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2015 Subaru Legacy and Outback first drive

AWD sedan and wagon return updated and more refined

Published: August 2014

The Legacy sedan and Outback crossover wagon have carved out their own niches in today’s competitive auto market. The Legacy has earned its keep as the only moderately priced, all-wheel-drive midsized sedan, which has made it a popular choice in colder climes. The Outback is a practical and more fuel-­efficient alternative to a midsized SUV, and it has long been a hit with Consumer Reports readers.

Both have been redesigned for 2015 to address the previous models’ few shortcomings: a noisy and underpowered four-cylinder engine, outdated in-car electronics, and uninspiring driving dynamics. The mainstay 2.5-liter  “boxer” flat-four engine has been retuned for better performance and fuel economy. Top-trim Outback and Legacy versions get a much stronger 3.6-liter flat-six engine. In addition, the continuously variable transmission is more refined, and sound insulation has been increased for a quieter cabin.

Both models now have a modern infotainment system that can pair multiple phones and stream Internet radio. The Outback gets a power liftgate. And on the safety front, Subaru’s EyeSight collision-avoidance system is available on more trim levels, along with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Comfy and quiet

We ­recently spent a few days trying out early-production versions of a top-trim 3.6R Legacy sedan as well as four- and six-cylinder versions of the Outback from Subaru’s press fleet.

The Legacy 3.6R rides as well as many luxury cars, easily shrugging off pavement faults and bumps. The Outback rides more firmly but is never harsh. Thanks to a stiffer body structure than in the previous models, both feel more substantial. And road, wind, and engine noise are well suppressed.

You won’t confuse either vehicle for a sports car, but the steering has a reassuring heft, and even the Outback doesn’t lean much in corners, despite its raised ride height.

The four-cylinder engine delivers adequate acceleration, and the throaty, responsive six-cylinder is a treat. We expect fuel economy to be in the high 20s, but we’ll verify that when we buy our own cars to test.

Upgraded cabins

The new interiors look more upscale, and higher-trim models now get memory seats and heated rear seats. Visibility is among the best in the class, and a backup camera is standard. Even our taller drivers found plenty of room and supportive seats. As before, the rear seat also has ample room. Subaru’s new infotainment system is fairly intuitive.

Overall, we were very impressed by the new Legacy and Outback, but we’ll know more when we finish testing our own vehicles.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the October 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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