Winter driving swagger
THE GOOD
  • Great winter driving manners
  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Safe as it gets
  • Punchy and smooth turbo engine
THE BAD
  • CVT transmission whine when cold
  • Sportier drivers will wish for a more precise feel
  • No trunk closer handle
  • Too much safety-system beeping in specific situations
2020 Subaru Legacy GT Review

Recently, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) named the new Subaru Legacy Canada’s best large sedan for 2020.

The win comes after an intensive testing regimen that sees dozens of auto experts mathematically scoring competitors against one another on numerous criteria. Simply put, the most points wins, with the Legacy taking the trophy in its category over the likes of the Volkswagen Arteon, Kia Stinger, and Nissan Altima.

Poring over the scoring data shows the Legacy scored highest for its interior, overall quality, and outward visibility. This signals a nicely sorted cabin that’s nicely trimmed, well-built, and easy to see out of.

The Legacy also earned the highest scores for comfort, safety, and overall value. This signals a thumbs-up from a panel of experts that shoppers can expect something that’s safe, comfortable, and feels like solid value for your money.

Styling: 8/10

It’s not the most exciting big family car out there where looks are concerned, though the Legacy’s look did grow on me over time.

The new body flaunts plenty of athletic and sporty touches, including a fascia that calls the smaller and more agile Impreza to mind. Further, there are dual-exhausts with actual exhaust tips instead of the trendy – and cheesy – decorative type.

Safety: 10/10

Safety-conscious shoppers will be impressed with the Legacy’s safety story. Both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have given Legacy their highest-possible scores, meaning it stands amongst the safest cars on the road when it comes to crash testing and safety equipment performance.

All manner of hazard-detection technology is also on board, some powered by Subaru’s camera-based EyeSight system. Standard on all Legacy models, the system features adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, forward automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

Most trims add blind-spot monitoring and reverse auto braking, while the top Premier trim (GT or otherwise) also gets a driver-monitoring system, which maps and monitors the driver’s face to watch for signs of drowsiness or distraction. If danger is detected, an alert sounds, with a corresponding warning in the instrument set.

Some people are put off by facial-scanning technology, and they can turn the system off in just a few seconds.

Very cleverly, drivers can also call up a massive on-screen infographic that clearly explains what each feature is, what it does, and whether or not it’s currently active. It’s an interesting way to engage drivers who might be using some (or all) of the safety features for the first time.

Headlight performance from the standard LED-fired lamps is quite good as well, with clean light and solid reach.

Practicality: 8/10

If a sedan of the Legacy’s size meets your needs and tastes, you’ll find it to be fairly practical indeed. It’s easily boarded and exited, there’s plenty of storage near each front occupant, and USB charging points are sprinkled generously throughout the cabin to juice mobile gadgets.

The trunk is wide and long, though not quite as deep as some will expect. Still, there’s room for a full complement of luggage, groceries, or shopping, and rear seats split-fold as needed with no issue.

Some drivers will wish for a trunk closer handle. On winter days, you’ve got to touch the salty exterior of the trunk lid to close it instead.

User Friendliness: 9/10

After a few minutes, you’ll be fairly up to speed with how to work all the gadgets in your new Legacy GT. Controls mostly fall logically into place, right down to the heated steering wheel switch that’s blessedly located on the steering wheel where it belongs.

On my top-grade tester – and, indeed, all but base models – the central touchscreen system is a vertically oriented interface (à la Volvo and the new Ram 1500) that looks fantastic and gives the interior a very high-tech centrepiece.

Graphics are lovely and the system is generally precise and responsive. On-screen at virtually all times are home and back buttons, enabling more logical navigation through the various displays, menus, and functions.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enable full smartphone connectivity, but I found the voice command system to be laggier and clumsier than expected at times. This could be a problem with the vehicle, or my handset; try yours on a test drive to see for yourself.

Note that, as a reasonably large car, Legacy has a turning circle that feels a bit on the hefty side. If you’re used to driving something with a smaller footprint, it might feel a little intimidating to park at first. If you’re used to driving a truck or crossover, you’ll be fine.

Features: 9/10

At just over $39,000 before freight and fees, my fully loaded Premier GT tester left me wanting for little more than a handle to close the trunk. In addition to its arsenal of advanced safety gear, drivers get a Harman Kardon stereo that’s sharp and punchy, heated and ventilated front seats with memory recall, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and plenty more.

My favourite feature after a week at the wheel was the 11.6-inch touchscreen. Though a little intimidating at first, it functions well, works predictably, and gives the interior some extra visual punch.

