Dave jumps into the 2016 Subaru Levorg 2.0GT to find out if the entry-level model can appeal to Subaru enthusiasts and others alike.
Levorg. Odd name, isn't it? Ask Subaru, and it comes from the conglomeration of LEgacy (the Japanese market name for 'our' Liberty), ReVOlution, and TouRinG. Ask any Subaru enthusiast, though, and the 2016 Subaru Levorg is the first Pleiades-stamped car since the fourth-generation Liberty GT Wagon and second-generation GG Impreza WRX Hatch to combine genuine performance potential with boosted practicality.
Problem is, to make a decent dent in the sales charts, the 2016 Subaru Levorg needs to appeal to more than just a handful of niche enthusiasts.
With this in mind, Subaru Australia opted to offer Australian buyers the choice of three variants from launch. There’s the entry-level 2.0GT ($42,990 before on-road costs), a step higher 2.0GT-S ($48,890 before on-road costs), and a tricked-up 2.0GT-S Spec B ($52,890 before on-road costs).
At 4690mm long and 1780mm wide, the Subaru Levorg is 225mm longer and 85mm wider than a 2007-era Impreza WRX Hatch. Confirming its place between its two forebears, that also makes it 30mm shorter and 50mm wider than ‘Subey’ fan favourite, the 2007-spec fourth-generation-based Liberty GT Tuned by STI. Side note; how good was 2007?
Anyway, under the Levorg 2.0GT’s WRX bonnet scoop lies the same turbocharged 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ four-cylinder petrol engine as you’ll find in the 2.0GT-S and GT-S Spec B.
Teamed to the same continuously variable transmission (CVT) – with paddle-shifters and eight stepped ‘gears’ – and full-time symmetrical all-wheel-drive system exclusively employed across the range, the WRX-sourced FA20 churns out 197kW of power at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque between 2400-5200rpm.
Visually tamer than the ‘riced up’ Spec B, the base Levorg can still draw an eye.
There’s the obligatory bonnet scoop and sports body kit, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, a neat little roof spoiler, and a plastic rear diffuser housing dual chrome-tipped exhausts. There’s also chrome around the grille and between the fog lights and halogen daytime running lights, a chrome tailgate garnish, and door-mounted power-folding wing mirrors with integrated indicators.
Standard equipment on the entry-level model is highlighted by a push-button start, auto-off LED low-beam headlights and LED tail-lights, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker stereo, and a 6.2-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming and voice recognition.
A rear-view camera and seven airbags are also included as standard, along with Subaru’s highly-respected EyeSight monitoring overlord - comprising autonomous emergency braking (AEB), a lane-departure warning, a lead-vehicle start alert, and adaptive cruise control. Combined, they help the Levorg score a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
That said, higher-spec variants additionally gain blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, side-view monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and high-beam assist.
Regardless of trim grade, though, front or rear parking sensors are not standard, and not available as options. The Levorg also features an electronic parking brake, however, it’s not tied to any auto-hold function.
Slot yourself between the flat and narrow, but comfortable enough, manually-adjustable cloth seat and the leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel (with a mildly-confronting 21 buttons on it), and you’re met with a sea of grey, dotted with silver and gloss black accents.
Alloy sports pedals and an alloy footrest are nice touches, as are Levorg-branded floor mats, rake and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and height-adjustable seat belts.
Despite unhelpfully slim door pockets, storage in the Levorg isn’t bad, with two cup holders, a decent glovebox, and an acceptable, felt-lined, centre console bin that houses a 12-volt outlet and two USB inputs – its lid also slides forward and back. A small, lipped cubby, home to USB and AUX inputs and another 12-volt outlet, is also handily tucked into the base of the centre stack.
Someway off feeling as ‘premium’ as the well-respected fourth-generation Liberty GTs, the Levorg’s basic and fairly drab cabin is far from poor, it’s just let down by some mediocre materials, plenty of plastics, and low-rent elements such as a floor-mounted fuel flap release.
Jump in the back, and it’s the same.
There’s respectable amounts of legroom, and head-room is quite good, however, toe-room is tight, there’s a tall central floor hump, small door pockets, and again, comfortable enough seating, with a rear bench lacking in shape and support.
There are two ISOFIX-compatible outboard seats, two map pockets, two USB inputs, grab handles and coat hooks, and a good-quality fold-down centre armrest with a nicely finished gloss black and silver twin cupholder unit, but no rear vents.
