We reviewed the 2011-2012 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, 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 persona 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 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 2013 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.