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A blue 2024 Subaru Legacy Touring XT is shown parked near historical buildings.

The Legacy of the Subaru Legacy Into the Future

According to, the definition of “legacy” is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” As the longest-selling Subaru model in the United States, one could say that the 2024 Subaru Legacy is deserving of this name.

However, this has not always been the case for Subaru’s hardy sedan. While the manufacturer cheerfully reports that 95% of all Legacy vehicles purchased within the past ten years are still on the road today, there was a time when this quirky sedan struggled to compete with Toyota, Nissan, and Honda.

The introduction of the 2024 Legacy reminds us that times change, but the really good things in life endure. Though today’s version looks nothing like the boxy five-door wagons of the 1990s, drivers contend that despite the rapid proliferation of SUVs this Legacy is worth continuing.

To emphasize the journey of the Subaru Legacy to date, let’s take a look at the newly-announced 2024 version compared to its ancestors of yesteryear, and marvel at what a difference a few decades can make.

A gray 2024 Subaru Legacy Limited is shown driving on a wet city road.

Big Changes Inside and Out

The earliest generation of Subaru Legacy looked like many cars of 1990–low, boxy, and geometrically square. Looking at other top sellers of the time, like the Camry or Accord, you’ll notice that this decade was dominated by hard lines and right angles.

When the Legacy was introduced to the market in 1989, the public was a bit confused about its place in the market. This was about the same time Japanese auto manufacturers were introducing their upscale brands, including Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus. Since the Legacy was placed at the top of Subaru’s lineup, there was an assumption that this was supposed to be their luxury offering.

From Subaru’s standpoint, the Legacy was an introduction to a more advanced type of vehicle, one that included the latest technology and most impressive engineering to date. The first generation Legacy included four-door sedans and five-door wagons. A full-time all-wheel drive package was optional in those days, though features like four-wheel independent suspension, all-wheel disc brakes, and power windows were part of the standard package. If drivers wanted to, they could add air suspension height control, which lowered the vehicle for greater aerodynamics at higher speeds and could be used to raise the vehicle for off-roading.

The 2024 Subaru Legacy is a bit different from its predecessors. It’s a lot curvier, for one thing. While it’s still unmistakably a Subaru sedan, gone are the “boxy but good” days. The five-door wagon option is no longer offered, but since 1996 all-wheel drive has been standard on all Subarus (except the rear-wheel drive BRZ). Other standard features across the lineup are Subaru’s STARLINK touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, plus a rear vision camera.

Climbing up the trims adds more and more features. The Premium trim includes an upgraded 11.6-inch multimedia system with wireless phone app connectivity, a bevy of illuminated and easy-to-locate USB-A and USB-C ports, and rear seat ventilation. The Sport trim includes an upgraded turbo engine with sport-tuned suspension and a premium Harman Kardon audio system. The Limited trim includes perforated leather-trimmed upholstery with heated rear seats, and the top Touring XT trim includes touches like a power moonroof, 360-degree heated steering wheel, and Nappa leather seating.

The gray interior and dash of a 2024 Subaru Legacy is shown.

The Subaru Legacy in the Era of Safety

While we’re collectively in denial about how long ago the 1990s really were, they were an entirely different time for automotive safety technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated that all vehicles produced after April 1, 1989, would include a passive front passenger restraint system, which was intended to encourage manufacturers to add airbags to their standard safety equipment. The Legacy began with automatic seat belts that met this requirement, but by 1993 all Legacy models included a driver-side airbag. With the introduction of the second generation in 1995, all Legacy models were equipped with dual airbags, replacing the dreaded automatic seat belts.

Today’s Legacy has been an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety pick for 18 continuous years, so it’s clear that the safety features have developed significantly over time. With eight total airbags, a reinforced frame, and adjustable head restraints for every seat, Subaru proudly announces that each passenger receives full protection.

Furthermore, each 2024 Legacy includes the full EyeSight Driver Assistance Technology package, which includes features that help mitigate accidents such as adaptive cruise control, lane-centering and lane-keeping, pre-collision braking, and throttle management. Other features available throughout the lineup include steering-responsive headlights, rear vision camera with rear collision assistance, and blind spot alerts.

Also available on higher trims or as part of special packages is Subaru’s DriverFocus system, which employs cameras and sensors to ensure drivers are paying attention to the road. Impressively, this means taking the driver’s attention away from details such as seat position, climate settings, and exterior mirror position by remembering up to five different configurations. With less time spent wiggling the seats and mirrors, drivers can confidently take to the road with their eyes on traffic and their hands on the wheel.

A gray 2024 Subaru Legacy Touring XT is shown parked near a city at night.

It’s Fun to Drive

Some people love to drive sedans, and others do not. We’re not here to change your mind about that, but the driving style and manners of an all-wheel drive sedan like the 2024 Subaru Legacy are hard to compare to the front-wheel drive models available on the road today. They always have been.

Though the first-generation Legacy was a mystery to sedan drivers, those who recognized the off-roading potential swooped in to save the day. AWD Legacy wagons were driven in the Alcan Winter Rally, which starts in Seattle, Washington, zips northward to the Arctic Circle, and back to Seattle. Measuring 6,300 miles one way, this race tests the mettle of both humans and vehicles. Legacy wagons finished first and second in the 1990 race, and first again in the 1992 race.

Furthermore, of the 58 vehicles that entered the 1990 Safari Rally, ten finished the race. Two of them were Subaru Legacy models. From 1990 through the middle of the 1993 season, the Subaru Legacy competed in the World Rally Championship with none other than future champion Colin McRae behind the wheel. That’s not bad for a vehicle that came equipped with a 130-horsepower 2.2L EJ engine, developed specifically for the model. The EJ would go on to power all Subaru models for many years, gaining significantly more horsepower as the years went on, especially in the WRX and STI models.

Today’s Legacy includes a standard 2.5L Boxer engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. A Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is paired to this engine, including an eight-speed manual shift mode with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. Drivers who are interested in a bit more power can choose a 2.4L Turbo Boxer engine, which offers a mighty 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque.

Subaru’s Symmetrical All-wheel Drive technology is on board each Legacy, as well as Active Torque Vectoring. Together, these features are constantly monitoring the performance of each wheel and adjusting power and braking to ensure drivers stick to the road in all sorts of conditions. As a result, many drivers feel confident in the Legacy sedan’s capability as a family vehicle.

A red 2024 Subaru Legacy is shown driving on a city street.

The Legacy Continues

Living in an SUV-dominated world, many drivers fear that the sedan’s days are numbered. With compelling stablemates like the Crosstrek and Outback, the Subaru Legacy seems to have settled back into its comfortable niche.

Still, there’s something to be said about a well-mannered, friendly sedan like the Legacy. Given its history, it’s hard to not root for the underdog who could. Furthermore, an all-wheel sedan may be an actual unicorn in today’s automotive market. While we’ve seen all-wheel drive versions of favorites like the Toyota Camry, the Legacy has a different genetic code. Born into a world of off-roading and rally champion classics, there’s a certain capability and hardiness to the Legacy that other manufacturers have yet to replicate.

The 2024 Subaru Legacy promises to continue the story as one of the most unusual, quirky, and compelling sedans available today. How long that story will continue is debatable, but for the time being, the Legacy persists as its own special breed of sedan.