You can drop the 60:40 split-fold rear seats from either shoulder-based or boot-mounted releases, which is great, plus, dropping properly flat, means no rear seat-base/boot floor load lip to contend with at all – excellent for loading longer, larger items into the Levorg’s 522-litre boot (expandable to 1446L).
Although more than adequate in isolation – further helped by its under-floor cargo blind storage, two luggage hooks, four tie-down hooks, and excellent low load lip – the Levorg’s flexible backend is still 66 litres shy of that of a Skoda Octavia Wagon (588L) and 128L down compared with the Volkswagen Passat Wagon (650L). It does still, however, out-do the wagon variants of the Ford Mondeo (488L laden to the parcel tray), Hyundai i40 (506L), and Mazda 6 (506L).
And, while a space-saver spare wheel tucked under the boot floor is a good bonus, those six-foot or above will need to watch their heads, as the Levorg’s tailgate doesn’t open terribly high. The latter is also sans any power operation.
On the road, there really are only two ways to drive the Levorg 2.0GT; sedately, with the SI-Drive system in Intelligent mode, or significantly more spiritedly, in Sport Sharp.
Instantly altering the car’s character, a push of the steering wheel-mounted SI-Drive button can transform the Levorg from being doughy, lethargic, and largely unresponsive and underwhelming, to endowing the turbocharged wagon with the sort of deceptive speed and sharpness more likely to please loyal Subaru fans.
But, while outright engine performance is reasonable when in the correct mode, economy from the 95-octane premium unleaded-drinking ‘boxer’ isn’t great. Unaided by any fuel-saving stop-start technology, the Levorg averaged 9.8 litres per 100km over its week in the CarAdvice garage – 1.1L/100km up on the car’s 8.7L/100km combined cycle claim.
Able to deliver solid mid-range pickup from around 3000-3500rpm, and even greater pull from 4500rpm, there’s not a lot on offer from the 2.0-litre below 2500rpm – particularly so when driving in Intelligent mode.
Strain your ears and you might pick up some faint turbo induction noise from under the bonnet scoop, however, sadly, much of this is far too easily drowned out by CVT whine, which becomes notably invasive at 4500rpm and beyond.
Teaming more weight than is necessary with less feedback than we’d like, the Levorg’s electric power steering is reasonably responsive to inputs, though, wooden and dulled in terms of feel and driver engagement.
Despite plenty of grip and excellent corner-exit traction from the combination of all-wheel-drive and the standard 225mm-wide, 45-aspect Dunlop Sport Maxx 050 tyres, the Levorg’s sub-par brakes simply aren’t very good, and therefore, make building confidence tricky.
Pedal feel itself isn’t too bad – it’s quite neutral and even – but the performance attached to the four-wheel ventilated disc brakes is a significant and surprising let down.
The biggest disappointment of the entry-level Levorg, however, is reserved for its ride.
Busy and agitated on all but the smoothest of roads, the MacPherson strut front/double wishbone rear set-up is rarely ever composed, balanced, or calm, with even finer and minor road faults still picked up and often poorly dealt with.
Managing to combine a firm initial contact with a soft and slack rebound, the Levorg’s poor body control simply accentuates and amplifies every imperfection. Come across speed humps or choppy roads, and things simply become tiring and aggravating. As mentioned, there are occasional moments where the ride is tolerable, but these are rare occurrences.
So, the 2016 Subaru Levorg 2.0GT is a funny one. With its, at times, lacklustre performance, unsatisfactory brakes, and severely imperfect ride, it’s far from going to impress Subaru enthusiasts of old. However, while it might be the first Subaru for some time to blend decent sporting potential with increased practicality and flexibility, its notable shortfalls and dearer running costs are unlikely to tempt a wider audience away from the likes of the Mazda 6, Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, and Skoda Octavia.
Although the Levorg is covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and 12-months road-side assist, its six-monthly/12,500km scheduled services (whichever comes first) are capped at between $312.79 and $524.05 per service, totalling $2253.90 over the first three years of ownership or to 75,000km.
If you’re an old-school Liberty GT/WRX Hatch enthusiast, the full-house 2.0GT-S Spec B, with its STI add-ons, might be a better option to consider – albeit a more costly one. For the rest of us though, the base Levorg struggles to be a compelling enough proposition.
It might have some highlights, such as EyeSight and its flat-folding rear seats, but the Subaru Levorg is just not a car that enjoys being punted along or hassled. Equally, it’s far from being the most comfortable, compliant, or relaxing car to drive every day, which, all in all, is a shame.
Click the Photos tab for more 2016 Subaru Levorg 2.0GT images by Tom Fraser.