My least-favourite feature? The lane-keeping system, which relies on the presence of visible lane markings to do its job. On a mid-winter pass through northern Ontario, visible highway lane markings can be a sporadic occurrence thanks to salt, snow, wetness, and the like.

EyeSight beeps each time it loses – or regains – sight of the lane markings. On some drives, this becomes frequent enough to warrant disabling the alerts until road surface visibility improves.

Power: 8/10

The Legacy GT has some serious winter driving swagger. That’s thanks in part to its engine: A new 2.4L turbocharged flat-four, with 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. It’s teamed up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

This configuration gives drivers smooth and steady acceleration during light-footed driving. The revs are kept low and even, with the engine running as quietly and efficiently as possible. In this sort of driving, it feels responsive, but refined and quiet.

The Legacy GT does its best work with bigger throttle inputs. Hammer down, and the car lunges ahead on a smooth and linear wave. The turbocharger boosts engine output as the tachometer climbs, resulting in a grin-inducing power-surge that comes on smoothly and stays on strong.

The all-wheel drive system is the other half of the equation. In typical Subaru fashion, it absolutely chomps into the snow when equipped with proper winter tires. On my watch, the biggest smiles came from its ability to put so much of the engine’s torque to the ground with little more than a whiff of satisfying wheelspin. It’s almost rude how quickly this car can leave a front-drive behind when the traffic light turns green over six inches of slush.

That’s the swagger. To this writer, the Legacy GT’s secret sauce is that even in wince-inducing driving conditions, you can still tap into a lot of its punch, if that’s your style – and there’s plenty of it with the turbo-four.

Note, however, that the CVT doesn’t feel as crisp and precise in terms of kick-down or up-shifting as some drivers will like, and that the transmission tends to make a strange whining sound on cold mornings until there’s a bit of heat in the driveline. If you’re a motoring enthusiast, the sound will remind you of a supercharger. Others may find it irritating.

Comfort: 9/10

The Legacy GT has comfort nicely covered off. Seats are thick and supportive, and they are easy to enter and exit. Large door openings ease the process further for larger or mobility-challenged passengers.

Once seated, there’s more than ample room in each direction, and rear-seat legroom is generous. Two adults of average size could sit behind each other with nearly stretch-out space to relax and lounge. This is a big, comfortable car.

Driving Feel: 9/10

In fact, the whole driving feel is set up for comfort first. Once upon a time, the Legacy GT was a smaller, lighter, sportier sedan. These days, it’s become larger and softer. As such, if you’re after the sportiest Subaru sedan for the dollar, you’ve got better choices.

The WRX is feisty and spirited and eager. The Legacy GT is a big comfy cruiser with some winter-driving swagger, and a turbocharged punch in its back pocket, if you need it.

Steering is a tad quicker than you expect for a big machine, though the suspension feels nicely calibrated around it. Around town, this keeps the Legacy GT feeling fairly nimble for a big car. During a spirited drive through winding backroads, it means drivers can flick and push and slide the car around a little, with light and easy inputs to the controls.

Ride quality is very well done – and arguably one of Legacy’s best assets. On the highway, it’s smooth and soft without riding like a giant glob of Cheez Whiz. It’s comfortable, but feels planted and sturdy, not soft and gelatinous.

In town, even on the roughest road surfaces you’re likely to encounter, the suspension maintains its composure nicely. Occupants are consistently isolated from the worst of the abuse, and the suspension feels durable and stays nice and quiet under fire.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

The Legacy’s highway range shouldn’t disappoint. Low cruising revs, good highway mileage, and a decently sized fuel tank mean a seven- or eight-hour cruise should pass without the need to stop for fuel.

Just be mindful of your right foot. If you can’t fight the temptation to stay out of the turbocharger, the fuel bill can become hefty.

Value: 9/10

Where feature content, space, comfort, and an upscale overall feel are concerned, the Legacy GT shouldn’t disappoint. Most shoppers – and especially the particularly safety-minded – will have little trouble feeling like they’re getting their money’s worth.

The Verdict

The Legacy GT blends turbocharged punch with plenty of safety and space. It’s all served up in a compelling package that’s dialled in as a comfort-first sedan with plenty of kick in its back pocket.

Winter driving swagger 3/25/2020 6:28:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.4L   Model Tested 2020 Subaru Legacy Premier GT
Engine Cylinders H4   Base Price $39,095
Peak Horsepower 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 277 lb-ft @ 2,000–4,800 rpm   Destination Fee $1,650
Fuel Economy 9.9/7.3/8.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $40,845
Cargo Space 428 L  
Optional Equipment
None