Best & Worst Subaru Legacy Years

We've ranked each Subaru Legacy model for all generations so you can avoid picking the worst Subaru Legacy years and go for the best Subaru Legacy years.

In this guide, I’ll analyze the latest Subaru Legacy generations, revealing the best Subaru Legacy years to buy and the worst Legacy years to avoid.

Our analysis draws on diverse and reliable sources like Consumer Reports, J.D. Power, and NHTSA, ensuring accuracy and trustworthiness.

Focusing on each Subaru Legacy generation, I’ll delve into engine performance, technological and safety features, common owner-reported problems, and recalls.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Subaru Legacy Generations

The Subaru Legacy, first introduced in the late 1980s, is known for its standard all-wheel drive and boxer engines.

Throughout its evolution, the Legacy has been a symbol of Subaru’s commitment to safety and reliability, combined with comfortable interiors and practical features.

Here’s a glance at the Subaru Legacy generations from the year 2000 to the present:

GenerationYears
3rd generation (BE)2000-2004
4th generation (BL)2005-2009
5th generation (BM)2010-2014
6th generation (BN)2015-2019
7th generation (BT)2020-Present

Each generation brings distinct design, technology, and performance changes, possibly influencing a buyer’s decision based on their specific needs and preferences.

Subaru also introduces a new generation for every 5th model year, as seen in the table above.

Subaru Legacy Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When assessing the best, neutral, and worst years for Subaru Legacy models, our rankings and categorizations consider a myriad of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Here is a graph combining all the ratings from the above sources, offering a visual representation of the Subaru Legacy’s performance over different years.

Subaru Legacy Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Following this is a table categorizing all model years of the Subaru Legacy into the best, neutral, and worst years based on our comprehensive analysis.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
3rd generation (BE)2003
2004
N/A2000
2001
2002
4th generation (BL)2006
2007
2008
2009
N/A2005
5th generation (BM)2013
2014
20122010
2011
6th generation (BN)2018
2019
20172015
2016
7th generation (BT)2021
2022
2023
2024
N/A2020

“Neutral years” don’t fall distinctly into the best or worst categories but still offer reliable performance with fewer issues than the worst years.

Some factors, such as NHTSA recalls, can significantly impact a car’s reliability rating, with many complaints and recalls often correlating with lower reliability.

Let’s dive into the Subaru Legacy’s best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Legacy 3rd Generation (2000-2004)

Subaru Legacy 3rd generation 2000 model
The 2000 Subaru Legacy

The 3rd generation Subaru Legacy, from 2000 to 2004, marked more sophisticated styling and advanced technology, reflecting Subaru’s growing focus on safety and comfort.

2003 and 2004 are the third generation Subaru Legacy’s best years, while the worst years to avoid span between 2000 and 2002.

The Best Years: 2003, 2004

The 2003 and 2004 models of the Subaru Legacy are considered the best years of this generation.

They were equipped with a robust 2.5L four-cylinder engine known for its durability and reliability. These models offered a choice between a 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual transmission.

Fuel efficiency for these years hovered around 19 city/25 highway mpg, which was respectable for mid-size sedans of the time.

Regarding safety, these models featured advanced airbag systems and improved structural integrity for enhanced crash protection.

The interior was also upgraded with more refined materials and better sound insulation, creating a more comfortable and quieter cabin experience.

The Worst Years: 2000, 2001, 2002

In the initial years of the third generation, the Subaru Legacy faced significant issues, particularly with engine and transmission reliability. 2000, 2001, and 2002 are the Legacy years to avoid in this generation.

The 2000, 2001, and 2002 Subaru Legacy models were plagued with head gasket failures, fuel leaks, transmission failures, and frame corrosion.

Necessary recalls for these models concerned fuel leaks, defective transmission tie rods, unintended acceleration, and especially the rear suspension subframe corrosion.

These persistent engine, transmission, corrosion issues and associated high repair costs make these years less desirable for potential buyers.

