By now I’ve evaluated a lot of cars equipped with traffic monitoring and obstacle detection, along with safety interventions like steering correction and automatic braking. So I’m pretty used to them.
Still, the intelligent safety systems in the new, 2020 Subaru Legacy mid-size sedan captured my attention. They operated with a calm, collected and appropriate presence. They made me aware that they were watching, but in manners that were helpful and reassuring, and in no way intrusive.
Subaru gives the name EyeSight to its bundle of active, intelligent safety systems and driving aids. They’re installed on all price levels of this year’s wholly re-made, seventh-generation Legacy sedan.
With EyeSight, whether you buy the starting-level Legacy at $23,645, or the top-line Legacy Touring XT at $36,795, you get adaptive cruise control that automatically keeps you a measured distance from leading cars. Its lane-centering function employs automatic steering so the Legacy stays centered in its lane. Collision monitoring cuts the throttle and automatically applies the brakes if it detects a forward obstacle.
I learned to appreciate EyeSight during a two-hour freeway run in the Legacy. Like other driving assistants, it operated in the background. But it gave me an appropriate little nudge whenever I needed to know it was on the job. Most often that came via small projections that the EyeSight Assist Monitor (as Subaru calls it) beamed onto the windshield directly in front of my driver’s position. The amber-colored indicators were well within my field of vision as I watched the road, too obvious to ignore, but small enough and low enough to avoid undue distraction.
Two parallel bars told me when I drifting too far to the side of my travel lane. When cruise control was operating, a center bar indicated that EyeSight was responding to a car ahead of me, usually by slowing down my Legacy.
I appreciated that indicator especially. I’ve been in plenty of other vehicles with intelligent cruise that, when they automatically reduce my speed, they fail to give me sufficient indication.
I may have the cruise set at 70 miles per hour. If I approach a leading vehicle traveling, say, just 62 mph, intelligent cruise may bring my speed down so smoothly that I don’t notice. I could travel behind at 62 for miles and miles and miles, rather than just scooting out and passing the laggard. The indicator displayed on Legacy’s windshield by EyeSight prevented that.
There is more to like in the new 2020 Subaru Legacy than the smart, natural way it integrates assistance systems into your driving. Like almost all Subarus, the large new sedan also provides all-wheel drive. Of course, it uses the company’s four-corner traction setup that Subaru promotes as “symmetrical all-wheel drive.”
Most other vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive (which usually offer it as an extra-cost option, not an included feature) are two-wheel-drive models that graft on some extra gear to extend power to their additional two wheels. Subaru models like Legacy, which are exclusively all-wheel drive, engineer the ability intimately into the auto, aiming for greater stability and traction. The auto maker’s all-wheel-drive-at-birth approach lets it carefully balance the drive components and specially construct the car – with measures like engine placement and even engine shape – to optimize road grip.
This year’s new Legacy gains greater road-holding stability from the a stronger, stiffer structure and a fortified suspension. When promoting the car, Subaru explains that the re-made Legacy contains substantially more ultra-high-strength steel and structural adhesive. It carries a rigid side-to-side reinforcing strut. It has an inner-body structure that more tightly integrates its outer panels. Because they weigh less, its suspension components respond more adroitly to road irregularities. Those measures and others make the car body more resistant to destabilizing twists and flexes, bringing Legacy better steering and cornering.
They also make the car safer by making it more crash-worthy. Subaru states that the new model absorbs 40% more energy in front and side collisions.
The more solid structure also cuts cabin noise and makes riding more sedate.
Power for the 2020 Legacy comes from a substantially upgraded four-cylinder engine that produces 182 horsepower. New with this year’s model is a second engine choice installed in more briskly performing – and higher priced – XT trim levels. The higher-powered, turbocharged four-cylinder provides 260 horsepower, about 40% more than the standard engine.
Both engines send power to the Legacy’s four wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. I dislike CVTs for their dragging, lagging response and performance over geared transmissions – including both geared manual and geared automatic transmissions. Subaru has a reputation for designing CVTs that are better than most. Still, when evaluating the new Legacy, there were times when I wondered how much more foot pressure the gas pedal needed before the sedan began to creep.
Car companies tell us that CVTs provide better fuel mileage than their geared counterparts. On that score, the Legacy that I drove performed very well. Equipped with the standard, 182-horsepower engine, my test model consumed gas at a rate of 34 miles per gallon, covering 350 miles of combined city and freeway driving.
The official fuel economy rating for the Legacy with the standard engine is 30 mpg in combined driving. High-powered XT versions come with a rating of 27 mpg in mixed driving.
I felt particularly pleased with the economical fuel use of my evaluation model because the Legacy is a largish car. Classified as a five-passenger middle-sized sedan, it has notable presence outside and spacious accommodations inside. Its cabin also is equipped with a generous array of technology to ease travel, such as its touch-screen multi-media system with smartphone tie ins for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Since the car contains so much, it’s especially nice to find it communicate so well through its smart driving systems.
Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at jeffreyzygmont.com.
2020 Subaru Legacy
Vehicle type: 4-door, 5-passenger, all-wheel-drive mid-size sedan
Price range: $23,645 to $36,795 (plus options)
Base engine: 2.5-liter horizontal 4-cylinder
Power: 182 horsepower at 5,200 rpm; 176 pound-feet torque at 4,400
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 108 inches
Length: 191 inches
Width: 72 inches
Height: 59 inches
Weight: 3,499 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
Turning circle: 36.8 ft.