2012 Subaru Legacy Review and Prices

Last Updated: Nov 2, 2011

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2012 Subaru Legacy Buying Advice

The 2012 Subaru Legacy is the best car for you if you want a spacious all-wheel-drive midsize sedan built to handle Mother Nature’s wrath.

The 2012 Subaru Legacy adds Bluetooth capability and a USB iPod interface as standard equipment on all models, not just the pricier ones, but otherwise carries over little changed. The 2012 Legacy remains the only popularly priced midsize sedan with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). Sales are healthy, but Legacy isn’t nearly as popular as segment stalwarts such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Still, it maintains a strong following, particularly in snowy regions. And for those who like the Legacy formula but want more room, there’s the 2012 Subaru Outback midsize crossover SUV, which is essentially this sedan wearing a higher-riding wagon body.

Should you buy a 2012 Subaru Legacy or wait for the 2013 Subaru Legacy? Buy a 2012 Subaru Legacy if you like its looks and it fits your needs. The 2013 Legacy is unlikely to change in ways worth waiting for and its styling will have a relatively short shelf life because the 2014 version of this car will get a modest freshening. Buying a 2012 model means you’re Legacy will look current longer, and you’ll beat any probable year-over-year price hikes.

2012 Subaru Legacy Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Subaru Legacy carries forward styling that dates to a well-received redesign for model-year 2010. It’s a chiseled look, with prominent wheel arches intended to convey a muscular air and a trendy tall rear deck. Though the Legacy grew in size with the 2010 redesign, its exterior dimensions are a bit smaller than those of more popular midsize sedans.

The 2012 Legacy remains 186.4 inches long overall, which is nearly eight inches shorter than a Honda Accord, for example, and more than four inches shorter than a Nissan Altima. Its 108.3-inch wheelbase is about two inches briefer than an Accord’s and an inch shorter than a Toyota Camry’s. That’s important because wheelbase, the distance between the front and rear axles, largely determines how large an interior a vehicle can provide.  Fortunately, Subaru designers are good at packaging: with 37.8 inches of rear-seat legroom, Legacy beats Altima by a few tenths of an inch and is only a half-inch short of the segment-leading Accord.

The 2012 Subaru Legacy’s five-passenger cabin is both comfortable and well finished in high-quality materials, with metal-look trim on the steering wheel, dashboard, and elsewhere. Cloth seats are standard, leather upholstery available. The dashboard features Subaru’s corporate winged-design motif, with straightforward round gauges and easy-to-use buttons and dials on the center stack of controls. When fitted with the available navigation system, the center stack is topped by a color LCD touchscreen display.

The 2012 Subaru Legacy lineup is divided into three tiers based on engine type. The 2.5i models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and come in base 2.5i trim, midline 2.5i Premium, and plusher 2.5i Limited form. The 3.6R models have a 3.6-liter six-cylinder and come in base 3.6R, midline 3.6R Premium, and top-line 3.6R Limited models. The 2012 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT Limited has a turbocharged version of the four-cylinder engine and is the most expensive model in the lineup.

Styling differences among the various Legacy models are not dramatic. The 2.5i has door handles and lower-body trim finished in black instead of the body-color used on the other 2012 Legacy models. It also has 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers. The 2.5i Premium model gets 16-inch alloy wheels while the 2.5i Limited and all the 3.6R models have 17-inch alloys. For model-year 2012, the 2.5i Limited and 3.6R Limited models gain the front fog lamps that previously were exclusive to the 2.5GT Limited. That sportiest Legacy is also the most visually distinct, with 18-inch alloy wheels (shod with summer performance tires) and a functional hood scoop that supplies air to the turbo’s intercooler.

Mechanical: The 2012 Subaru Legacy is unchanged mechanically. The 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, and 2.5i Limited versions repeat with a four-cylinder engine that generates a sufficient 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force behind acceleration and horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum.)

The 2012 Legacy 3.6R, 3.6R Premium, and 3.6R Limited models reprise a six-cylinder noticeably stronger with 256 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The 2012 Subaru Legacy 2.5GT continues with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 265 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. On paper, the six-cylinder pencils out a bit slower than the four-cylinder turbo but it’s a smoother-running engine, for those favoring a serene delivery of power over hot-footed bursts.

Subaru tailors Legacy transmissions to each engine and model. A six-speed manual is standard on 2.5i and 2.5i Premium versions. Optional in those models and standard on the 2.5i Limited model is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A CVT does the job of an automatic transmission but with a belt-and-pulley system instead of a finite set of gear ratios. The idea is to more precisely harness engine speed for an optimal balance of acceleration and fuel economy. On the downside, the seamless delivery of power under full throttle is a sensation some drivers may find initially unsettling. Subaru calls its CVT “Lineartronic” and includes steering wheel-mounted paddles that can replicate the feel of manual-type gear control.