See NHTSA 2000, 2001, 2002 Subaru Legacy recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Legacy 4th Generation (2005-2009)

Subaru Legacy 4th generation 2005 model
The 2005 Subaru Legacy

The 4th generation Subaru Legacy, introduced in 2005, brought a more modern and stylish exterior, an improved interior, and advanced features.

2005 is the worst fourth-generation Subaru Legacy model year you should avoid, while the best Subaru Legacy years lie between 2006 and 2009.

The Best Years: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Earning higher-than-average Edmunds ratings by owners, the Subaru Legacy 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 are highly regarded as the best model years of the fourth generation for their reliability and performance.

These models were powered by various engines, including a 2.5L EJ253 naturally aspirated four-cylinder and a more powerful turbocharged EJ255 variant.

The fuel economy for these years averaged around 20 city/27 highway mpg.

Transmission options included a smooth 4-speed automatic and a more engaging 5-speed manual.

Safety features were notably enhanced, with improved airbag systems and structural reinforcements for better crash protection.

However, the recall for the corroded brake lines also persisted in the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 models.

The Worst Year: 2005

Is 2005 a good year for Subaru Legacy? I wouldn’t recommend the 2005 Subaru Legacy as it faced several issues affecting its reliability.

The most significant problems were related to the electrical system and engine, including turbo failures due to clogged oil screens and fuel leaks at low temperatures.

Clutch failures and corroded rear brake lines were also reported, leading to safety concerns.

Despite having engine and transmission options similar to the later models, the 2005 Legacy’s frequent issues, especially with engine and brake system reliability, made it less desirable.

See NHTSA 2005 Subaru Legacy recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Legacy 5th Generation (2010-2014)

Subaru Legacy 5th generation 2010 model
The 2010 Subaru Legacy

The 5th generation Subaru Legacy, introduced in 2010, featured a more spacious interior, advanced safety technology, and improved performance characteristics.

The best years for the fifth-gen Subaru Legacy are 2013 and 2014. 2010 and 2011 are the Legacy model years to avoid “like the plague” in this generation.

The Best Years: 2013, 2014

Our research shows that the 2013 and 2014 Subaru Legacy models are the best years to buy, with a price tag of around 11000$.

They came equipped with a standard 2.5L H4 engine or an optional 3.6L H6, offering fuel economy of around 24 city/32 highway mpg.

These models featured Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive and a choice between a Lineartronic CVT and a 5-speed automatic (recommended).

Safety was a high point, with features like anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control, and a suite of airbags.

The EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, introduced in these years, added adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane departure warning, contributing to the Top Safety Pick+ award from IIHS.

Inside, the Legacy offered a comfortable and well-appointed cabin with leather seating, dual-zone climate control, and an upgraded infotainment system with smartphone integration.

The Neutral Year: 2012

The 2012 Subaru Legacy, while not reaching the heights of the subsequent model years, still offered a reliable and safe driving experience.

It shared many powertrain and safety features with the 2013 and 2014 models but did not have the same refinement or technological updates.

This model year was also affected by a recall concerning brake master cylinder malfunctions, potentially increasing braking distance.

The Worst Years: 2010, 2011

The initial years of the 5th generation, 2010 and 2011, faced several issues that impacted their reliability.

The most significant problems included stalling while braking due to torque converters in CVT and excessive vibration at higher speeds like 50-60 mph.

These models also suffered from persistent headlight burnouts and some steering wheel vibration.

Necessary recalls for these models concerned remote engine starter fob malfunctions, electronic parking brake failures, and windshield wiper motors.

These issues impacted the overall driving experience and owner satisfaction, making these years less desirable compared to the improved later models of this generation.

See NHTSA 2010, 2011 Subaru Legacy recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Legacy 6th Generation (2015-2019)

Subaru Legacy 6th generation 2015 model
The 2015 Subaru Legacy

The 6th generation of the Subaru Legacy, introduced in 2015, brought significant technological advancements, improved interiors, and enhanced driving dynamics.

The Subaru Legacy’s best years in its sixth generation are 2018 and 2019, while 2015 and 2016 are the worst years to avoid.

