When looking over the most recent batch of spy-photos showcasing the next generation Subaru Legacy, my first response was to head-butt the keyboard - repeatedly.
See, while the current version appears nice, it doesn't really grab one's attention and encompasses odd styling elements with its over-sized wheel arches and bulbous headlamps. Subaru had the chance to hit a home run with the upcoming 6th generation mid-sizer, however on first appearances it seems they've taken the conservative route as illustrated here.
Now, I'll be the first to admit to having a bias towards the 4th generation Legacy (2003-2009) with its sleek silhouette and frameless door windows - a unique design trait that most Subaru's had up until recent years. In a visual sense, the Japanese brand seems to have conformed to the motoring mainstream whilst losing some of its aesthetic identity in the process. All is not lost though; giving the camo-clad test mule the digital peel reveals a body much more taut, sculptured and trimmed than ever before.
Viewing from the side highlights a strong character line starting from behind the front wheel arch leading towards the tail lamps, with a secondary side edging hovering above the doorsills. The sheet-metal pressings now have crisp folds that add a premium feel to the surface language, whilst the hood and bumper are also nicely formed. What isn't so nice is where the rear doors meet the base of the C-pillar; that faux plastic and chrome quarter-window extension looks horrible and clumsy. It's the result of an engineering-versus-styling compromise to give the illusion that the rear doors are longer than they actually are - a visual trick that Mazda tried pulling off with its '6' sedan.
Casting your eyes over the rest of the car reveals a rather restrained approach to the side DLO (daylight opening area), with windscreen pillars set more 'upright' compared to sleeker offerings such as the Ford Fusion and Mazda6. Frontal treatment is more massaged than radical - therefore cue the signature Subaru 'superman' chrome-framed grill and headlights that no longer resemble cancerous tumors like the items fixed to the current car. Taillight treatment harks back to the 3rd generation B4 Legacy sedan with its reverse/indicator clusters sandwiched horizontally between the brake light segments, whilst the overall trunk design appears more harmonious.
At this stage, less is known about the interior, although initial test mules reveal a dashboard housing similar to the current Impreza. However one would hope more effort was put into differentiating the interior design compared to other models in the Subaru range; sharing virtually the same dash across models may save costs but does nothing for individuality. Expect a cabin with better quality materials (a bugbear of the current Legacy) and a more thoughtful ergonomic layout with infotainment goodies to battle the segment leaders.
Safety will continue as a huge Subaru strongpoint with its symmetrical all-wheel drive, EyeSight driver assist package and Boron-steel reinforced body structure. Propelling all this peace of mind will be the current 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to either a continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual. Word is that the GT version may make a reappearance, albeit with a smaller, more powerful 2.0-liter turbo boxer engine as found in the latest Forester XT.
As with most other car manufacturers on American soil - a straight-out wagon version of any sedan is forbidden fruit, yet those with practicality as priority can still opt for the higher-riding Outback variant. Which is still a shame, as previous generation Legacy wagons (4th generation and earlier) have been rather attractive.
Rivals? Well, it's perched in amongst a very crowded mid-size market; not that it should worry the Japanese manufacturer - its sales have been rather steady and the brand is going from strength to strength of recent times. Regardless, this upcoming redesign will still have to battle against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu to name a few. Expect an on-sale date next year as a 2015MY version.
Overall, at a first glance, the next Legacy appears as an nice evolution that should help grow the brand, yet unfortunately, I have the feeling they've played it too safe. What do you think; is it the right middle ground or should they have gone for something sleeker like the silver wagon I illustrated below? Let us know your thoughts below.
By Josh ByrnesPhoto Renderings Copyright: Carscoops / Josh Byrnes