The only transmission offered in Legacy’s 3.6R series is a five-speed automatic with a manual shift mode. And the sole transmission for the 2.5GT Limited is a six-speed manual. Both those choices are a little unusual in today’s midsize-car class, where automatics with a more efficient six speeds are the norm and where few models other than entry-level price leaders offer a manual transmission. That puts the 2012 Legacy 3.6R series at a disadvantage for number of gear ratios and puts the 2.5GT Limited off limits to drivers who don’t want to shift for themselves.

Legacy’s individuality continues with its engine design. As in all Subarus, both the four- and six-cylinder powerplants feature a horizontally opposed layout in which in which the cylinder banks face each other. This is in contrast to a vertical alignment (as with other four-cylinder engines) or a V-shape (like most sixes). Because the pistons “punch” horizontally, this configuration is sometimes referred to as a “boxer” design. The perceived advantage is more compact packaging and a lower center of gravity, which in turn helps improve a car’s handling. Porsche is the only other automaker to embrace it.

Front-wheel drive is the rule for midsize cars and while a few offer AWD as a option, standard AWD is a key 2012 Legacy attribute. Without elevated ground clearance (like the Outback) the Legacy isn’t intended for off-road duty. Rather, its AWD is a traction advantage in snow or on 0 slippery inclines or gravel surfaces. It’s always operational and automatically shifts power between the front and rear axles to quell tire slip.

Subaru’s developed multiple AWD systems individually configured to particular engine-transmission combinations. In the 2012 Legacy, the 2.5i models employ one of two slightly different systems. The one used with manual transmission and in the 2.5GT locks into a 50/50 front/rear torque split upon wheel slip. The one used with the CVT reapportions the split constantly. The 2012 Legacy 3.6R models feature a more sophisticated system that normally splits engine power 45/55 front/rear to maintain a slightly sportier rear-drive feel and reapportions it if traction is compromised.  

The 2012 Subaru Legacy’s nicely designed suspension uses MacPherson struts in front and a double-wishbone array at the rear for a smooth ride and capable handling. As mandated by federal regulation, antiskid stability control is included across the line to help preserve control during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers. All models also come with traction control to help manage wet or snowy surfaces at lower speeds.

Features: Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone linking and a USB iPod interface become standard on every 2012 Subaru Legacy model. Both help Legacy stay abreast of leading rivals for modern connectivity features. Previously, Bluetooth was unavailable on Legacy’s base 2.5i and 3.6R models, was optional on the Premium versions, and was standard only on Limited models, including the 2.5GT. Availability of the USB interface was even more restrictive; it was available only on 2.5i, 2.5GT, and 3.6R Limited models as part of a pricey navigation-system option package.

Otherwise, the 2012 Legacy comes standard with most all the necessities of a modern midsize car. Passive safety features include thorax-protecting side airbags for the driver and front passenger and head-protecting side-curtain airbags for all outboard occupants. Other standard equipment includes air conditioning, power locks and windows, keyless entry, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted buttons, CD stereo, and 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks to expand cargo-carrying ability.

The 2012 Legacy 2.5i Premium and 3.6R Premium models further include a 10-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an overhead storage console with ambient lighting. Limited versions get standard leather upholstery and faux wood cabin trim. The 2.5i Limited has special black-leather with silver-contrasting stitching and carbon-fiber-patterned interior accents. All Limited models also have standard heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a power front passenger seat

A harmon/kardon-brand premium audio system is optional on 2012 Legacy Premium models and standard on Limiteds. It has a 440-watt amplifier and nine speakers including a subwoofer. For model-year 2012, the system gets an upgraded dashboard display and iTunes song- tagging capability.

A power moonroof is optional on Premium and Limited versions of Legacy’s 2.5i and 3.6R series and standard on the 2.5GT Limited model. Optional only on Limiteds is a voice-activated navigation system with an 8-inch dashboard screen and rearview backup camera. Standard on Limited and 3.6R Premium models and optional on 2.5i Premium Legacys is in an All-Weather Package that includes the heated front seats, plus heated side mirrors and a windshield-wiper de-icer.

2012 Subaru Legacy Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Subaru Legacy is $20,745-$32,345. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Subaru’s fee for the 2012 Legacy is $750.)

That base-price range keeps the 2012 Subaru Legacy very competitive with four- and six-cylinder segment rivals and makes it particularly attractive considering its standard all-wheel drive. The only direct competitors to offer AWD are V-6 versions of the 2012 Ford Fusion, and they begin at $29,555.

Base price for the 2012 Legacy 2.5i is $20,745 with manual transmission and $21,745 with the CVT. The 2012 Legacy 2.5i Premium models start at $23,045 with manual transmission and at $24,045 with the CVT. The 2012 Legacy 2.5i Limited model is priced from $26,345.

For six-cylinder 2012 Legacys, the 3.6R starts at $25,845, the 3.6R Premium at $27,045, and the 3.6R Limited at $29,345. Base price for the turbocharged four-cylinder 2012 Legacy 2.5 GT is $32,345.

