THE LEGACY IS BACK, ALBEIT WITH A NEW NAME. KIWI SUBARU FANS WILL BE IMPRESSED WITH THE ALL-NEW LEVORG
Subaru New Zealand is bringing back the Legacy GT wagon that won the hearts of many Kiwis, albeit this time it has a new name – the Levorg.
The all-new sports wagon has a 2-litre direct injection engine producing 197kW of power and 350Nn of torque. It is priced at $56,990. Subaru New Zealand has opted for the top spec GT-S wagon that includes the turbo-charging boxer engine, lineartronic transmission, all-wheel-drive and the third generation EyeSight.
This safety feature is a camera unit on the top of the front windscreen that, among other things, can automatically brake for you.
Although the name “Levorg” may be new to Kiwis, the new sports wagon is a “spiritual successor” to much-loved Legacy GT wagon.
In 2014, Subaru head office in Japan announced it was axing the Legacy wagon – much to the dismay of the company here, as that vehicle made up 25 per cent of its sales.
Since then, Kiwis have embraced the Outback wagon, which now accounts for 50 per cent of sales for Subaru New Zealand.
But there has still been a hankering for a sports wagon – and Subaru Japan has delivered with the Levorg.
As for the name Levorg (and yes we know what is spells backwards), the company says it’s a combination of the words LEgacy, reVOlution, touRinG.
Subaru New Zealand’s managing director Wallis Dumper wanted to call the Levorg the Legacy GT but as the Aussies call the Legacy “Liberty”, head office wouldn’t sign off the new badge for just one, small, market.
Dumper admitted to the motoring media at the Queenstown launch this week that his brand is “niche” in New Zealand but already there has been keen interest in the 120 Levorgs for sale here this year.
“To us [the Levorg] is a driver’s car ... not everyone wants an SUV,” said Dumper.
He believed the main competitor for the Levorg was the Volkswagen Golf R wagon.
“There are Legacy GT wagon owners we want to keep in the brand. The Levorg brings a bit of sexiness to the brand.”
Subaru NZ not only expects existing Legacy GT wagon owners to be interested in the Levorg but also “conquest” buyers and “European brand defectors”.
It says the target audience for the vehicle is the “Kiwi who is passionate about driving”, so created the tagline: “The wagon with a sports car heart.”
The Levorg is 4690mm long, 1780mm wide and 1490mm high – so a medium-sized wagon. Leg- and headroom for three rear passengers is comfortable, the boot space is accommodating, especially as the rear seats fold down electronically.
The front cabin is pure Subaru with a touchscreen unit (unfortunately the satnav voice has an annoying Aussie twang) plus an electric driver’s seat – and although the front passenger has to manually move the seat, both pews at the front are heated.
That was handy during the launch in the Queenstown region this week, with a nippy start to day two of the event.
Day one was spent with the motoring media taking a Levorg on a tiki tour of the area with a few suggested routes, such as Glenorchy or Cardrona. My co-driver and I headed instead to Bannockburn, central Otago, via Arrowtown.
The drive to Arrowtown on SH6 was also going to be slow because of the tourist traffic and buses but it highlighted the comfortable ride of the wagon, and during overtaking, the torque available on request.
But day two was set up to test the Levorg and show its sports car heritage, with a morning spent at Cromwell’s Highlands Park race track.
Unfortunately a fog had rolled in, making an attempt at a lap record impossible.
What was possible was three exercises to show the handling of the wagon and engine capability. First up was a short circuit to highlight how it cornered at speed.
But as visibility was reduced to a couple of car lengths, our top speed was 50km/h — fine for urban roads but not exciting for track times.
Exercise two’s gymkhana did highlight the handling of the wagon, with the Levorg navigating a slalom setup, tight cornering, a long bend at speed and then ASB braking into a cone garage.
Despite the fog I nabbed an overall second place time of 36 seconds — and not only was I impressed with my time, but also with the control of the Levorg.
The wagon was responsive to the tight cornering with no sign of understeer, and managed a 45-degree corner at speed with ease.
Task three was a safety exercise to not only show off the car’s stability but also its EyeSight. From stop, we had to hit 80km/h, apply ABS at a coned area, turn and then drive on to a skid pan with the sprinklers on, avoiding them via a coned slalom before easing off the accelerator and aiming at a cardboard cut out of a Subaru.
The EyeSight had struggled with visibility due to the fog for previous drivers — with the dash showing two symbols that it wasn’t working — but it was fine for my run-up. The brakes were applied automatically two metres before the cut-out and it stopped .5m from the cardboard car.
Fortunately for Subaru, the fog lifted enough for 40 minutes of laps on the full track — with the Levorg in Sports mode to improve handling and engine output.
Though the Levorg may hark back to the Legacy GT, on the track at speeds up to 180km/h there was plenty of DNA from the WRX in the wagon to prove that this all-new product from Subaru is a sports vehicle.