Subaru sales have surged over the last decade, taking the quirky Japanese brand from its Snow Belt niche into more and broader markets.

This year, the redesigned 2015 Subaru Legacy is a viable contender to go head to head with the most mainstream mid-size sedans: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and more.

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But with all-wheel drive standard on all Legacies--which adds weight--how does the new sedan do on gas mileage?

Over the past three months, we've driven two different 2015 Legacy sedans: a 2.5i model with the standard 175-horsepower flat four-cylinder engine, and the top-end 3.6R with a 256-hp flat-six.

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

CVT pleasant to drive

Both are now fitted with Subaru's LinearTronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), long a favorite of reviewers for the control software that largely masks its variable nature under acceleration.

Many CVTs allow the engine to spin up to its maximum speed and then vary their ratios as the car gathers speed. It's efficient, but it can be jarring from the driver's seat.

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Subaru has now added "steps" to the programming that make the CVT mimic a conventional automatic under some circumstances.

It works well, and we generally forgot we were driving a car equipped with a CVT--which is hard to do in, for example, many of the Nissans that use that brand's in-house CVT design.

Real 30 mpg

The 2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i carries EPA ratings of 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 36 mpg highway), while the more powerful 3.6R is rated at 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway).

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i, Catskill Mountains, NY, Sep 2014

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i, Catskill Mountains, NY, Sep 2014

Our test routes varied somewhat, but both included roughly two-thirds highway mileage and one-third suburban and city errand-running, including stop-and-go traffic.

Over 404 miles, the Legacy 2.5i nailed its EPA rating, giving us 30.7 mpg as indicated on the car's trip computer.

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The beefier Legacy 3.6R actually exceeded its rating, returning 26.5 mpg over 568 miles--with perhaps a slightly higher proportion of highway miles in the mix.

Either way, we conclude that the updated Legacy is fairly rated--and buyers who don't do predominantly local driving may find the six-cylinder a little less thirsty than expected.

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

We'd still opt for the four, however.

Quieter, handsomer

In a very competitive market segment, the 2015 Legacy mid-size sedan is handsomer, quieter, and offers an upgraded set of features and options compared to its predecessor.

We like the smoother lines, with Subaru thankfully having dumped the exaggerated, cartoony wheel arches for a smoother, more elegant look.

The Legacy doesn't stand out--the rear end especially is innocuous, generic mid-size sedan--but from the front, it's recognizably a Subaru and more stylish than any so far.

And it's big inside. Gosh, is it big.

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Four large adults have plenty of room to ride, and fifth in the middle of the back seat will find it tolerable--assuming you're not driving cross-country.

Our usual handful of comments on living with the two Legacies apply to both models:

  • While the 2015 Legacy is quieter, wind noise--Subaru's decades-old Achilles' Heel--is still evident from around the front windows and mirrors
  • The seats are both very configurable and nicely bolstered for U.S.-sized drivers
  • The instruments are excellent, and definitely more upscale than last year's Legacy
  • The six is hardly the most powerful mid-size sedan on the market, but it's good enough--and notably stronger than the four
  • Cornering and roadholding is good: drama-free and predictable, even if the steering isn't particularly alive (we still miss old-style hydraulic power steering)
  • Outward vision is excellent to the front and sides, with slim windshield pillars and a horizontal beltline, but the tail is still fairly high
  • Subaru's higher trim levels now offer memory for the seats--finally!
  • The optional EyeSight camera system is one of the best in the business, and the associated adaptive cruise control and collision detection are rarely caught out

The 2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited we tested had a base price of $26,495.

An options package that included a moonroof, keyless entry and pushbutton start, the EyeSight system, and in-dash navigation added $2,990.

WIth $300 for the mandatory Partial-Zero Emission Vehicle package in our Northeast state, plus $795 for the mandatory delivery fee, the total was $30,580.

$3,100 for six-cylinder upgrade

Our more powerful 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited carried a base price $3,100 higher, at $29,595.

It had the same set of options, minus EyeSight (which is standard on this model), for $2,990.

The mandatory $795 destination and delivery fee brought the bottom line to $33,380.


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