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First Drive Review: Refined 2020 Subaru Legacy impresses with turbo engine, high-tech features

Subaru has redesigned its Legacy sedan for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Subaru

In a midsize sedan conversation dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Subaru Legacy has been content to take a back seat awaiting its moment. This is its moment.

Built on the Subaru Global Platform, the completely redesigned 2020 Subaru Legacy has the same underpinnings as the 2020 Subaru Outback. It's even powered by the same two engine options: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder or a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The 2.5-liter produces 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque while the turbo gets 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque.

2020 Subaru Legacy engine The 2020 Legacy has two available power plants, the same ones that are in the 2020 Subaru Outback.Photo courtesy of Subaru

The base 2.5-liter power plant is best for daily driver duties. Stepping up to the turbo 2.4-liter is a move in the right direction if you plan on tackling mountain roads or just like the extra oomph of the added horsepower. Both engines are paired with a continuously variable transmission (though different CVTs), which is noticeably noisier in the lower-power model. Still, road noise is much less apparent in this new generation compared to the old.

Driving the turbo up California's Route 33 in Ojai, the Legacy handled the steeps with ease, with its AWD keeping the car gripped to the road while the Legacy's new framework kept body lean at bay. The Legacy's steering is engaging and the car is agile.

Subaru estimates that the turbo will get 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. These are the same numbers as the similarly engined but less powerful front-wheel drive Nissan Altima and Mazda Mazda6 (again, the Legacy has standard all-wheel drive). All-wheel drive tends to hamper performance because of the added weight of the system.

2020 Subaru Legacy The Subaru Legacy comes standard with all-wheel drive.Photo courtesy of Subaru

Subaru will sell the Legacy in six trim levels: base, Premium, Sport, Limited, Limited XT, and Touring XT. All models get the Legacy's beefier but refined exterior as well as LED headlights, high beam assist, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, satellite radio, rearview camera, and roof rack anchors. XT models have the turbocharged engine.

Seventeen-inch wheels are standard. Buyers can upgrade to 17-inch alloys, black 18-inch alloys, or 18-inch alloys depending on trim level.

Inside, from the B-pillar forward, the Legacy is the same as the Outback, though the materials and appointments are different, finely tuned for the customer base. That means more surfaces that are pleasing to the touch over the outgoing Legacy model and there are finer materials throughout including sophisticated soft-touch surfaces.

2020 Subaru Legacy The Legacy has been refined for the 2020 model year, including its fresh interior.Photo courtesy of Subaru

A 7-inch infotainment touch screen is standard. Subaru's new 11.6-inch tablet-like infotainment screen is centrally located and standard on Premium, Sport and Limited trims. The tablet is easy to use, but a bit juvenile in some of its design and color choices. It features the option of split-screen navigation, using a portion of the screen to show directions and another to show audio controls.

The model also comes standard with Bluetooth. A Wi-Fi hot spot is available as well as the Starlink Concierge packages which offers hotel concierge-like recommendations. Touring XT trims also feature a forward monitor, which is handy when pulling into parking spaces.

2020 Subaru Legacy The Legacy comes standard with Subaru's EyeSign safety and driver assistance technology.Photo courtesy of Subaru

Subaru EyeSight driver assist technology is also standard and features adaptive cruise control and lane centering, among other technologies. The DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, which uses infrared technology similar to what is in an iPhone to scan the facial features of the driver and tell if the driver is not watching the road and alert them, is available on Limited and is standard on both XT trims.

Pricing for the 2020 Subaru Legacy starts at $22,745 and tops out at $35,895. When you consider it comes standard with all-wheel drive, the Legacy is priced very competitively. All Legacys come with an additional $900 destination and handling charge.

The 2020 Subaru Legacy is not available at dealerships nationwide.

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Infiniti has admitted that it made mistakes when it launched the redesigned QX50 luxury midsize SUV in January 2018. The right packages and options were not in place to give the model the success it deserved. However, in the year since its launch, the landscape has changed.

The Acura RDX has been redesigned as an agile and athletic daily driver, Audi introduced the SQ5 model giving sportiness to the family-friendly Q5 SUV, and the Volvo XC60 has made a strong argument for attention with a redesign. Lincoln has also introduced the Corsair, which is perhaps the QX50's biggest competition.

2020 Infiniti QX50 The models looks haven't changed much since it debuted in 2018.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

The QX50 is a comfortable cruiser. It's not particularly engaging nor is it altogether peppy but it is capable. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 268 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, the SUV does everything it's supposed to without protest.

The SUV rides smoothly and doesn't pass on much road noise to the cabin.

The car steers accurately if a bit numbly but it is easy to drive, especially when equipped with ProPilot Assist, Nissan's suite of drive assistance and safety technology that includes a lane centering functionality when using cruise control. The technology makes long drives less of a chore while also keeping the car centered when the driver exhibits distracting behavior like drinking a sip of coffee or changing the radio station.

Switching from a SUV with ProPilot Assit to one with standard cruise control is a quick reminder of how good the system is. Buyers should opt for models with the technology if they can afford it.