Among popular 2012 Legacy options, the All-Weather Package available on 2.5i Premium models costs $500 on its own, $1,495 bundled with the power moonroof, $1,795 with the harmon/kardon stereo, and $2,790 with both.

On 2012 Legacy 2.5i and 3.6R Limited versions, the moonroof costs $995 on its own and $2,995 bundled with the navigation system. On the 2012 Legacy 2.5 GT, a package with the harmon/kardon audio and the nav system is priced at $2,000.

2012 Subaru Legacy Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Subaru Legacy are unchanged from model-year 2011 and keep this sedan slightly behind its highest-mileage rivals, a deficit partly attributed to the minor weight penalty of the standard AWD system.  

The 2012 Legacy 2.5i models rate 19/27 mpg city/highway and 22 mpg city/highway combined with manual transmission and 23/31 city/highway, 26 combined with the CVT.

The 2012 Legacy 2.5GT Limited and 2012 3.6R models share a rating of 18/25 city/highway, 21 combined. Note that Subaru requires premium-octane gas for the turbocharged 2.5GT Limited model and recommends less-expensive regular-octane for all other 2012 Legacy models.  

2012 Subaru Legacy Release Date back to top

The 2012 Subaru Legacy went on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Subaru Legacy back to top

Expect the 2014 Subaru Legacy to receive moderate revisions under the heading of a midcycle freshening intended to sustain interest until this car’s next full redesign, which is likely for model-year 2016. The 2014 updates probably will be confined to front- and rear-end styling tweaks, a few interior alterations, and perhaps some added features.

Legacy’s model-year 2016 redesign is being planned in the shadow of tightening federally mandated corporate-average fuel-economy standards. They require automakers to incrementally increase fuel economy by 40 percent across their lineups between model years 2012 and 2016.

So that sixth-generation Legacy is sure to be redesigned with greater fuel efficiency in mind. Since a vehicle’s weight directly influences fuel economy we’d expect the next Legacy to make broader use of lighter-weight materials, most likely aluminum.

It should also feature a more efficient engine lineup. To that end, both the current turbo-four and six-cylinder engines could be replaced by a direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers equivalent or greater power with better fuel economy. The base Legacy could adopt the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder that debuted in the 2012 Subaru Impreza compact car.

Absence of a six-cylinder option is a real possibility, and a gas-electric hybrid Legacy is not out of the question, with perhaps a plug-in and/or a full-electric version further down the road.

Finally, expect any all-new Legacy to adopt a range of technology competitive with that already offered in newer midsize cars. These could include lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems and more elaborate connectivity for mobile phones and other portable devices, including smartphone-app accessibility.

2012 Subaru Legacy Competition back to top

Honda Accord: Though a full redesign is on tap for model-year 2013, the 2012 edition of this handsome and roomy Honda remains the car to beat in the midsize-sedan segment. A well-earned reputation for reliability and resale value, plenty of room, and outstanding road manners are among its many assets. Accord continues in sedan and slightly sportier coupe body styles; a related wagon-like crossover SUV is offered as the 2012 Accord Crosstour. Accord engine choices are four-cylinders of 177 and 190 horsepower and a V-6 of 271. Four-cylinder Accord sedans start at $22,150 and rate 23/34/27 mpg. Accord V-6 sedans start at $28,050 and rate 20/30/24 mpg. Coupes are priced slightly higher.

Ford Fusion: Like the Accord, Fusion is due for a model-year 2013 redesign. Like the Legacy, the 2012 Fusion offers AWD, albeit as an option to the standard front-wheel drive -- and then only on versions starting over $29,000. This Ford makes available a 175-horsepower four-cylinder or V-6s of 240 and 263 horsepower. It also comes as an advanced gas-electric hybrid model with 191 horsepower and fuel-economy ratings of 41/36 mpg city/highway, 39 combined. Gas four-cylinder Fusions start at $20,645 and rate 23/33/26 mpg with automatic transmission. V-6s are priced from $25,220 and rate 18/27/21 with front-drive and 17/25/19 with AWD. The 2012 Fusion Hybrid starts at $29,395.  

Toyota Camry: America’s best-selling car was redesigned for model-year 2012 with revised styling inside and out but little-changed powertrains. The 2012 Camry also retains the same basic dimensions as its 2007-2011 predecessor but is a bit lighter and more fuel-efficient. Models with the 179-horsepower four-cylinder engine start at $22,715 and rate 25/35/28 mpg. Camrys with the 268-horsepower V-6 start at $27,400 and rate 21/30/25. Both those engines link to a six-speed automatic transmission. The surprisingly satisfying-to-drive 2012 Camry Hybrid may be the best all-around model in the line. It teams a four-cylinder gas engine with electric power for a net 200 horsepower and an excellent fuel-economy rating of 43/39/41 mpg. It starts at $26,660.

UPDATED BY CHUCK GIAMETTA

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