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2023 Subaru Legacy Sport Review: Don’t Overlook This Affordable Sedan

2023 Subaru Legacy review2023 Subaru Legacy; (photo/Evan Williams)
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The Subaru Legacy gets some useful upgrades for 2023, including a Sport trim that’s more than just a badge and wheels. If you’re thinking of buying an Outback, read this first.

It’s easy to ignore the Subaru Legacy. Buyers certainly are, with the model selling just a tenth of what the Outback manages each year, and fading quickly.

But Subaru hasn’t ignored it. Instead, the company is standing by its sedan, giving it the same updates the Outback got for 2023, along with a facelift that is much less awkward. The changes add to the appeal of the Legacy and can make it a much smarter buy than the Subaru Outback wagon.

2023 Subaru Legacy
(Photo/Evan Williams)

For 2023, Subaru has enhanced the Legacy with that facelift. The automaker has also updated the driver assistance suite, giving the Eyesight system new cameras for improved operation and getting rid of some of the incessant beeps of last year.

Legacy now gets wireless Android Auto as well as Apple CarPlay, if you pick the 11.6-inch display. Both systems take advantage of all of that screen real estate.

In short: The 2023 Subaru Legacy Sport is a quasi-WRX for buyers who need something a bit bigger and a bit more grown-up. The Legacy is a comfortable and quiet ride for anyone looking at an Outback, but who doesn’t need the extra space or the extra price.

2023 Subaru Legacy Sport Review: This Car Means Business

2023 Subaru Legacy review
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The Legacy Sport has some serious shades of the old Legacy 2.5GT spec.B — from back when Subaru leaned more heavily into sports sedans than it does today. Last year, “Sport” meant nothing more than 18-inch alloys, fog lights, and some red interior trim. For 2023, it means a turbocharged engine and stiffer suspension.

My week in the Legacy was with a GT trim. That’s a Canadian-specific trim that blends the US-spec Sport with the leather seats of the Touring. Like Vermont maple syrup against the stuff from Quebec, it’s the same thing with a different label.

Sport Gets 2.4L Turbo-Four

2023 Subaru Legacy
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The 2023 Legacy Sport gets Subaru’s 2.4L turbocharged flat-four. Yes, this is the Subaru Ascent engine, but it is also the same power plant you’ll find in the latest WRX. There’s the first sign of those shades of spec.B.

In the Legacy Sport, the engine makes 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. That’s 11 fewer ponies than the WRX, but 19 more torque, which you’ll notice more in daily driving.

Plus, the Legacy runs on regular gas — WRX needs premium — which is a big deal against increasing fuel costs.

Sport Sharp Mode Turns Slushbox Into Speed

2023 Subaru Legacy review
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The latest version of the Legacy might not get the six-speed manual offered by the spec.B, but it does get Subaru’s S# drive mode for its CVT. This mode is borrowed from the latest WRX. While it’s not quite as sharp as it is in that car, it is a massive improvement over the standard mode.

S# (Subaru calls it Sport Sharp, but the button says S#) makes the CVT unmistakable from a conventional eight-speed automatic. And we dare say it’s better than most of its conventional rivals. Plus, when you’re not in Sport Sharp you keep the low highway revs and smoothness of a CVT.

Subaru has also added some starch to the suspension for the Legacy Sport. It’s much stiffer than the rest of the Legacy line, but it’s still clearly a Subaru. Think of it as a slightly softer version of the Subaru WRX rather than a stiffer Legacy, and you’ll get the idea.

The tuning is firm enough to toss the AWD sedan into corners with aggression, but the suspension is soft and long-travel enough for cratered roads, gravel trails, and weekend rally duty.

2023 Subaru Legacy
Canadian spec Legacy GT model tester, with the same seats as in US Legacy Touring model; (photo/Evan Williams)

You’ll also get a red stripe in the grille, black-and-gray two-tone cloth seats (ignore the leather in my photos), and a power sunroof. Along with reverse automatic braking, you’ll get the DriverFocus distraction mitigation system that watches you to make sure you’re watching the road.

