher-than-expected noise levels when the four-cylinder engine is pushed. Some owners of six-cylinder-powered models also wish for a higher level of performance in exchange for their fuel dollar.

Pro Tip: Maximize Traction

Don’t forget the winter tires. Subaru Legacy is equipped with various systems and technologies designed to improve performance and confidence in winter weather, but these systems can only work at maximizing traction available to them – which is a direct result of using proper tires for the conditions.

Put simply, use of all-season tires in winter driving conditions will dramatically limit the effectiveness of the Legacy’s AWD, braking, and other traction-enhancing features and systems.

Pro Tip: Shared Platform Traits

Subaru drivetrains and sub-systems are shared closely between various models, so the information and checks presented here may also apply if you’re considering a Forester or Outback from a similar range of model years, too.

The Test Drive

Check the Oil

Some owners have reported excessive oil consumption from the engine in their Subaru Legacy, and some have not. In some cases, a warning light appears, advising the driver to check the engine oil level. If you see this light on your test drive (unlikely), plan to have the vehicle inspected by a dealership technician before you buy, or move to another unit.

The owner’s community has done an excellent job of documenting this issue across various models – though it’s difficult to ascertain how common the problem is in relation to total sales volume, or the root cause (or causes). Translation? It’s a possible issue that’s worth being aware of, but not one that necessarily affects most, or even many, used copies of this machine.

Shoppers can protect themselves with the following steps.

First, monitor your engine oil levels religiously – every week, or more frequently if possible.

Second, at the first sign of oil consumption, contact your dealership to have it documented, and to ask for information on how to proceed. Sometimes, a dealer will perform an oil-consumption test to determine whether or not the consumption exceeds normal levels. If that’s the case, repairs or rebuilding of the engine may be covered by warranty.

Note that all engines consume some amount of oil, but that higher levels of consumption may be taken as a sign of trouble.

Third, for maximum peace of mind, only have oil changes performed in a dealership setting, using Subaru-approved oil and filters.

Here’s some more reading. And some more. Note that most owners reporting oil consumption issues are driving four-cylinder units.

Cooling System Check

Based on several reports by owners, shoppers are advised to check the coolant level and condition of the used Legacy they’re considering, before they buy. Some owners have noted the sporadic presence of coolant odour (it’s a warm, toasted-sugar-like smell), possibly accompanied by the need to refill the coolant on a regular basis.

This could be evidence of a larger problem, though the cause seems elusive. For maximum peace of mind, be sure to monitor coolant levels regularly, and to have the system maintained and inspected, as outlined in the owner’s manual. Always use factor-approved parts and fluids.

If you note any issues on an in-warranty Legacy, report them to your dealer for documentation and assessment as soon as possible.

Wheel Bearings

Some owners have reported a shorter-than-expected lifespan from their wheel bearings, necessitating a repair that could be pricey should it be required out of warranty. Worn wheel bearings tend to emit a grinding, roaring, or helicopter-like sound while cruising at low, moderate, and highway speeds – so drive with your ears open. The sound may be subtle.

Sometimes, a bad wheel bearing will emit a noise or sensation, as described above, at or around a specific speed, too.

Listen carefully – and if you have any concerns, have a technician assess the vehicle before you buy. Note that, in extreme cases, continued driving on a worn-out wheel-bearing could cause extensive damage or an accident.

Be Careful with the Battery

Based on at least two reports (here and here), shoppers are advised to confirm that the battery in the used Legacy they’re considering is in good shape, possibly by way of a professional pre-purchase battery and charging system inspection.

Further, during ownership, be sure to consult with your dealer service advisor before disconnecting or replacing the battery, should the need arise. Some owners have reported issues with the stereo, power windows, and other accessories immediately after a do-it-yourself battery replacement.

In many modern cars, certain procedures are required for safely disconnecting and reconnecting the battery, so be sure to check first.

Further, never attempt to “reset” some electronic issue with the vehicle by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery, without first checking with a professional.

Excessive Wind Noise

Does the Legacy you’re considering seem to allow excessive levels of wind noise into the cabin, perhaps by about 80 km/h? Spend a few moments of your test drive finding out.

Some owners have complained about wind noise levels. If detected, the likely culprit is an improperly installed or improperly manufactured weather seal, possibly in the door opening or behind a rear-view mirror housing. Subaru has also provided a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB 12-177-14R) to dealers, which may speed the diagnosis and repair of this problem. Here’s some more reading.

Highway Steering Feel

If the Legacy you’re considering seems to “wander” in its lane at highway speeds, or exhibits a sloppy or loose steering feel at higher speeds, be sure to confirm that the tires are properly inflated, and that the alignment is bang-on. If you’re not sure how, have a professional check out the steering system for you.

This discussion highlights what a test driver may expect if this issue is present, and also provides a link to a document provided to Subaru dealers to help technicians make a proper diagnosis.

Recalls

On the topic of steering, note that about 3,500 Subaru Legacy models from the 2016 model year were recalled to address a potential issue with faulty steering columns. You can check if this or other recalls apply to the model you’re considering by entering its VIN on the Subaru website. Recall work is carried out for free by dealerships to address latent safety defects.

Verdict

The sixth-generation Legacy is loved by many owners for its comfort, traction, exceptional safety performance, and laid-back drive. Still, shoppers are strongly advised to make the checks listed above before they buy, for maximum peace of mind. As the likelihood (and often the causes) of the potential issues noted above are fairly hard to nail down, a used Legacy from this generation might be an excellent candidate for extended warranty coverage.

Safety Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick+ (2016)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2016)

Most issues minor, though may be elusive. 6/27/2019 6:28:00 AM