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#16

in 2010 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $12,147 - $17,853
Original MSRP: $19,995 - $29,995
MPG: 19 City / 27 Hwy
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2010 Subaru Legacy Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Reviewers are satisfied with the performance of the 2010 Subaru Legacy. Always one of the more energetic midsize family cars, it offers an array of drivetrain choices, which give the car performance that ranges from decent to impressively quick. Subaru's reputable, sure-footed symmetrical all-wheel drive system sets it apart - only the VW Passat and Ford Fusion compete by offering AWD in this price range.

  • "This Legacy will hustle down a two-lane at least as quickly as a Mazda 6 or Honda Accord, if not quicker." -- Car and Driver
  • "On the road, it's a winner." -- Edmunds
  • "Most driver's shopping the class will be more than pleased with the Legacy's driving characteristics, which include the Symmetrical all-wheel-drive's ability to tear through snow as if it were little more than sawdust on the road." -- Gay Wheels

Acceleration and Power

The 2010 Legacy is available with three engines and three transmissions. All three engines use a boxer layout, which long-time Subie fans swear offers smoother power delivery than more traditional configurations. Subaru say that 70 percent of buyers will opt for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower, combined with the continuously variable transmission. Reviewers say they should - that's the best combination, with ample power, solid fuel economy and smooth acceleration. A more powerful 265-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder is also well-liked, and definitely quicker, but requires premium fuel. Few have much to say about the 256-horsepower six-cylinder engine, which has the worst fuel economy of the set and gives up some power to the turbo-four.

The car offers three transmissions, but many reviewers say there is only one worth buying. Reviewers love the CVT -- a gearless transmission that requires no shifting, like those found on most hybrids -- calling it one of the best on the market. For those who insist on traditional shifting, it even comes with paddle shifters and is tuned for artificial gear changes. The available five-speed automatic elicits few comments, but reviewers are almost universally disappointed in the six-speed manual gearbox. The EPA rates the Legacy for anywhere from 23/31 mpg city/highway to 19/27, depending on engine and transmission choices.

The dashboard of the Legacy carries two separate gauges intended to help drivers maximize fuel economy.  One is a simple needle gauge showing the engine's current gas usage. The idea is simple -- keep the needle low in the gauge, and you'll burn less gas. Floor the engine, sending the needle toward the top of the gauge, and you lose efficiency. The second tool is a digital read-out showing the car's real-time MPG, which adjusts every few seconds to show the car's current MPG. 

  • "My tester's four-cylinder engine, coupled with a continuously variable automatic transmission, was powerful enough around town." -- Cars.com
  • "Powertrains are a diverse lot, and show considerable tweaking." -- Road and Track
  • "The all-new in-house ‘Lineartronic' CVT, which boasts a more durable chain rather than belt pulley system, is impressively smooth and responsive, and does an excellent job optimizing the 170 horses... The six-speed, conversely, with its long throws and rather sloppy action, is more hampering than engaging. So unless you're a diehard manual lover who must row a shifter and work a clutch pedal, it's best to opt for the CVT." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the tight, winding road course at Subaru's proving grounds, the new [6-cylinder] engine struts its stuff, begging us to push harder." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

There may be a wide variety of powertrains, but every 2010 Legacy has the same suspension and steering mechanicals. Reviews range from mildly impressed to very impressed - there are no major complaints about the car's handling. The horizontally-opposed boxer engine is mounted low, keeping the car's center of gravity low to the road. Sure-footed symmetrical all-wheel drive helps. The two combine to give the car a more secure, planted feeling than more conventional inline- or V-configured engines, and traditional front-wheel drive. Characteristically strong brakes earn reviewer praise.

  • "Surprisingly, ride quality has also improved, especially for rear-seat passengers." -- Edmunds
  • "Dynamically, we could use a little more rebound damping over high-speed swells in the road, but Subaru has proven that supple suspension and relative nimbleness can harmoniously coexist." -- Road and Track
  • "Ride quality is generally good -- not Camry or Malibu good, but somewhere between those and the firmer Mazda6 and Altima. The steering feels natural and well-weighted." -- Cars.com
  • "With a strut-type suspension in front and control arms out back, the Legacy proved to be a smooth cruiser on the highway and a capable back-road bomber, despite a healthy amount of body roll." -- Car and Driver

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