What we’d like to see in this Sport trim is a bit more burble from the flat-four along with some more turbo noises. Of course, that’s what the aftermarket is for. Subaru decided big sedan buyers probably want their quiet — even in a bigger WRX.

2023 Subaru Legacy review
(Photo/Evan Williams)

2023 Legacy Sport Driving Impressions

The powertrain is immediately responsive, especially in S#. Torque builds quickly and powers the Legacy down the road. It can get a bit noisy at wide throttle openings and high rpm, but S# makes sure the engine doesn’t stay there droning. And, that’s not really how most owners will use this car anyway.

On the highway, wind noise is minimal, and its tire noise is most apparent. Still, the car was big-sedan-quiet even as we drove through some heavy wind gusts.

It’s also very stable — at least if you’re doing the driving. The lane-centering part of Eyesight didn’t seem to like the wind and would bounce the car from side to side in its lane.

Smooth Infotainment, but Not Stylish

2023 Subaru Legacy
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Subaru’s tall, 11.6-inch screen controls nearly everything when it comes to climate and audio functions. Subaru uses very large graphics on the screen making text and buttons seem low-resolution.

But open up CarPlay or AndroidAuto and you can quickly see that it’s not the screen but a choice from the UX designers. Drivers who don’t want to put on their reading glasses will probably appreciate it, though younger buyers might want something that looks more modern instead.

Whatever your thoughts, the system operates quickly and smoothly. Climate and seat heating buttons respond in a hurry, with the climate buttons bringing up a more elaborate display when pressed. There’s also a section at the top of the screen that works independently. It will show your pick of displays that includes weather, gauges, and fuel economy.

Sticking with that fuel economy for a moment, the official figures are 23 miles per gallon city and 31 highway, against 27/35 for the 2.5L naturally aspirated Legacy. We saw around 27 in our testing. The figures are competitive with other AWD sedans, though will be trounced by most front-driver models. Of course none of those offer the maxi-WRX feel of the Legacy Sport.

Legacy Is Basically an Outback

The Legacy is, essentially, an Outback with a trunk instead of a hatch. So it keeps some of the Outback’s best features like the wide and roomy cabin with exceptionally plush seats.

The US spec Legacy Premium gets the seats we tested. With soft cushions but plenty of support, along with an adjustable thigh bolster to let the Legacy fit a wider range of inseam lengths, we can’t imagine not being able to get comfy in here. It’s like a good home recliner, but with heating and ventilation.

2023 Subaru Legacy Sport interior
2023 Subaru Legacy Sport interior; (photo/Subaru)

The Legacy Sport gets cloth seats, without a lot of the fancy creature comforts of our tester.

Cargo Carrying Comes Up Short to Outback

legacy GJ (10 of 13)
(Photo/Evan Williams)

What pushes buyers to the Outback over the Legacy is, we suspect, that trunk. The Legacy will hold 15.1 cubic feet in its commodious boot and has split folding seats to give you more space for longer items. It’s a lot of room for a sedan, but it’s tough to ignore the 32.6 cubic feet you’ll find in the Outback. The space more than doubles to 75.6 with the rear seat folded.

Subaru does offer a set of accessory crossbars — and a Thule cargo box — to add more space, but the bars are limited to 88 pounds maximum load.

A Lot Less Money Than an Outback

The window sticker shows a much bigger difference than that cargo figure, though. The price difference between the two makes the $24,395 Legacy $4,000 cheaper. The sedan even comes in for a couple of thousand less than the Honda Accord despite the Accord not offering AWD.

The Sport trim Legacy with the 2.4L turbo-four is $33,895, making this grown-up WRX barely more cash than the actual WRX.

2023 Subaru Legacy Review: Summary

2023 Subaru Legacy review
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Subaru’s Legacy has more advantages over Outback than just the price. It’s around 200 pounds lighter, gets better fuel economy, and is less likely to be mistaken for 10 other identical wagons in the lot.

The sedan is wonderful to drive, and extremely spacious and comfortable. Plus there is still that price. The 2023 Subaru Legacy is one of the last large sedans on the market.

That doesn’t make it a great choice by default, though. Legacy earns being called a great choice because it offers a compelling complete package of features and everyday usability.

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