Home » The Subaru Legacy Is Ready To Die And That Should Be A Warning

The Subaru Legacy Is Ready To Die And That Should Be A Warning

Subaru Legacy Warning Ts
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It’s official. Subaru has announced that production of the Legacy midsize sedan will end in Spring 2025 after 36 years of production. Yep, the archetypal all-wheel-drive midsize sedan is set to saunter off into the sunset, marking another departure from the world we’re used to. For decades, the Legacy embodied Subaru’s persona of slightly quirky all-weather Japanese cars, and I reckon its death could be the canary in the coal mine if Subaru doesn’t act fast.

See, you can only hold a competitive advantage for so long, and the world seems to have caught up to Subaru. In a few short years, don’t be surprised if the industry’s further still down the road – and if Subaru doesn’t change soon – the brand finds itself lost in the dust. After all, the things that make a Subaru a Subaru seem to be growing less and less important.

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Over the past, say, thirty-plus years, Subaru has staked its technological identity on two things: all-wheel-drive and safety. For the longest while, if you wanted an all-wheel-drive car, you needed a Subaru or an Audi and that was that. However, the tides are changing, and the shoreline is receding. Nowadays, you can get any number of normal passenger cars with some form of all-wheel-drive. The Mazda 3, the Toyota Corolla, the Kia K5, the Nissan Altima, and the Toyota Camry can all be optioned to send some torque to the rear tires.

However, people are buying more crossover utility vehicles than sedans, and that’s a slight problem because basically all CUVs are available with all-wheel-drive. Sure, the Chevrolet Trax, Buick Envista, Hyundai Venue, and outgoing Nissan Kicks are two-wheel-drive machines, but those are single cells of the great organism that is the CUV segment.

2025 Subaru Forester Reveal Santabarbara009

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Granted, not all all-wheel-drive systems are created equally, but thanks to faster processing and more sophisticated algorithms, reactive all-wheel-drive systems are really closing the perceptible gap with all-wheel-drive systems that always send torque to both axles. Plus, an all-wheel-drive system is only as good as its differentials, and since most systems including most Subaru systems use open front and rear differentials, controlling wheelspin caused by cross-axle traction imbalances falls to traction control systems and tire grip.

2023 Subaru Solterra 05

Oh, and that’s before we even get into electric vehicles. The Subaru Solterra is much like any dual-motor all-wheel-drive electric crossover with a drive unit on the front axle and another on the rear. Functionally, it works on exactly the same principles as all-wheel-drive in a Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, or Hyundai Ioniq 5. If EV mandates keep up, Subaru’s “Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive” marketing advantage will largely be wiped out in essentially two model cycles.

Alright, so even if EV mandates go to plan and Subaru’s all-wheel-drive advantage slides off the table, that still leaves safety, right? Well, not so fast. It wasn’t that long ago when new cars weren’t achieving top marks in moderate overlap crash testing, but now pretty much everything aces the moderate frontal overlap test and most new cars do brilliantly on the more severe small overlap test. From Mazda to Toyota to Hyundai, it’s not hard to find other automakers scoring just as well as Subaru. Once everything’s safe, what’s the difference?

24my Legacy Sport 3

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If you remove Symmetrical all-wheel-drive, the flat-four engine, and even a cut-and-dry safety advantage, what makes a Subaru a Subaru? It definitely isn’t motorsports anymore, which begs the question: Is marketing enough alone? While some people will definitely continue to buy Subarus for the image, those who believe in the technology may grow to be disappointed, and those who’ve been burned by odd problems will continue to share their stories. Should this industry-wide switch to even primarily battery electric power happen, Subaru will need to think on its feet.

The Subaru Legacy may be officially on the way out, but Subaru’s own legacy hangs in the balance of changing technologies. How it chooses to reinvent itself in the face of electrification could decide whether the automaker sinks or swims. Is a lifeguard on duty?

Counterpoint

I recently wrote a review on the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, and while I didn’t like the CVT, I didn’t like the interior quality, and I implied that it feels like an all-wheel drive economy car on stilts, I acknowledged that it still had soul. And that’s the thing: People often buy cars not because of the hardware, but because of styling and marketing. 

I mean, look at Jeep. Aside from the Wrangler, how is their Grand Cherokee any different than say, a Touareg or a Volvo XC90? How are the Renegade and Compass any different than all the other all-wheel drive crossovers? And yet, still folks buy them because they’re Jeeps, and also because of their styling, which tells a story that Jeep’s marketing team has carefully crafted over the last seven decades. 

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Ditto for Subaru. I will acknowledge that there seem to be more and more competitors these days (the newest CX-5 comes standard with all-wheel drive), and there will be more as the EV-era ramps up (adding all-wheel drive to EVs is trivial compared to adding it to a gas car), but I think styling and marketing will continue the Subaru cult for years to come.

-David Tracy

(Photo credits: Subaru)

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Johnpmac
Johnpmac
23 days ago

Falling apart at 180,000 miles. It’s what makes a Subaru… Well, you know. This article also fails to mention that during the pandemic, Subaru stopped including a golden retriever as standard with their cars. What a loss. At least every other car on the road looks like an outback now.

Smoke&Mears
Smoke&Mears
24 days ago

I thought Subarus current USP is outdoorsy stuff, hence the special hiker edition of practically every model in their catalogue?

