With all-wheel drive and a stellar interior, the Subaru Legacy is a solid mid-sized sedan. But is it a better deal used or new?
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More and more car companies are adding an all-wheel drive option to their midsize sedans, take the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima for example. But all-wheel drive has always been the purview of the Subaru Legacy, which it offers as standard equipment while rivals still charge extra. Aside from standard all-wheel drive, the Legacy makes it case based on an impressive interior, copious safety tech, and a low starting price.
For an even better starting price, one can also consider buying a “nearly new” Legacy in hopes of a greater discount. While the used to new price gaps isn’t what it once was, there remain big savings if you know what you need (and don’t) and where to look.
The Subaru Legacy received a generational update for the 2020 model year, with updates to the infotainment and a new engine option. Are these enough to justify the price of new Legacy versus a used one? Let’s find out by setting the current 2022 model against the older and cheaper 2018 model.
The 2018 Subaru Legacy offers two engine options. The base engine is a 2.5L flat-four making 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. This comes paired to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) powering all four wheels with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Available for the Limited trim only, a 3.6L flat-six with 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. This too gets the CVT treatment. Fuel economy comes in at 25 city and 34 highway MPG for the smaller 2.5L and 20/28 MPG for the larger six-cylinder.
The 2022 Legacy starts with an upgraded 2.5L flat-four producing 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The upgraded engine is now a 2.4L turbocharged flat-four with 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. The CVT remains the sole transmission here and AWD is still standard equipment. Fuel economy has improved to 27/35 MPG for the base engine and 24/32 MPG for the turbo.
The 2018 Legacy won’t light your hair on fire with performance, but then, the Legacy’s primary directive is to be an unobtrusive, point A to point B cruiser, and in that role it delivers ably. The standard all-wheel drive gives the Legacy good grip and decent handling. The ride is comfortable, with suspension easily dispensing with road imperfections. The 2.5L isn’t particularly powerful, but the CVT does help provide good response off the line. The larger 3.6L does give you more power, albeit with a cost to fuel economy that might not be worth it in the end. The Legacy is the epitome of all-around car-as-appliance driving, neither exciting nor offensive.
For 2022, Subaru didn’t change a whole lot with the Legacy’s driving characteristics. The steering is still sharp and handling solid (aided by a low center of gravity thanks to the low-slung boxer engine). The new 2.4L turbocharged engine, available in the Limited trim and up, will give you additional power if you need it, and this time without tanking the Legacy’s fuel economy.
Inside the 2018 Subaru Legacy we find a pleasant, comfortable cabin that rivals the best in the class, clearly one of the Legacy’s strongest assets. The basic layout is logical and easy to use. There’s a generous amount of soft touch materials in all the right places. Material quality is good and fitment impresses, given the price point. The seats are supportive, and space is more than ample in both front and back. Narrow A-pillars give the Legacy great outward visibility and an airy, light-filled cabin. Infotainment is another highlight. The software is simple and straightforward to use, with large icons and a decent response time.
The new generation gives the 2022 Legacy a new interior that maintains the car’s best characteristic while building on its strong suits. Material quality and finish are still impressive, and the cabin remains roomy and comfortable. The biggest change comes to the infotainment which gets a new larger 11.6-inch touchscreen to all but the base model (which has a smaller 7-inch screen). The software here is also user-friendly and well-executed. Some other upgrades from the prior generation include optional rear seat vents and, on the Limited and above, options for heated rear seats and the stellar Harmon Kardon premium stereo (once the province of only the highest trim level).
The base trim of the 2018 Subaru Legacy comes equipped with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a USB port, a four-speaker stereo, and a rearview camera. The Premium trim adds features including a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated side mirrors, a six-speaker stereo, navigation, and Subaru’s EyeSight safety suite that gets you adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warnings, lane keep assist, and lane departure warnings. The Sport trim adds a moonroof and 18-inch wheels. The top Limited trim grants access to the 3.6L engine, a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, and heated rear seats.
The new 2022 Legacy starts with a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a four-speaker stereo, satellite and HD radio, and EyeSight as standard equipment. The Premium trim adds the larger 11.6-inch touchscreen, a Wi-Fi hotspot, heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The Sport gets push-button start, sport cloth seats, and aluminum pedals. The Limited trim provides access to the 12-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, heated rear seats, and an 8-way power adjustable passenger seat. Options here include navigation, a heated steering wheel, and moonroof. The Limited XT adds the 2.4L turbocharged engine while the top Touring XT gets both the more powerful engine and ventilated, Nappa leather seats.
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So, considering the more efficient 2.4L turbocharged engine and a new infotainment system, is the 2022 Legacy worth the extra expense over the used 2018 version? Perhaps not. Though used car prices will vary from region to region, generally speaking, the 2018 Legacy currently runs between $20,000 and $30,000. The 3.6L wasn’t a big seller, so most of the top Limited trim Legacy’s you’ll find fall in around $25,000. That’s with EyeSight, navigation, and luxury touches like a moonroof and heated rear seats. Not bad at all.
The new 2022 Subaru Legacy provides what is, on paper, a very good deal in the mid-tier Limited trim with its premium stereo, optional moonroof and access to the 2.4L turbocharged engine. But even without the upgrade engine, many of the Limited trim Legacys out there are currently listed well above the MSRP of $29,945, like $2,000-$3,000 above. Dealer markups are real and in the case of the Subaru Legacy, seem to naturally push shoppers toward the used lot.