Subaru STi, WRX and Levorg – driver’s car triplets
Subaru New Zealand’s managing director Wally Dumper is always a good person for a quote.
In his laconic sort of way he’s capable of getting exactly to the nub of a matter in very few words. He did it again when motoring journalists gathered at the Hampton Downs motorsport park in north Waikato to learn all about Subaru’s 2018 performance range.
‘‘We have cars that you can actually drive,’’ he simply said of the range that includes the WRX sedan, its wagon brother the Levorg, and their higherperformance sedan sibling the WRX STi.
What Dumper was talking about were old-school performance car values that are very much a part of these Subarus. They are all turbocharged, they offer the handling capability that comes with all-wheel drive, and perhaps most significantly, the WRX and STi models continue to be dominated by old-school manual transmissions.
The only model that is restricted to an automatic transmission is the Levorg, and even then it is one of the best autos on the market: a Subaru Lineartronic continuously variable transmission that can be operated manually as an eightspeeder using paddles on the steering wheel.
The four-model WRX lineup features two manuals and two autos, something that recognises the fact even Subaru has to accept there are growing numbers of motoring enthusiasts that recognise how good today’s fastacting electronic automatics are. But the four-model WRX STi lineup remains true to the manual tradition by being available exclusively with close-ratio sixspeed manuals.
The Hampton Downs event was an opportunity for Subaru NZ to remind journalists about the qualities of this trio of driver’s cars, to point out what has happened to them via their midlife facelifts, and to skite a little about how well the brand is performing this year.
Last year Subaru enjoyed its best-ever year with more than
2700 vehicles sold despite some supply constraints. This year the brand is looking at surpassing 3300 sales, thanks to the fact some of the supply constraints have eased.
The WRX, Levorg and STi models are playing a role in this – as well they should, because they continue to offer high performance motoring for a fairly reasonable price. Now they’ve been facelifted, and this has added up to $1000 to the recommended retail prices of some of the models. The selection starts at $48,990 for a WRX manual and goes through to $64,990 for an STi Premium.
They’ve all received new alloy wheel designs, front grilles and bumpers, LED headlights, safety enhancements, and some interior cosmetic changes.
The single Levorg model sold in New Zealand, the auto-only GTS, has had its ride refined via changes to its Bilstein suspension and other suspension components, It also gets a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, a front view monitor to help ease the way when parking close to walls or other objects, and automatic vehicle hold which holds the vehicle in place when stopped.
The Levorg also now has a smart rear-view mirror which uses a camera located at the top of the tailgate to project what’s behind on to the mirror. Why? So the driver can still see what’s behind even if there’s a third person blocking the traditional rear-view mirror view by sitting in the middle of the back seat.
These safety features have also been added to the WRX Premium and STi Premium models, and all the WRX automatics also now have Subaru’s very good Eyesight driver assist, which not only continues to automatically stop the vehicle to help prevent or lessen low-speed impacts, but also now incorporates lane-keep assist. All automatic WRX models also add an electronic parking brake and the auto vehicle hold.
From the performance perspective, the models that have benefited most from the facelift are the WRX STi versions. Brakes have been upgraded so they now have 340mm front and 326mm rear cross-drilled rotors that are clamped by six-piston front and two-piston rear Brembo calipers – and from the cosmetic perspective, they are painted yellow.
All STi models have also had their suspension upgraded, and there have been minor changes to the Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) to improve performance.
The Hampton Downs event included the opportunity to get out on the track – albeit in wet conditions – to experience all three of the performance models.
Driving the Levorg then the WRX back-to-back was an interesting experience. Both these vehicles are powered by the same 197kW and 350Nm 2-litre turbocharged boxer engine, but while the Levorg was an excellent drive, the fact it has a kerb weight that is up to 150kg more than the WRX meant the sedan was so much better.
And, as was to be expected, the STi with its 221kW and 407Nm, was even better again.
That no doubt explains why while journalists aboard the Levorg and WRX models were invited to go on follow-the-leader outings on the track without having to wear crash helmets, with the STi models it had to be helmets on and accompanied by instructors.
But fair enough – whereas a WRX manual can accelerate to 100kmh in six seconds, an STI can do it in a mere 4.9 seconds. And handling is great thanks to that all-wheel drive with its adjustable centre differential. And remember, STi prices start at $59,990 – which really is value for the money spent for true performance motoring.
Top of the facelifted Subaru performance range – the WRX STi.