SUBARU'S SPORTS WAGON MORE TEMPTING THAN A CHIC LUNCH
It is amazing how the weight of expectation can influence how you perceive a car. Subaru's Levorg has a new name, but under the badge you have what is essentially a WRX in wagon form.
I've driven the new WRX and WRX STI, with only the latter hitting that special spot that matched expectations and delivered the desired grin factor.
For some reason -- whether it was the lack of Subaru's long-lived EJ series engine, or the transmission of choice -- Subaru's take on CVT, the WRX didn't hit me in that special spot like I had hoped.
It's strange, then, that jumping in the Levorg, it felt like so much more than a WRX wagon. It felt "just right".
Why Subaru decided on the Levorg nameplate instead of calling the car a WRX wagon is beyond me but, going by my gut feeling, it feels like the right move.
The iconic WRX nameplate conjures so much in terms of expectation.
Colin McRae and Possum Bourne jumping over berms, WRC championship winning heritage, excellent performance, and the boxer burble all come to mind in an instant at the mere mention of those three letters. In contrast "wagon" brings up the opposite ... slow, lumbering and family friendly.
A wagon is a car that just isn't that exciting and certainly won't tug at your heartstrings.
You can see where I'm going with this. The two labels simply aren't compatible if stirring the soul is the goal.
Enter the Levorg -- or Legacy Revolution Touring Wagon -- a name that, when broken down, leads to thoughts of one of Subaru's most popular models in New Zealand, the turbocharged Legacy of the mid-90s to mid-00s. Every story you'll read about the Levorg will mention it is filling the gap left by the Legacy wagon when it was phased out in 2014.
While the last proper Legacy wagon was a bit of a whale, the Levorg compares best to the 2003-2009 fourth-generation Legacy.
With similar all-round dimensions and a potent engine, the Levorg takes us back to one of the last true Subaru performance wagons.
The 2-litre FA20 turbo engine with Subaru's own direct injection technology produces a healthy 197kW of power backed up with 350Nm of torque.
These are the same figures as the WRX but for some reason, whether it's because Subaru has tweaked the tuning of the engine and lineartronic transmission (SLT) transmission, or because I simply didn't expect it, the Levorg performs really well.
With a rare sunny weekend on the cards and my fiancee having never been to Raglan, I put a plan together to get in a good test of the Levorg -- and to win me a few brownie points
Heading south after brimming the Levorg's tank with some of BP's finest high octane fuel, I set the cruise to 100.
With Subaru's simply brilliant Eyesight technology fitted as standard the Levorg has adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning built in. The adaptive cruise function is especially useful as it will take the car all the way down to a stop in heavy traffic, which makes escaping Auckland traffic that little bit easier.
As a plus, the tech also means the Levorg scores an ANCAP rating of 5 stars.
Once we escaped Huntly and were on the twisties, the Levorg's performance soul came out to play. While you can't get the ultimate fun back road blasting option in the Levorg (a manual gearbox) it's engaging to blast about our rough, yet amazing back roads, with the SLT transmission in manual mode and the SI Drive set to sports# (sports sharp).
I don't know what it is about the Levorg, but through the twisties it felt so much better than its WRX sibling. Even with the extra 55kg it carries over the SLT WRX, the Levorg simply brought a bigger smile to my face.
Driving the Levorg through all those back roads to Huntly was a blast. And even though we enjoyed lunch at Raglan's Orca cafe, I couldn't wait to jump back in the Levorg to continue the drive.
The Levorg has its quirks. The one that sticks with me is the factory satnav.
While photographing the Levorg with Driven's Matthew Hansen, we asked the Subaru satnav to direct us to the nearest Wendy's. Instead it directed us to some random house and we resorted to Google maps on one of our phones to find our tasty burger stop.
The only other thing that bugs me about the Levorg is the colour options.
Sure there are seven to choose from, and one even resembles the hue of blue that adorned the BC5 Legacy of Colin McRae, but Subaru's popular WR Blue isn't one of them.
The Levorg would look amazing in that hue but perhaps Subaru is saving a WR Blue Levorg for an STI version.
Until then the Levorg in GTS trim definitely goes a long way towards hitting that special spot that has given Subaru so many loyal followers.
PRICE: $56,990 ENGINE: 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo boxer with direct injection PROS: Interior space, fills a hole in the line-up, performance CONS: The name (spell it backwards), available only in automatic, doesn't come in WR Blue