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#13

in 2011 Affordable Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $14,148 - $21,258
Original MSRP: $19,995 - $31,395
MPG: 19 City / 27 Hwy
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2011 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 disappointed with the slow acceleration of the 2011 Subaru Legacy 2.5i. Higher-end 2.5GT and 3.6R models receive praise for their much more lively performance. Subaru's reputable, sure-footed symmetrical all-wheel drive system sets it apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, handling isn’t any sportier than the average midsize sport sedan, whether purchasing the standard 2.5i or sportier 2.5GT models.

  • "My colleagues are right; this Legacy isn't an STI. Subaru's boxer four-cylinder is an admirable engine, but it's a little wanting for power, especially in a mid-size car like the Legacy." – Automobile Magazine
  • "Non-GT Legacy models are mild-mannered, slightly heavy-feeling sedans, with responsive, well-weighted steering, and reassuring stability. Body lean is noticeable in tight low-speed corners and fast turns." – Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Legacy is available with three engines and three transmissions. All three engines are boxers, a configuration that puts the cylinder 180-degrees apart from each other. Subaru says that most buyers will opt for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower, combined with the continuously variable transmission. Reviewers complain about less-than-ideal acceleration in this configuration. The standard six-speed manual helps free more power, but is cited for sloppy action.

A more powerful 265-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder is also available. It is much quicker than the standard engine, but requires premium fuel and is only available with a manual transmission. Not much is said about the 256-horsepower 3.6-liter six-cylinder, however those wanting more power and an automatic transmission should check out models equipped with this engine.

There are 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 18/25, 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 fuel economy. 

  • "My tester's four-cylinder engine, coupled with a continuously variable automatic transmission, was powerful enough around town." -- Cars.com
  • "The 2.5i's non-turbo engine pulls cleanly at low speeds, but there's little reserve power for passing or merging." – Consumer Guide
  • "The base 2.5-liter engine is adequate, but outright acceleration trails some of the speedier family sedans." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

There may be a wide variety of powertrains, but every 2011 Legacy has the same suspension and steering mechanicals. Reviews are typically positive. There are no major complaints about the car's handling, except that the sportier 2.5GT model doesn’t come with a sportier suspension setup to set it apart. The horizontally-opposed boxer engine is mounted low, keeping the car's center of gravity close to the road. Sure-footed symmetrical all-wheel drive also aids handling by maintaining grip, and characteristically strong brakes earn reviewer praise.

  • "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
  • "Drivers expecting the 2.5GT model to be a sleeper sport sedan will be disappointed, though, as its suspension tuning is the same as all other Legacys." -- Edmunds

Next Steps: 2011 Subaru Legacy

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