Road test: can the Subaru Levorg stop the SUV rot?
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It’s been more than 25 years since the WRX was introduced. Understandably, enthusiasts and owners of Subaru’s iconic rally machine have grown up and aged along with it. With maturity comes responsibility, but it doesn’t mean at the exclusion of a hankering for performance.
As the Impreza has evolved since 1994, including sedan, wagon, manual, auto, two-door, RA and STI derivatives, there’s been a version of the WRX catering to almost any age, use or need. If a little more space was needed, there was the Legacy.
And now, three years after the name was introduced, the facelifted Levorg has arrived, Subaru’s spiritual successor to the Legacy GTB wagon. You could be forgiven for not noticing the Levorg over recent years, but it’s doing it best to entice back customers who saw the Legacy as less focused than it had been. So, part Legacy, part WRX, with a dusting of STI and Forester, the Levorg offers one body, one spec, which Subaru thinks we’ll like.
And we do — especially in person, with the standard body kit additions, updated grille, front bumper and headlights, and black 18in STI alloys over Cool Grey paint. It sits perfectly and rides the same, the low-profile 225/45 Dunlop tyres offering impressive ride quality, thanks in large part to the retuned Bilstein shocks, with just the occasional crash through the biggest potholes — can’t argue physics.
The 2.0-litre flat-four cylinder turbo retains the icon of the model and with 197kW, its all-wheel drive performance keeps it deeply rooted in the field of fast. Subaru claims 0-100km/h in 6.6s — and that’s exactly what we tested, on the way to a [email protected]/h quarter-mile, while loving a rev all the way to 6500rpm. The spread of useable power is also impressive, reinforced by the ratios and response of the CVT gearbox.
Sometimes it feels faster (when on boost and in the right gear) and sometimes it feels slower (off-boost and in a tall gear) so the shift paddles do offer manual control for maximum attack when needed.
It’s also surprisingly thrifty. While Subaru claims 8.7l/100km, we saw 9.2L/100km without even thinking about conserving. The gearbox is simply one of the best CVTs on sale. While some may view that as praising it with faint damn, it takes a keen ear and eye to tell that it’s a CVT and not a conventional auto. Sit back and drive. There’s none of that pausing, hesitation and hunting that afflicts some CVTs. Have we reached a point where we like a CVT? Well, love it, no.
Like it? Definitely.
Where the award-winning Forester influence appears is in the safety areas, with the Levorg sporting tech updates such as Lane Keep Assist, front view camera, rear view mirror with rear camera and hill-hold. The cameras can be summoned with a press of a button, either as a cluster, or reverse only on the central multi-function screen, particularly handy when parking in tight spots.
The Si Drive modes — which sharpen throttle response and alter the CVT’s “gears” — and CarPlay/Auto are appreciated additions, given the Subaru’s own touchscreen layout is nowhere near as user-friendly.
Subaru’s safety suite and EyeSight keeps any eye on traffic and the driver’s attentiveness, but can sometimes tip over to annoying, particularly when locking the car, attempting to walk away and having it beeping; a second and third check would often result in everything being fine.
One beep that was handy was a traffic helper. In standstill traffic, if the car in front moves away, after a second it sounds a polite beep to get your attention, pre-empting a “polite” honk from behind.
There are three different coloured warning lights on the base of the dash that shine on to the windscreen, for lane changing, guidance or danger warnings.
Other handy additions include radar cruise control and auto mode on all four windows, which isn’t really appreciated until it’s used to clear the heat build-up on a hot day or quickly fixing one of the kid’s heavy fingers.
Four USBs and two 12V sockets just for front seat passengers emphasise the modern usability.
But Levorg’s biggest party piece is its rear-view mirror. If the cargo area is full of boxes, sports gear or dogs — as wagons tend to be — and blocking the rear view, the driver can flick the lever under the mirror and it reverts to using the rear-facing camera as the active rear view. Clever!
There’s a mix of leather and blue stitching, dual zone climate control, heated and memory seats and displays for throttle percentage and boost pressure, a large sunroof, plus a muted, distant warble of the famous flat four that tickles the senses rather than assaults them.
Levorg is the “grown up” sports Subaru, after all.
SUBARU LEVORG 2.0GT-S
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo flat-four (197kW/350Nm)
Price: From $57,990
Pros: Goes, rides, looks and stores
Cons: CVT can be lazy