The Subaru, a division of Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan has been producing a mid-sized vehicle called the Subaru Legacy since 1989. It is offered both as sedan and wagon versions. The idea was to design a vehicle that could compete in the profitable North American mid-sized market, particularly with Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Subaru also produced some top of the line Legacy versions so as to compete with the vehicles like Alfa Romeo 159, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The Legacy is also regarded as the flagship vehicle of Subaru.
A crossover version with extended ground clearance was also released by Subaru in 1995 as the Legacy Outback.
For its class, the Legacy is the only vehicle which is offered standard with 4-wheel drive system. It also features the Subaru’s long running and venerable boxer engine. In the Australian market, the Legacy is marketed as the Liberty under the courtesy of Legacy Australia. Total of 3.6 million units of Legacy have been produced until 2008 since the time of its first appearance in 1989.
First Generation (BC, BJ, BF; 1989–1994)
In Japanese market, the first generation Legacy was introduced on January 23, 1989 and reached the dealership by February 1, 1989. However, it was offered in an international market in 1990.
The Japanese version of Legacy RS received a 2.0-L DOHC turbocharged EJ20G engine rated at 217 bhp (162 kW; 220 PS) which was also used in Subaru Impreza WRX on its launch in Japanese market in 1992. The export version of Legacy RS received a 2.0-L DOHC featuring water-cooled intercooler mated to manual transmission. On the other hand, the US version of Legacy came with a 2.2-L SOHC EJ22T rated at 163 bhp (122 kW; 165 PS). The water-cooled intercooler was released in 1991. The engine was mated to either a manual or automatic transmission.
It was offered as 5-door wagon or 4-door sedan where front-wheel drive was standard, while full-time 4-wheel drive package was available as an option. The vehicle was offered in United Kingdom, Germany, North America as well as Benelux region of Northern Europe, Australia and Japan.
Second Generation (BD, BG, BK; 1994–1999)
The second generation Legacy was launched in Japanese market on October 7, 1993. It was launched in North American market as 1995 model year.
In Japanese market, the US-spec GT models were introduced as a turbocharged sedan or wagon in 1991. In 1994, the trim package of US version was released. In 1996, it transformed into a high performance model featuring a new 2.5-L DOHC EJ25D naturally aspirated engine. Subaru also released the ‘Limited’ trim level editions featuring a tinted, glass moonroof and heated leather/cloth seats and trim. In 1998, the ‘GT’ model received the ‘Limited’ tag and became ‘GT Limited’
Third Generation (BE, BH; 1998–2003)
In June 1998, the third generation Legacy was released by Subaru. The North American version was introduced in 1999 and sold as 2000 model year, designated as BE for sedans and BH for wagons. Both Japanese and European models received a number of normally-aspirated engines, i.e. 2.0-L flat-4 and EZ30 flat-6 used in 3.0R model featuring twin-turbo. The third generation Legacy arrived in United States with a 2.5-L EJ251 engine. However, a new 3.0-L H6 EZ30 engine was added in 2001. The engine was now made in correspondence with the California’s LEV emissions standard.
Subaru discontinued the flat roof wagons in overseas market and now offers an elevated roof on both Legacy Outback and Legacy wagon. The American version also received daytime running lamps for its 2000 model.
In the Japanese twin-turbo versions, there was present an option of manual or semi-automatic transmission known as SportShift. It permitted the drive to shove the automatic gearshift knob to the left, where the drive could easily shift the automatic gears similar to manual transmission.
Fourth Generation (BL, BP; 2003–2009)
A completely redesigned Legacy was launched as the fourth generation model in 2004, designated as BL for sedan and BP for wagon. In the similar year, the Subaru Indiana Automotive started its production to meet the demands of North American automotive market.
The fourth generation Legacy’s chassis was made stronger and harder. It was marked as the revival of the turbocharged engine in the North American Legacy. The Legacy now offered with a 2.5-L engine taken from the Impreza WRX STI sold there. The twin-turbo arrangement was soon withdrawn because of the revised emission standards and improved turbocharger technology. The H6 and turbocharged versions featured the Subaru’s 5-speed automatic transmission with SportShift technology.
In the year 2005, several different trim versions of Legacy was introduced in United States including 2.5i, 2.5i Limited, 2.5GT and 2.5GT Limited. All the models were offered both as sedan and wagon styles. The regular GT version was discontinued in 2006 in favor of 2.5i Special Edition.
Fifth Generation (BM, BR; 2009-present)
The fifth generation model was basically produced to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the vehicle. In commemoration of 20th anniversary, concept Subaru Legacy was revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in 2009.
It is said that the production of the fifth generation Legacy was started in May 2009 and was launched in Japanese market later. STI also tuned a Legacy B4 2.5GT tS version which was launched on June 12, 2010.