The Best Years: 2018, 2019

Which year Subaru Legacy is the best? Considering the price tag and good ratings from J.D. Power, the 2018 and 2019 Subaru Legacy models stand out as the best years in this generation.

They were equipped with a 2.5L H4 engine offering around 25 city/34 highway mpg or a more powerful 3.6L H6 option, both with 7/8-speed Lineartronic CVT.

These models featured Subaru’s acclaimed symmetrical all-wheel drive system, ensuring excellent traction and stability in various driving conditions.

Regarding safety, the Legacy continued to excel, with standard features including EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane departure warning.

The fifth-generation Legacy models earned Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS.

The interior saw upgrades like improved infotainment systems with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, more comfortable seating, and enhanced noise insulation.

The Neutral Year: 2017

The 2017 Subaru Legacy, while not as highly acclaimed as the 2018 and 2019 models, still delivered a solid performance.

It shared many features with the best years, including engine options and safety technologies.

However, owners reported issues like consistent battery drainage and replacement.

Transmission issues like hesitation, hard shifting, and high oil consumption were also reported. Many owners reported spontaneous windshield cracks without any impact.

The 2017 Subaru Legacy was subjected to a recall for the loss of steering ability.

The Worst Years: 2015, 2016

Is the 2015 Legacy reliable? 2015 and 2016 are the least reliable model years for the sixth-generation Subaru Legacy and are better avoided. Here is why:

These initial years of the sixth generation experienced issues like battery drainage, transmission hesitations, hard shifting, and high oil consumption.

Additionally, there were reports of spontaneous windshield cracks.

Recalls were issued for problems such as inoperative collision mitigation brakes and transmission oil leaks in the 2015 Subaru Legacy.

The 2016 Legacy was subjected to recalls covering transmission oil leaks, drive shaft detachment from the differential, and especially loss of steering ability.

See NHTSA 2015, 2016 Subaru Legacy recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Subaru Legacy 7th Generation (2020-Present)

Subaru Legacy 7th generation 2020 model
The 2020 Subaru Legacy

Introduced in 2020, the 7th generation Subaru Legacy marked a leap forward in technology and comfort, underscoring Subaru’s commitment to safety and reliability.

2020 is the Subaru Legacy year to avoid in this generation, while the best years are 2021 onwards.

The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

What are the most reliable Subaru Legacy model years? The 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 Subaru Legacy models are the seventh generation’s best and most reliable years.

These years saw the introduction of Subaru’s new global platform, offering improved handling, reduced noise, and enhanced safety.

Engine options included a standard 2.5L H4 engine with around 27 city/35 highway mpg and an optional turbocharged 2.4L H4-T engine.

The CVT transmission was further refined for smoother operation.

Safety features included standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, advanced adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and emergency lane keep assist, contributing Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS.

The interior featured Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with an 11.6-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration.

Optional features like driver distraction mitigation and front-view cameras added to the Legacy’s appeal.

The Worst Year: 2020

The 2020 Subaru Legacy, while still a solid vehicle, had some teething problems typical of a first-year model in a new generation.

Most notably, it experienced issues with spontaneous windshield cracks, similar to other Subaru models in this period.

The 2020 Legacy was subjected to recalls concerning inoperative rearview cameras, fuel pump failures, drive chains that may break, causing loss of drive power, and missing brake pedal mounting bracket bolts.

See NHTSA 2020 Subaru Legacy recalls and complaints.

Subaru Legacy Resale Values

See the graph below to view the Subaru Legacy’s resale values over different model years.

Subaru Legacy Average List Price

Conclusion

As we wrap up this overview of the Subaru Legacy, it’s pretty clear that the 2003, 2004, 2006-2009, 2013, 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2021-2024 models stand out as the best years to buy, offering reliability and advanced features.

Conversely, the 2000-2002, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, and 2020 Subaru Legacy model years, plagued with more issues, are best avoided.

What’s your experience with the Subaru Legacy, and do our assessments align with your observations?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.