In­stant edge, muted sound­track

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SHORT CUT - Craig Duff

1 It is bet­ter than an SUV

The Levorg’s wagon styling means it sits lower to the ground than a com­pa­ra­ble SUV. The lower cen­tre of grav­ity gives it an in­stant edge in han­dling over the cross­over crowd, es­pe­cially when com­bined with min­i­mal body roll and per­ma­nent all-wheel drive. There’s no trade-off in cargo ca­pac­ity ei­ther: the Levorg’s 522L of space is well up on the likes of the Forester (422L), Mazda CX-5 (403L) and Kia Sportage (466L).

2 Con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment?

Subaru does one of the best con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions in the game — to the point where half of all WRX sedans in Aus­tralia ae sold with a CVT. The Levorg is more than ca­pa­ble of mov­ing quickly but the CVT lim­its ac­com­pa­ny­ing au­ral ex­cite­ment, even if it does avoid the dreaded “drone”. The CVT does a rea­son­able job around town but is too fix­ated on fuel economy rather than re­spon­sive­ness on the back roads. Slip it into man­ual mode and you can use the pad­dleshifters to en­gage eight pre­de­ter­mined “ra­tios” and savour its sport­ing cre­den­tials.

3 Spec-B is a dress-up kit

A bar con­nect­ing the front sus­pen­sion tow­ers is the only per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing up­grade in the $4000 Spec-B op­tion. The rest is STI-branded bling: shift knob, black al­loy wheels, spoil­ers, deeper side sills and push-start but­ton. It looks good but there’s no bite to the meaner bark and that’s got me ques­tion­ing the Spec-B des­ig­na­tion.

4 Eye­Sight isn’t 20-20

All ver­sions get Eye­Sight sen­sors with adap­tive cruise con­trol and auto emer­gency brak­ing. Only the higher-spec GT-S comes with the full suite of driv­ing aids, in what is dubbed a “Vi­sion As­sist” pack that bun­dles auto high-beam with lane change, blind spot and rear cross-traf­fic alerts and projects warn­ings di­rectly on to the wind­screen. Go­ing from the base GT to the GT-S takes the price from $42,990 to $48,890.

5 It doesn’t mind a drink

A claimed com­bined fig­ure of 8.7L/100km doesn’t give the Levorg an edge in the con­sump­tion bat­tle. Put that down to the com­bi­na­tion of CVT and a full­time all-wheel drive. The Skoda Oc­tavia RS has the same en­gine dis­place­ment and turbo power yet sips 6.6L/100km (with fron­twheel drive and a dual-clutch auto, ad­mit­tedly). Keep the Levorg on the pace and it’s easy to use in the low 10s.

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