Compared to the 2012 Subaru Legacy, and just from a first look, it appears that little more than the grille and headlights have been changed for the 2013 model year. But as our week-long sojourn with a 2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited would prove, that’s not the case.
Of course, as the model designation suggests, the 2.5i is powered by a 2.5-liter engine, in this case a naturally-aspirated four cylinder (the Legacy 2.5GT with its turbocharged four-cylinder turbo engine was discontinued for 2013). Although the Legacy 2.5i model designation returns for the 2013 model year, the engine does not. This year’s double overhead cam 2.5-liter liter engine is all new, with 173 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, compared to 170 and 170 respectively for its single overhead cam predecessor.
The big change, however, was in fuel economy. The 2013 Legacy 2.5i models with the automatic transmission have an EPA estimate 24/32 mpg city highway. The 2012 clocked in at 19/27 mpg city/highway. Subaru claims the 2013 Legacy 2.1i is the most fuel efficient all-wheel drive midsize sedan on the market, and equal to that of many front-drive only mid-size sedans, removing one objection consumers have had regarding all-wheel drive models. All-wheel drive generally costs a mile or two per gallon over front or rear-wheel drive.
Although the horsepower gain for 2013 over 2012 was relatively modest, drivability was improved with a wider torque band. The engine’s responsiveness is stronger at a lower rpm, even though the peak isn’t raised all that much. Because the Legacy 2.5i is equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT)—only the base trim level 2.5i is available with a manual transmission—the added low-rpm torque means that the revs don’t rocket to redline every time the gas pedal is pushed more than just a little. It makes driving a more pleasant experience overall.
Unfortunately, the new engine didn’t dispel the gravelly voice of the Subaru four-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine. Although the layout of the engine is fundamentally less vibration prone than an inline four, there’s something about the power pluses that either endear the engine to drivers for its bulldog-like demeanor or annoys drivers because it’s not a greyhound. It’s a personal thing, but it’s real.
In addition to muscling up the engine, Subaru also toughened up the chassis for the 2013 Legacy—something unusual for a mid-run update, actually. Front strut mounts and rear frame rails have been stiffened, which Subaru says helps reduce the vibration through the body, sharpening handling with firmer mounting points for the suspension.
Subaru also increased the diameter of the double-wishbone rear suspension’s sway bar and increased spring and shock absorber rates, stiffening suspension bushing as well. Subaru claims this reduces body roll “by up to 40 percent.” We didn’t a comparison vehicle for side-by-side testing, but the Legacy is sportier on winding roads than most of its competitors while maintaining a smooth and relatively quiet ride.
Another new feature for the 2013 Subaru Legacy is Subaru’s EyeSight Driver-Assist System. This Subaru developed system uses a pair of cameras mounted on the windshield header either side of the rearview mirror. They look like mini rocket launchers from the inside and a pair of glassy eyeballs through the windshield (making the name particularly appropriate). The system uses stereo optics to for lane departure warning, to alert the driver to drifting out of a marked lane with a series of beeps. It’s intended for highway use, like similar systems in other cars, which can beep (or like the Cadillac XTS, buzz your buns) all too often on narrow winding back roads. The Legacy’s EyeSight seemed to allow the car to get closer to the stripe before being set off, making either (a) less effective, or (b) less annoying than other systems. You choose.
EyeSight also includes adaptive cruise control, with the ability to bring the Legacy to a complete stop when driving in stop-and-go traffic. At less than 19 mph, the system has the ability to recognize an object in the path ahead and apply braking if the driver hasn’t taken appropriate action, and will brake and override the throttle pedal if it appears a collision is imminent. We tested the system…up to a point. But it seemed to be working up to the point we lost our nerve. (Insert smiley face emoticon here).
The Subaru EyeSight system is available on the 2013 Legacy 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited trim levels, and only as part of a package including navigation and a moonroof (the latter two are available in a package without EyeSight). The EyeSight/navigation/moonroof package isn’t cheap, at $3,940 bumping the price up from $26,195 for our test 2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited to a bottom line of $30,977, including $72 for all-weather floor mats and $770 for destination and delivery. The back-up camera, by the way, had one of the sharper screen images of vehicles we’ve tested recently.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited is in a class of its own. The 2.5-liter engine is serviceable and efficient, but hardly a luxury item and not overwhelmingly powerful. Yet the model is well equipped and nicely turned out. We’re spoiled a bit by having driven the six-cylinder 3.6R, a paragon of smoothness, but also thirsty and more expensive than the 2.5i. Unless you’re shopping in the price range of the 3.6R, don’t drive the six-cylinder Legacy while considering the Legacy 2.5i. If you’ve driven last year’s Subaru Legacy 2.5i, however, don’t think you’ve driven this year’s.
The 2013 Subaru Legacy is significantly changed from its predecessor, and all for the better.
2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited, price and key specifications as tested
Body style/layout: 4-door sedan, front engine/all-wheel drive
Base price: $26,195
Price as tested: $30,977
- Type: 2.5-liter 16-valve DOHC H-4
- Displacement, cc: 2498
- Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
- Compression ratio:
- Horsepower: 173 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque: 174 @ 4100 rpm
- Recommended fuel: regular unleaded
- Fuel economy, EPA est.: 24/32 mpg city/highway
- Fuel economy, observed: mpg
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT)
- Suspension, front/rear: MacPherson strut / double wishbone
- Wheels: 17-inch alloy
- Tires: 215/50R17
- Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 12.4-inch dia. front/11.4-inch dia. rear
- Steering: power rack-and-pinion w/ engine-speed variable assist
- Turning circle: 36.8 ft.
- Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
- Length: 187.2 in.
- Height: 59.3 in.
- Width: 71.7 in.
- Curb weight: 3,427 lbs
- Trunk volume: 14.7 cu. ft.
- Fuel tank: 18.5 gal.
- Airbags: Front, front side, side curtain
- Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes
- Other: Brake override, front belt pretensioners and force limiters
Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain; 5-year/unlimited-mile corrosion; 3-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance
For more car review, news and other stuff, visit the CarBuzzard.