The return of the super wagon from Subaru may have taken decades, but is late better than never?
The 2016 Subaru Levorg is a performance-orientated wagon that has all the best attributes of the iconic WRX, with the practicality and usefulness of a family car - but it does have its quirks.
The Levorg looks like a WRX at the front and what would be a Liberty wagon at the back. Although it’s based on the Impreza platform, it certainly has enough room inside to serve a car-loving family of four.
The word 'Levorg' may seem like an odd choice for Subaru (particularly if read backwards), but the company says it’s a combination of the words LEgacy, reVOlution, touRinG. Sounds like an idea cooked up by the marketing team one very late Friday night...
Name aside, the reincarnation of what was once the Liberty RS wagon is a welcome addition to Subaru’s strong turbocharged line-up. The WRX sedan and hatch have done well over their decades of service, but neither match the practicality that is offered by the Levorg.
Powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine as the WRX, with 197kW of power and 350Nm of torque, the automatic-only Levorg (CVT), goes from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds - 0.3 of a second slower than the auto WRX. But it’s hard to feel that difference when punting hard behind the wheel.
We came to Port Douglas and embarked on a trip to Tamworth in the Levorg range, sampling the base model GT, which starts at $42,990 and the top of the range GT-S Spec B ($52,890). There is also the mid-spec GT-S that comes in at $48,890.
Full pricing and specification information of the 2017 Subaru Levorg range can be found here.
Jump inside and the Levorg is immediately familiar to the Impreza, both in terms of its cabin layout, which is nearly identical, but also the materials used and general ambience. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however with the new Impreza set to arrive in January next year, it’s likely this cabin will age a little less gracefully than it would otherwise.
The back seats are rather generous in space, with decent head and knee room. And, with two ISOFIX points, the Levorg can easily accommodate two large bulky child seats on each side, or two big adults. Three can fit, but don’t expect it to be a comfortable ride.
The boot measures in at 552 litres in capacity with the rear seats up and 1446 litres with the seats down - more than enough to store oversized prams or sporting equipment and the week’s worth of groceries without any stress.
The front cloth seats of the base model GT are a little underwhelming in appearance and unsupportive if you intend to go fast around corners, providing minimal side support. However the GT-S’s leather-wrapped and body-hugging sport seats, along with a horde of additional equipment, certainly make the case for the GT-S a bit of a no-brainer on paper. Despite that, it was the base car that we found, strangely, the best variant to live with day in day out.
Subaru’s twin approach to the Levorg sees the base model come equipped with standard suspension and a general set-up for more family-oriented driving, while the GT-S, with its Bilstein suspension setup and modified ratings, is a stiffer and more handling-focussed variant.
We find this a rather odd approach, considering the entire point of the Levorg is to be a family-friendly alternative to the WRX sedan and wagon.
Around the suburban local roads, as well as the twisty and mountainous sections of our test loop, the GT-S Spec B variant rode very firmly. Almost too harshly, to be fair; crashing over bumps and struggling to settle when presented with some poorly surfaced road. In contrast, the base model presented a superb dynamic setup, both at high speed around the mountain and in the suburbs. Nowhere did it feel compromised for handling to meet its softer suspension setting.
In fact, going fast in the GT felt more natural with progressive body roll that gave a growing sense of feedback about the dynamic forces on the Levorg, while the firmer suspension on the GT-S and Spec B took away that progressive feeling, presenting a more solid set-up that will no doubt prove quicker around a race track, but not necessarily more fun to drive at speed.
In that sense, the base model GT is definitely the way to go if you intend to use your Levorg as a family car with the occasional enthusiastic drive thrown in. Unfortunately, though, we found it let down by its front seats. Our ideal car would be the GT-S with the standard suspension, or perhaps Subaru might consider making the Sport seats an option on the GT, eliminating the problem entirely.
Though to make matters even more confusing, the GT’s steering response can feel a little vague at times. It’s very direct and still does a good job, though, while the Spec B gets a slightly different set-up with an STI front tower bar.
What we found excellent about all variants we drove was the power delivery and torque from the engine, as well as the amount of front-end grip. Turning into a corner at speed was met with a well-composed body and tons of mechanical and tyre grip. The Impreza chassis may be getting a little old, but it’s still damn good. The usual signs of Subaru understeer certainly didn’t present themselves as they have before.
Handling and dynamics aside, the Levorg’s CVT transmission is much better than one may expect. It’s not as good as a standard eight-speed might have been, but with properly-tuned gear steps, it actually feels more like a normal gearbox than ever before. It still whines as you get up and go, but it’s actually a relatively decent unit.
The infotainment system is now a little out of date, with no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and you’ll need to get the GT-S for satellite navigation. But, on the plus side, the inclusion of Subaru’s third-generation Eyesight standard across the range is a huge bonus, bringing features such as forward collision warning with brake and steering assist, as well as active cruise control. Some of these life saving active safety features are still optional on cars four times the price, a big tick to Subaru for its continued commitment to safety.
Unlike previous generations of Eyesight, version three is also far easier to live with, no longer beeping and harping on about every little mistake you make. Instead, it gives simple warnings for leaving a lane without indicating and occasionally wakes you up if it thinks you’re either getting too close to the car in front or help brake the car if it thinks a collision is imminent.
The GT-S variants and above also get the addition of blind-spot monitoring and reverse traffic alert, two additional features that make the Levorg the safest car in its class from the perspective of a standard-fit active safety system feature list.
Overall, the 2017 Subaru Levorg is a car that many have been asking for, but not many may buy. Preferring instead to forgo its performance credentials for the SUV character of models like the Forester. Subaru expects sales of around 200-250 a month, though we think it has potential for many more.
The range scores an 8/10 overall, however we felt as though the GT was closer to a 9 and we need to spend more time with the GT-S and its Spec B variant in everyday conditions to see if its firm ride is as evident everyday as it was on our test loop.