2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Convenience PackageView Vehicle Profile
2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i: As sure as the driven snow
Improved all-wheel-drive Legacy stays planted in wintry weather.
Mecaglisse, Que. — If you got it, flaunt it.
Words to live by if you’re Subaru, an automaker largely defined by its symmetrical full-time all-wheel-drive that is standard kit on all its vehicles, save for the rear-drive BRZ sports car.
And so to that end, Subaru invited a handful of journalists to Mecaglisse, a winter testing facility north of Montreal, to illustrate how the refreshed 2013 all-wheel-drive Legacy mid-size sedan (a.k.a. David) puts a wintry whoopin’ on a couple of front-drive segment giants — the Toyota Camry and all-new Honda Accord (which is winning awards left, right and centre).
But before we get to the showdown, let’s see what’s new with the Legacy for 2013.
Visually, not a whole lot. New headlights, a bolder grill, restyled bumpers and available fog lights spruce up the front end. This generation Legacy was a tad dowdy when it appeared in 2010, and now against such styled rides as the new Ford Fusion, Kia Optima, upcoming Mazda6 and even the new Honda Accord, Subaru’s mid-sizer looks pretty plain.
Under the hood is a new 2.5 L four-cylinder boxer engine. Named the FB-series, it replaces the outgoing engine of the same displacement. This unit gets double-over-head-cams (previously SOHC) and power rises from 170 hp to 173 hp while torque bumps from 170 lb.-ft. to 174 with more of it available lower down. Fuel economy improves slightly as well, helped in part by this latest-generation continuously variable transmission that runs quieter and with reduced internal friction.
The 2013 Legacy’s chassis has been stiffened and a host of suspension tweaks that include altered spring and damper rates, a larger diameter front anti-roll bar and changes to bushing stiffness are claimed to provide a smoother and quieter ride as well as reduce body roll by 40 per cent.
Time to see how these improvements play out on the road.
I dash from the hotel to a 2013 Legacy 2.5i Convenience Package ($25,995) idling in the parking lot. The sun is blindingly brilliant, there’s a metre of snow on every visible rooftop and the Subie’s outside temperature gauge reads a crisp -31 C. If there had been any brass monkeys around, they’d have been singing soprano.
We’re riding on brand new Bridgestone Blizzak winter rubber and our route to Mecaglisse is over winding snow-packed back roads that hug a frozen lake.
The first thing I notice is how remarkably stable and planted the Legacy feels, like it’s almost sucked to the road. The steering is well weighted and direct, and with Blizzaks at each corner, grip is pretty much a non-issue. The Legacy is balanced, at home, like an athlete on its game. And when coaxing a little lateral slide on some sweepers, the tires actually squeal on this super-frozen surface.
Adding to this sense of well being are good sight lines. The greenhouse is upright, the beltline is low and the two external rear view mirrors are big.
This new 2.5 L is smoother, and in concert with the CVT it provides brisk step-off. Yes, there is plenty of engine drone when you boot it (such is the nature of continuously variable transmissions) but overall it is an effective, well-behaved and efficient drivetrain.
For 2013, the Legacy gets new seat fabrics. The good news is the seats are broad and supportive, and with the heater on “low” they provide a warm glow that’s good for the long haul. Not so good is the cabin. Sure, it’s functional and commendably quiet on the highway but the dash is looking dull and dated, especially when compared to the Honda Accord.
CVT-equipped Legacy AWD systems uses an electronically-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch with a front to rear split of 40/60, shifting to 50/50 under acceleration and slippery conditions. Manual transmission cars get a viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that distributes power 50/50 front to rear.
Once at Mecaglisse, we spent the day doing exercises on an icy skid pad, a slalom/accident avoidance course and a multi-elevation track.
How did the front-drive 2013 Honda Accord LX ($25,190 base) and 2012 Toyota Camry LE ($23,700 base) fitted with the same Blizzak tires fare in this winter wonderland? Like bringing a couple of knives to a gunfight, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion. The Legacy’s obvious advantage was its ability to accelerate effortlessly from a stop, although it also showed superior control in every other exercise.
Not to say the Honda and Toyota didn’t put on a good showing and provide some fun of their own. Considerably different in their attitudes on the slippery stuff, too. The Camry had a lively back end that was easily coaxed into manageable oversteer, while the Accord resolutely understeered, yet its good old-fashioned hand brake provided an instant remedy.
In the past, the Subaru Legacy’s inclement weather prowess was tempered by disadvantages in both price and fuel economy, but those are essentially non-issues now.
Yes, the Subie may lack the pizzazz of its fresher competitors, but this 2013 Legacy shows a host of meaningful improvements over last year’s model, and in conditions such as these, it shows its tail lights to the competition.
2013 Subaru Legacy 2.5i
BASE PRICE/AS TESTED: $25,995 /$25,995
ENGINE: 2.5L DOHC flat-four
POWER/TORQUE: 173 hp; 174 lb.-ft.
FUEL CONSUMPTION L/100 km: 8.4 city, 6.0 hwy.
COMPETITION: Ford Fusion AWD, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mazda6, Chrysler 200, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima
WHAT’S BEST: standard all-wheel-drive, balanced chassis, 2013 price reduction
WHAT’S WORST: dull inside, engine drone when booting it
WHAT’S INTERESTING: standard paddle shifters let you play with six “virtual” gears
Travel for freelance writer Peter Bleakney was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.
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