Cruiser for choosers
Subaru pitches the “WRX wagon” at people who shun SUVs. Good call
AS A rule, “wagon” and “excitement” should never occur in the same sentence. Here goes: Subaru’s Levorg wagon delivers everyday practicality and, thanks to its WRX genes, plenty of excitement as well.
Subaru is pitching the Levorg at buyers it identifies as “SUV rejectors”, a pretty rare breed these days. If any sedan-based family freighter is going to tempt them away from midsize SUVs, it’s this one.
It’s basically a WRX from nose to the rear axle, with a wagon-style boot grafted on behind.
The Levorg’s boot has 100L greater volume than the current Forester. It’s a simple, versatile design, with a low, wide, easy-to-load floor and a 60-40 split-folding rear seat back that flips down at the flick of a switch (on either side of the boot opening) to give you a flat, 1.8m-long load space.
You also get a couple of bag hooks and a load cover but no 12V outlet or power tailgate.
The WRX’s 197kW 2.0-litre boxer turbo does the honours in the Levorg, matched exclusively with a constantly variable transmission.
The range opens at $42,990 for the 2.0GT — $2000 more than the WRX sedan — then come the 2.0GT-S at $48,890 and the 2.0GT-S Spec B, which we’re testing, at $52,890.
If you want the complete performance wagon package, the extra $5900 for the GT-S is money well spent. Bilstein struts, as used in the WRX STi, and stiff springs improve handling significantly over the softer GT
In the GT-S, you also get a properly supportive, power adjustable sports driver’s seat upholstered in leather, blue trim stitching and additional safety features such as blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. Also standard are satnav, sunroof and kerb view camera.
Apart from a brace between the front strut towers, GT-S Spec B is largely an STi body bling exercise.
Our test car’s Pure Red paint, with dark glass and trim and gloss black 18-inch alloy wheels combo, and its sorta-kinda slammed, road hugging stance, give it a delicious extra dose of killer. Nine STi badges adorn the exterior.
Look at me? Oh yeah.
One of the sportiest wagons around, the Levorg is also a very liveable daily driver.
The WRX engine is exceptionally smooth for a four and delivers an effortless, whooshka shove when you ask. Some turbo lag is evident off the line, especially in fuel-saving Intelligent mode where it also pulls minimum revs.
Subaru has the CVT well-sorted and with the 2.0-litre it’s a seamless, efficient combination that doesn’t compromise performance. It’s not what you would call frugal, though. Expect 12-14L/100km in town, on premium fuel.
The latest version of Subaru’s EyeSight driver assistance in the Levorg activates automatic emergency braking when it detects a pedestrian or motorcycle. Its over-excitable lane departure warning, though, drives you nuts in the city — I turned it off.
As with the Forester tested a few weeks ago, the Levorg’s EyeSight cameras were temporarily blinded when driving into low, direct sun.
The GT-S’s kerbside camera is useful when parallel parking but the Spec B’s low front spoiler is vulnerable to damage.
Rear seat space is reasonable and two adults can travel comfortably. A couple of USB charge ports are provided, plus two Isofix restraint anchors and three tether strap anchors on the seat back.
Ride comfort, though hardly plush, is tolerable in town. In the Spec B, compliance improves as speed increases — if it’s too rugged for you, you’ll find the GT more forgiving.
ON THE ROAD
Push the Sport or Sport Sharp mode buttons on the wheel and Levorg lights up as the ECU primes the engine with more revs, adds responsiveness to the accelerator and, in the latter mode, fixes eight defined shift points into the CVT.
The solid 350Nm of torque is available from 2500rpm-5200rpm, so when you pop the question at any speed the Levorg takes off with that signature intoxicating Rex rush.
Subaru claims 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, which seat of the pants says is pretty right. Most SUVs won’t see which way you went.
The CVT is as impressive in go-fast mode as it is in town — it reads your right foot more intuitively than most automatics and you’re never caught in the wrong gear. There can be a moment’s delay in hooking up when accelerating out of slow corners, where the paddles are more effective.
At 100km/h in cruise mode, you’ll get 7-8L/100km.
On a tight, twisting road the Spec B is planted, agile and flows beautifully through strings of corners, where you can get on the gas as hard as you like, confident that all-wheel drive, active torque vectoring and sticky (and noisy) Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres will keep the power coming and the car glued to the bitumen.
However, the Levorg also has a few characteristic WRX flaws. The steering, though accurate, is inconsistently weighted and not particularly communicative, while brakes are underdone for a performance machine.
The longitudinally mounted boxer engine hangs forward of the axle line, so under pressure the car can feel nose heavy and the Spec B’s Bilsteins can’t prevent some pitch and bounce on large bumps.
Major hits can also cause the front suspension to bottom out with a bang. You have to be closing in on Levorg’s far reaching dynamic limits for these issues to arise, though.
As a safe, versatile, high-quality family wagon that’s also a delight to drive, the Levorg is more engaging and capable than any comparably sized or priced SUV. It is, after all, a WRX.