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2012 Subaru Legacy Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Subaru Legacy was new.


Performance: 7.7

Auto reviewers say the 2012 Subaru Legacy is a good-handling car thanks to its standard all-wheel drive and responsive steering. Test drivers think the Legacy’s base four-cylinder engine is slow to accelerate, but the six-cylinder should provide plenty of power. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is only available with a six-speed manual, is lively, but the transmission gets dinged for some sloppy gear changes.

  • "On the downside, the Subaru Legacy's weight and reduced efficiency from routing power to all four wheels results in less favorable fuel economy numbers." -- Edmunds
  • "It's light on its feet with imperturbable grip. …” -- Road and Track
  • "Standard all-wheel drive is a bonus for snow-belt states." -- Consumer Guide
  • "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

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Legacy is available with three engines and three transmissions. All three engines are horizontally-opposed (flat) engines. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower. This engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, though a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional. Test drivers are divided on this engine. Some say it is powerful enough, while others think it is underpowered. The manual transmission is cited for sloppy gear changes.

The second engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 265 horsepower. This engine is only available on the GT Limited trim and only comes with the six-speed manual transmission. Reviewers say it is much quicker than the base engine, but requires premium fuel.

The third engine is a 3.6-liter six-cylinder that produces 256 horsepower, which is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Some test drivers don’t think this engine is as powerful as comparable six-cylinder engines in other midsize cars, but they say that it’s plenty powerful for daily driving. The automatic transmission gets positive comments for being responsive.

The EPA rates the Legacy’s fuel economy at 23/31 mpg city/highway for the base 2.5-liter engine and CVT transmission, and 19/27 mpg with the manual. The turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and six-cylinder engine both get 18/25 mpg.

  • "The base 2.5-liter engine is adequate, but outright acceleration trails that seen in some of the speedier family sedans. The 2.5GT's turbocharged engine is much more of a thrill, though the mandatory manual transmission will limit its appeal. That leaves the new 3.6-liter flat-6 as the main draw for those wanting some punch." -- Edmunds
  • "Shift and clutch action are vague on 2.5i models. Most testers found it difficult to differentiate between 3rd and 5th gear when shifting. The 2.5GT has better clutch feel and the optional short-throw shifter is more precise than the standard unit. The 3.6R's engine is not as strong as most rival 6-cylinder motors, yet it's more than adequate for daily driving. Its automatic transmission is responsive." -- Consumer Guide
  • "My tester's four-cylinder engine, coupled with a continuously variable automatic transmission, was powerful enough around town." -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Test drivers generally like the 2012 Subaru Legacy’s handling. They don’t comment on the brakes, but reviewers say that the overall ride is composed, which they like. The Legacy’s steering gets positive comments for being responsive and natural. A few test drivers noticed some body lean in non-GT models. Standard all-wheel drive is well-liked for the way it grips the Legacy to the road, especially in bad weather. The Legacy is the only affordable midsize car that has standard AWD.

  • "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. The 2.5GT also has excellent steering and eliminates most of the body lean." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Its road-holding prowess in inclement weather is a plus, for sure, but if you live in milder climates, it may be harder to justify." -- Edmunds
  • "Its steering is heavy around town and its suspension surprisingly soft, but toss it into a corner and it comes alive." -- 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

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