Steering wheel The seats of the Infiniti QX50 are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

Journalists who review the QX50 are likely to call its infotainment system dated. They're used to having the latest, greatest, and most innovative products at their fingertips. However, buyers coming from cars over three years old will likely see the QX50's two-screen infotainment system as a step up from what they currently have in their driveway. The controls of the system are easy to use despite the fact that the navigation screen isn't able to be easily read while driving.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the model, as are blind spot warning, forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Moving up from the $38,000-ish QX50 base model to the mid-grade QX50 Essential $44,000 gets buyers heated seats, a panoramic moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, Around View Monitor, power sunshade, LED fog lamps, and roof rails. It is in this configuration that the QX50 hits the right balance between features, power, capability, luxury features, and price. The QX50 tops out near $60,000.

Dual screen infotainment system Infiniti is one of the few companies that offers a dual-screen infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

If a stranger were to approach on the street and ask if the QX50 is a "good car," it would be easy to answer with, "yes." It's not a vehicle meant for sporty drivers looking for zippy ride around town. It's comfortable, capable, and priced right for the average premium compact SUV buyer coming out of an aging model.

Ford trucks reigned supreme over the last decade.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For decades, Kelley Blue Book has been studying auto sales trends and reporting on those findings. To mark the close of the decade, 2010-2020, KBB looked back at the numbers for the last 10 years and found some surprising things.

The single best sales month was December 2016.

Nico Rosberg 2016 F1 Champtionship

Photo by Getty Images

There was a lot going on in 2016, not the least exciting of which was Nico Rosberg wining the F1 Championship. Automakers sold more vehicles in 2016 than they did at any other point during the decade. The December 2016 sales capped off a record year. Here's the top five months over the decade by volume:

  • December 2016: 1,683,408
  • March 2018: 1,648,222
  • May 2015: 1,634,833
  • December 2015: 1,634,329
  • August 2019: 1,632,287

Subaru might have had the best decade of everyone.

2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Sure, Ford sold a lot of trucks and Nissan saw tremendous early-decade growth in its SUV lineup, but Subaru is the real winner. In 2010, Subaru sold 263,000 vehicles in the U.S. By the end of the decade, in 2019, they sold 700,000. They probably would have sold more but they scaled back production to launch two new vehicles at the end of the decade.

Most forecasts were wrong about December 2019, but that doesn't mean it was a great month.

2020 Ram 1500

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Analysts forecasted weak sales for the last month of 2019 but the market surprised them delivering a strong result. However, December 2019 was only the 26th best-selling month of the decade according to KBB, which measured 1,506,401 units sold. See the best-selling trucks of 2019 here.

Volvo's best month was the last month of the decade.

2019 Volvo XC60

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Volvo left the decade with the best month it has had in 10 years. The company sold 12,360 units. However, Volvo had higher sales in the months prior to the Great Recession.

Ford delivered the highest monthly sales total of all automakers in the last 10 years.

2019 Ford Focus

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While some may bemoan the Blue Oval's current state of automotive affairs, they had a really great month five and a half years ago. In May 2014, Ford sold 244,501 vehicles, roughly 15.5% of the entire industry's sales for the month. In that single month, Ford sold more vehicles than Smart did in the entire decade. See the best-selling new cars of 2019 here.

Buyers are spending more on their cars than ever before.

2020 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

According to KBB, "At the end of 2011, the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle in the U.S. was near $30,000. In February 2015, ATP for the month was above $33,000 for the first time ($33,056). It broke through $35,000 in June of 2017, and passed $37,000 later that year, in December when transaction prices commonly peak due to the high volume of luxury vehicle sales. Transaction prices were above $38,000 through the final three months of 2019. The Kelley Blue Book ATP in December 2019 was $38,767 – the highest point in the past decade."

See the best-selling new SUVs of 2019 here.

Tesla came to play.

2019 Tesla Model3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

In 2010 and 2011, Tesla wasn't really on anyone's radar and now it's a household name. KBB estimates that Tesla sold 12 vehicles in June 2012. They reached 10,000 in sales per month in March 2018 and hit peak monthly sales in December 2018 when 32,600 vehicles were sold.

High-performance cars were costliest in January 2019.

2020 Ferrari Roma

Photo courtesy of Ferrari N.V.

Everyone seems to drive a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda Civic. For the select few wealthy enough to enjoy the fruits of the Acura NSX, Ford GT, and anything with a horse logo on it, this decade was kind for options but expensive. KBB says that in January 2019, the ATP for the segment peaked for the decade at $121,739.

With the Trump Tax Cuts came more fleet sales.

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

According to KBB, "Six of the Top 10 best months for fleet sales in the past decade occurred after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In May 2019, an estimated 425,000 vehicles were sold to fleet buyers, a record 27 percent of total U.S. sales. Fleet, it's worth noting, generally accounts for 20% of sales in a given month."

There was never a time in the last 10 years that the Ford F-Series was not the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

2020 Ford Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ten straight years of month-to-month dominance. Muhammed Ali wasn't even that good. Ford has sold 7,578,608 F-Series pickups in the last decade - one every 41 seconds. The best month for the F-Series was December 2017 where, in a single month, the company sold 89,385 F-Series trucks.