The Levorg being a wagon in a market dominated by SUVs. But it’s good to have the choice, as this Subaru proves estates still have their place.
When Levorg landed a few years back, it was thought of as a natural replacement for the once popular Legacy GT. Subaru NZ was a touch nervous when it learned the Legacy wagon was to be discontinued and the Outback was tasked to replace it.
There was no need to worry however, for the Outback was well placed to catch the wave of SUV popularity; figuratively it’s a big malibu riding the perfect barrel, and despite being a few years old, they’ve still managed to move over 770 so far in 2019. But you’d have thought a sporty wagon would still appeal, more than a large sedan at any rate. But it seems not, as they’ve sold a couple more Legacy sedans than they have Levorgs this year, and the numbers are small, 21 and 19 respectively.
So what gives with the Levorg?
Apart from being a victim of market trends, perhaps it’s the name. To refresh the grey matter, it’s a weird amalgamation of LEgacy, reVOlution and touRinG. And it’s the latter bit you should take most notice of.
While this has commonality with a WRX, a wagon version of this turbo’d terror it’s not. It’s tuned more for quick, comfortable cruising with enough boot space to take your active lifestyle along for the drive. Except those outdoorsy types are now drawn by the pull of the Outback and Forester.
BUT, for that small (okay, tiny) percentage of the new car buying market that doesn’t want an SUV, preferring a sporty looking, quick but comfortable tourer, has Subaru got the car for you! This is the 2020 Levorg, which actually is no different from the 2019 Levorg, other than this choice new colour. Is it grey, is it blue, could it be sort of purple? Depends on the light really, but it’s called Cool Grey, which we guess settles it.
This tester has been dressed in STI alloys which look the business, and the chrome has been blacked out, perhaps in anticipation of an All Black victory. Oh well, four more years.
There’s also an STI strut brace under the bonnet, but otherwise she’s a standard Levorg 2.0GT-S. That means a 2.0-litre, direct-injection turbo flat four with 197kW like the WRX and 350Nm of torque. It has a CVT auto, the AWD has an electronically controlled active torque split and there are dynamic aids like brake-activated torque vectoring. There are Bilstein dampers too. These aren’t set too aggressively, remember the Touring aspect of the name, so there’s a more refined ride than you’ll find in the WRX.
The round town progress is easy with Levorg, the smoothness of the CVT marries nicely to the turbo’d torque curve, while the ride is supple enough to smooth most bumps, only finding the occasional lump in the road. The steering isn’t too weighty, and the turning dimensions are handy too.
Along with the reversing camera, the Levorg has a great front view monitor. Though the display is small, it shows both exactly where the front left wheel is tracking and what you’re about to remove the bumper on directly in front. Subaru is big on safety so you get all the functions that the camera-based Eyesight system can provide. We found the lane departure and keeping functions to be too persistent, so axed them, but the active cruise is a smooth operator in traffic, and is quicker than most to get going again when the queue starts moving. It’s easy to set and control too with wheel-mounted buttons.
Another of the myriad controls on the wheel changes up the drive mode, with Sport and Sport sharp there to enliven the play. But even so, when you do want to boost off the mark, the Levorg doesn’t surge forward as eagerly as you might expect. But once 2500rpm arrives, there’s a perceptible uptick in urge. The CVT is also fairly snappy at shortening its ratio when added zest is requested, getting the 2.0-litre into the torque-making zone.
The drive modes don’t alter the suspension, the Bilsteins of the passive variety, and are set more for touring than raiding. While less restrictive than a WRX, the set-up still manages to keep the movements under control, but oddly for a Subaru, it can crash over the lumps at speed, the bump stops getting the odd workout. It turns sweetly enough while the steering assistance is well tuned and they’ve given it a feel for the action. There’s a surplus of traction, and usually grip too but when reserves of the latter are tested, a subtle helping of brake-activated torque vectoring keeps it inline.
In the Sport sharp mode, the CVT keeps a shorter ratio to improve response and the tacho hovers around the 3000rpm mark. It’ll kick on through to 6000rpm, where the CVT goes into step mode, mimicking upshifts. The turbo can get a bit thirsty when worked, the average creeping up towards the teens, while 10L/100km seems to be a realistic fuel use figure for normal operation.
The Levorg’s sticker is still the same, at $57,990 making it a pricey choice, though it’s well stocked. The driver’s seat is not unlike the suspension tune, for there’s a touch of sporting intent to the bolstering, but they don’t constrict and are well padded. The driver enjoys power adjustment with memory buttons too.
Like some of the other switchgear in the cabin, these look a bit dated while the placement is odd, being on the dash. Some of the other buttons seem to have been sprayed about the place too. A couple of the switches for the active safety are placed on the roof, others low on the dash, some on the steering wheel.
While there’s a bit of hard plastic about, and some of the soft stuff looks shiny, this is nicely enough made, with practical storage and plenty of USB chargers. The infotainment suffices too, featuring inbuilt nav and smartphone hook-up. The back seat lodgings are okay and while the design of the front buckets eats some of the leg room, most will find there’s enough space. The seat’s well formed, you can recline the back rest though three across would be a right squeeze.
We like how the tailgate is quick to rise, not being powered. Once you rid yourself of the awkward cargo blind, the hold is well shaped, can be expanded easily with remote levers for rear seat folding and there’s a full-size spare underneath the floor if that matters.
Other wagons of this ilk include Skoda’s Octavia RS and Peugeot’s 508 GT, both of which lack AWD for ski field jaunts but add Euro catchet, if that’s what you’re after.
Still the Levorg is worthy competition, even if there’s no real change for 2020.
|Model||Subaru Levorg GT-S||Price||$57,990|
|Engine||1998cc, flat 4, T/DI, 197kW/350Nm||Drivetrain||CVT, AWD|
|Fuel Use||8.7L/100km||C02 Output||201g/km|