Datsun 720
Datsun 720
24 days ago

Ok, I’m the weirdo, but maybe not surprised. 2017 Legacy, third Subaru, no real probs so far at a smidge under 80k miles. That won’t last, but it’s true for now. Terrific range on the interstate. And yeah, I get the hate for the stretchy-band transmission, but I generally have a blast in the slow-car-fast approach. For a six foot hefty dude, the seats hold up and (for my butt) are really comfortable. Plus, it’s as anonymous as you can be. And flying under the radar in Metro Atlanta traffic is kinda sorta just… peachy… with me. Do I love it? Nah. I loved my 81 King Cab and never should have gifted it back to my dad, who just ruined it before he generously offered to sell it back to me. That truck was the brother I never had. But I like the Legacy for sure, in part because I haven’t had to do a VW TDI timing belt swap every 80k (I used to do like 30k a year, and we tend to keep cars a long time), which is a huge plus. Will something break tomorrow? Probably! But it’s a better car than folks think.

Subaru Apologist
Subaru Apologist
24 days ago

Bought my first subie 20 years ago and they’ve been all I’ve driven since. Plenty of friends have them too. I guess we’re exactly in the demographic sweet spot for the brand.

Anyway, despite my username here I can almost guarantee my next car won’t be another subaru. Making those apologies is getting harder and harder. Honestly my wife’s 17 legacy is a pile of shit. Constant nagging little problems, cheap materials. I mean I could say the same when I had my wrx but at least it was truly fun to drive.

Subaru lost its soul sometime in the past decade and I don’t see it coming back. Don’t even get me started on the wilderness edition cosplay whole foods models.

Goblin
Goblin
23 days ago

I think no one addresses the elephant in the room, which that unless you’re called Toyota, the second you start manufacturing your cars in the US, they turn to shit. Not that much in the sense of reliability as in the sense of percieved quality.

Plastics start screeching, they smell different, even the new car smell is different.

When the time came to replace my (Made in Korea) Santa Fe (XL) – the long wheelbase being made in Korea, the short wheelbase being made in the US – I concidered a Sorento instead.

Did a test drive, and kept my Santa Fe. The Sorento was great, but it smelled different, it felt different, and there were fine beads of glue on the plastic (brand new car at the dealership).

My 2003 WRX was made in Japan.

Mazdas are still Hiroshima-made. Lexus is still mostly built in Japan.

Subaru has been building cars in Indiana for decades, but somehow I feel the ones that were interesting always came straight from Japan.
Maybe things went bad enough now that even Japan-made ones suck.

Shinynugget
Shinynugget
24 days ago

My ex had a 2015 Forrester that I drove occasionally. On the highway a CVT is fine, you wouldn’t know any difference. Around town, the rubber-banding affect drove me nuts. I also have long term reliability questions about CVT’s, not just Subaru’s.
For me they jus stopped selling interesting, unique cars. No more manuals(ex WRX/STI), performance sedans/wagons, WRX hatch/wagons. They just aren’t as quirky as they use to be.

CampoDF
CampoDF
24 days ago

Subaru could easily win back some customers if they actually bothered to innovate or even advance their tech and drivetrains. But they don’t – they are perennially at least a generation behind on everything and it’s not like that makes their cars any more reliable. If they ditched the CVT and put in a modern 8-speed auto or DCT with a turbo on their cars I’d look at them again, but I was burned on my 2013 Legacy with the shit CVT and NA 4-cylinder that is still in their cars 11 years later (bought because it was the only non-luxury sedan with AWD I could buy at the time). Subaru is largely smoke and mirrors branding and marketing and that’s how they keep their sales volume. They are admittedly good at branding. But I don’t think any of their cars can be called segment leading in any segment they compete in and they aren’t exactly the cheapest in the segment either.

SundayDriver
SundayDriver
24 days ago

Hearing this is kinda sad. We are on our third Subaru.
Had a 2019 Impreza Sport. Loved that little car. CVT wasn’t great but it went great in the winter. (For the record I’m in the Northern part of PA where winters can be bland or tons of snow + ice)
We traded for a 2021 Forester Sport when kid #2 came along as the rear facing seat made the passenger in the Impreza pretty much sit on the dashboard.
After a few years of that, she wanted a sedan rather than a “soccer mom” car. We are now in a 2023 Legacy. Overall, the Legacy goes great in the winter and summer months. I do with they brought back knobs and made the “info-taiment” screen a bit faster but it’s a generic box that the wife enjoys and we get nearly 30mpg all year long.

Yeah, I guess we did buy into the Subaru hype but overall we’ve had a positive experience (except for our local dealer but that’s another story!). We have no plans to upgrade or trade as we do enjoy the Legacy. I do wish I would have swung for the Sport with the turbo but I was looking at it from a daily driver standpoint and premium fuel + lower MPG didn’t seem to make sense.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
24 days ago

So, the cancellation of a perennial sales loser is the canary in the coal mine? Not buying it. I do agree they will need to better differentiate themselves in the EV market. Running a brand-labeled Toyota isn’t going to fly for long. I know they’ve done this before with the 86/BRZ, but that at least has some very apparent Subie DNA with the flat four. And, honestly, to David’s point their carefully cultivated image will carry them for some time to come regardless.

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