With its all-wheel-drive ability, boxer engine layout and large-medium dimensions the Subaru Legacy has travelled a course a half-step removed from the motoring mainstream ever since it hit the Kiwi highways and back roads in 1989.
Now the sixth generation Legacy has arrived and while it’s a case of a familiar formula there’s also an updated job description.
For the first time the Legacy will be exclusively a sedan. Drivers wanting a Subaru wagon must look to the new Outback range which launched here in February. And the new Legacy is also being pitched as a large car alternative rather than as a medium size sedan.
Subaru New Zealand reckons about 70 per cent of buyers are going to opt for the 3.6RS version of the new Legacy and shifting the emphasis on to six-cylinders seems like an astute move.
New Zealand’s mid-size market sector is sluggish but crowded with competitors including the Ford Mondeo, Holden Malibu, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Euros such as the VW Passat and Peugeot 508.
The large six-cylinder segment has one serious player in the Holden Commodore with the Ford Falcon and Toyota Aurion in support roles.
But Australian carmaking ends by 2017 and Subaru New Zealand is keen to position the Legacy as an all-wheel-drive option for six-cylinder sedan drivers who aren’t looking forward to making the switch from their rear-drive cars into front-wheel-drive.
To make that idea more attractive the new Legacy arrives with a revised pricing. There are only two models and they hit the $39,990 and $49,990 price points respectively, offering the choice of 2.5-litre four-cylinder or 3.6-litre six-cylinder Boxer engines.
It means the 3.6 RS model is exactly the same price as a Holden VF Commodore Evoke but with a more powerful engine, all-wheel-drive and a significantly higher equipment level.
Interestingly, the $39,990 price for the Legacy 2.5i Sport is $5000 below the Outback 2.5i Sport while the 3.6 RS sedan is a full $10,000 less than the flagship Outback 3.6R.
For the most part the new Legacy has been previewed by the new Outback. The engines, the upgraded Lineatronic transmission, the cabin layout with improved passenger and luggage space and the styling are all shared with the higher-riding wagon version.
While the 2750mm wheelbase is the same as the previous generation there is a useful gain in cabin space from shifting the A-pillars forward by 50mm and creating a little extra separation between the front and rear seats.
But the most significant gains in cabin space that supports the new emphasis on the six-cylinder market is the 60mm increase in body width. The front seats are further part and the rear seat is wider and has a longer cushion. Boot space increases by 17 litres.
For the 2.5i Sport model the 2498cc four-cylinder boxer engine produces 129kW at 5800rpm and has 235Nm of torque available at 4000rpm. The four-cylinder has received a range of efficiency improvements ranging from a slightly raised compression ratio, larger intake valves, cooling revisions and improvements to the intake and exhaust manifolds.
Also new is the Active Shutter Grille integrated with the lower front air dam which closes to aid rapid warm-up and to improve aerodynamics. The 2.5i engine also features automatic stop-start to save fuel in city driving.
The 3630cc six-cylinder boxer unit produces 191kW at 6000rpm with 350Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
The Lineartronic continuously variable transmission is standard for both variants — pairing with the six-cylinder for the first time — with a six-speed paddle shift manual mode.
Combined cycle fuel consumption is improved for both engine variants — by 7.6 per cent for the 2.5i to 7.3 litres per 100km and by 3.9 per cent for the 3.6 RS model which drops to 9.9L/100km.
The standard safety package on both model has seven airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control, a reversing camera and the third generation of Subaru’s stereo camera-based and award-winning EyeSight (see page 7). This provides lane departure warning, pre-collision braking and steering assist, adaptive cruise control and lead vehicle start alert functions and now includes colour recognition that responds to brake lights ahead of the vehicle.
Both Legacy models have dual-zone air conditioning, rain sensor wipers, rear privacy glass, a multi-info display, electric park brake, drilled metal pedals and a leather steering wheel with paddle shifters.
The 2.5i Sport model has a six-speaker audio system with touchscreen display, remote central locking and two mode SI-Drive system with Intelligent and Sport selections.
Along with six-cylinder performance the 3.6 RS model gets a higher specification. The additional features include leather upholstery, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system with 7-inch infotainment screen and satellite navigation.
It also has LED low beam headlights with washers, heated front seats with eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment, piano black interior trim highlights, power folding mirrors, smart key access with push button start and three-mode SI-Drive system with additional Sport Sharp setting.
With both models sharing the same 18-inch alloy wheel design the external detail identifiers for the 3.6 RS model are chromed side and rear garnishes, chrome ringed front fog lamps, dual exhausts and a power sunroof.