STINSON BEACH, Calif. -- Coursing over humpback hills and cutting acute-angled corners to chase a ragged shore, a twisty ribbon of asphalt on California 1, the coastal road north of San Francisco, provides the perfect venue for testing the precise agility and sticky tire grip of a new generational design for Subaru's expansive and refined 2015 Legacy 3.6R Limited all-wheel-drive sports sedan.
The Legacy sedan series for 2015 marks the sixth generation with a new treatment that represents a significant upgrade over previous iterations. There's a larger and stiffer unibody structure with simplified trims and powertrain options, fresh body styling and a new cabin design with more room and refined fittings.
Slotted for the mid-size class with a 108.3-inch wheelbase and a 5-seat passenger compartment encompassing 104.6 cubic feet, the new 4-door sports sedan carries a host of materials to reduce interior noise levels plus a carload of electronically controlled safety devices.
Legacy's revamped exterior styling looks sleek and sporty. The prow, tapering to a narrow point in front of a sculpted aluminum hood, features new front fascia that blends bumper and hexagonal 3-bar grille into one smooth unit. And the grille adds a standard Active Grille Shutter to reduce wind resistance and boost fuel economy.
Top trim Legacy 3.6R Limited stocks new standard HID low-beam headlights which bring a distinctive nighttime signature. And all four trim versions of Legacy employ U-shape taillights and brake lights with LED bulbs.
Smooth flanks are interrupted by edgy high and low character lines extending rearward from front wheelwells. Wheels and tires vary from 17 to 18 inches, depending on trim. The 3.6R Limited uses 18-inch alloy wheels capped by 225/50R18 tires.
Subaru outfits all 2015 Legacy models with suspension, brake and steering systems designed to forge a responsive vehicle. The suspension is fully independent with tuned MacPherson struts up front and a subframe-mounted double wishbone design in the rear.
The steering system, through a rack and pinion arrangement, employs electric power assistance tuned for quick responses and a solid on-center feel from the wheel.
The 4-wheel disc brakes tie to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and electronic brake assist (EBA) plus a stability system under Subaru's label of Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) with a 4-wheel traction control system (TCS). Active Torque Vectoring (ATV), a new feature on the multi-mode VDC stability and traction control system, can apply brake pressure to the inside front wheel to facilitate more neutral cornering.
Every 2015 Legacy model employs symmetrical all-wheel-drive (AWD) equipment and Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). The active torque split AWD device is managed electronically through a continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch (CVHTC).
Trims for Legacy begin with Legacy 2.5i, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i Limited, each rigged with a revised Subaru engine which has four cylinders opposed horizontally and set perpendicular to the drive line, then linked with equal-length drive shafts so pairs of cylinders act like boxers jabbing at one another in counterbalanced movements which negate the typical in-line-4 engine's vibrations. Displacing 2.5 liters, the aluminum-block plant has aluminum cylinder heads and dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) plus Subaru's active valve control system (AVCS).
The 2.5-liter boxer engine generates 175 hp at 5800 rpm and torque of 174 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
Legacy 3.6R Limited edition gets more juice from a 6-cylinder boxer engine which displaces 3.6 liters and features DOHC and dual active valve control system (D-AVCS).
Output reaches 256 hp at 6000 rpm while torque climbs to 247 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
Legacy with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine earns fuel burn scores of 26 mpg for city driving and 36 mpg on a highway. With the 3.6-liter 6-pack aboard, Legacy makes 20/29 mpg city/highway.
The 2015 Legacy Premium and Limited models offer the latest version of Subaru's EyeSight driver-assist safety system which uses stereo camera technology plus Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking and Vehicle Lane Departure Warning. Also optional is Subaru's Rear Vehicle Detection System with Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Pricing for 2015 Legacy models runs up from $21,695.
2015 Subaru Legacy
MPG: 26 city/36 highway
175 horsepower and 256 horsepower
Engine size: 2.5-liter and 3.6-liter
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Limited
2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited