FIT FOUR ALL

PEO­PLE BUY SUBARUS BE­CAUSE THEY EX­PECT THEM TO BE RUGGED AND DURABLE, BE­CAUSE THE COM­PANY HAS AN EN­VI­ABLE REP­U­TA­TION FOR RE­LI­A­BIL­ITY AND ‘GO ANY­WHERE’ SEN­SI­BIL­ITY. OC­CA­SION­ALLY, SUBARU COMES UP WITH A CAR THAT’S DE­SIR­ABLE TOO, AS IS THE CASE WITH THE NEW

Driven - - Driven - Re­port and Im­ages by BERNARD HELLBERG

I have yet to en­counter a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist who does not have great re­spect for the Subaru brand. Sure, they will have strong opin­ions about the brand, but there is al­ways re­spect. That’s likely be­cause Subaru just hasn’t pro­duced any en­tirely hor­ri­ble cars yet. Cer­tainly not in the last 25 of the 59 years that the brand has been around. Sure, there have been a few ques­tion­able cars – the dull-as-dish­wa­ter 1.5-litre front-wheel-drive Im­preza hatch from the late 2000s comes to mind– but for the most part, Subarus are de­cent, and highly ca­pa­ble cars.

EN­TER LEVORG

You don’t have to be a Subaru fan boy to recog­nise that most Subarus of­fer an en­gag­ing drive, as be­fits a car­maker with Subaru’s her­itage in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship. And, you would likely be sur­prised if ev­ery Subaru didn’t have the abil­ity to sur­mount chal­leng­ing road con­di­tions, courtesy of the brand’s dis­tinc­tive Sym­met­ri­cal All-Wheel Drive sys­tem.

Like its for­mi­da­ble brethren, the Subaru Levorg ex­hibits all of th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics, and more, de­liv­er­ing trade­mark Subaru driv­ing fun, leg­endary ca­pa­bil­ity, and new semi-au­ton­o­mous driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy dubbed Subaru Eye­Sight. All wrapped up in a typ­i­cal Subaru-like shape that is aimed squarely at the needs of the 21st-cen­tury mo­torist.

NEW STYLE OF SCOOBY

(SORT OF)

Subaru is no stranger to pro­duc­ing es­tate cars and SUVs. Next to the Im­preza four-door B-seg­ment sedan, the Forester and Legacy Out­back are some of the key suc­cess sto­ries for the brand in South Africa.

With the Levorg that is set to ar­rive here in early 2018, Subaru has com­bined the best of what it has to of­fer, en­dow­ing what is os­ten­si­bly an Im­preza es­tate, al­beit that it is re­garded to be the spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to the Legacy Out­back. It isn’t the brand’s first foray into this style of ve­hi­cle ei­ther. Both the first- and sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Im­preza was avail­able in a ‘Sports Wagon’ con­fig­u­ra­tion in South Africa, although they were called hatch­backs in other mar­kets. The Sports Wagon of­fered spicy per­for­mance in a prac­ti­cal pack­age, but saw its demise with the in­tro­duc­tion of the third-gen­er­a­tion hatch­back, which never reached quite the same lofty sales heights as its wagon-es­que fore­bear.

In­tro­duced glob­ally in 2014, the Levorg (its name is a port­man­teau of three words, LEgacy, reV­O­lu­tion, touR­inG) shares a plat­form with the Im­preza, Legacy and WRX, and is tasked with re­viv­ing in­ter­est in the Subaru brand among buy­ers in the SUV and cross­over mar­ket.

FA­MIL­IAR POWER

Thanks to a tur­bocharger and a di­rect­in­jec­tion set-up, the Levorg gen­er­ates a mas­sive 197 kW at 5,600 r/min and 350 Nm (be­tween 2,400 and 5,200 r/min) from its 2.0-litre tur­bocharged petrol en­gine. That’s Golf GTI ri­valling power right there, and the re­sult on the road is a quick turn of speed, giv­ing you ev­ery in­cen­tive to squeeze the re­spon­sive throt­tle.

Fortunately, Subaru knows very well how to trans­late power into per­for­mance. Thanks to its trade­mark Boxer en­gine, which is po­si­tioned lower and is flat­ter than a con­ven­tional power plant, the Levorg is ex­cep­tion­ally well-bal­anced.

Ad­mit­tedly, I pushed the Levorg hard on some of the poorer roads that Gauteng has to of­fer, and the car re­sponded with en­thu­si­asm and stead­fast­ness, al­ways ready to take what­ever the road throws at it.

The trade­mark sym­met­ri­cal all-wheeldrive sys­tem, com­bined with Subaru’s ac­tive torque vec­tor­ing pro­gramme en­sures that torque and brak­ing distri­bu­tion gets dis­trib­uted to all four wheels. It takes an aw­ful lot to knock this car off course.

The re­sult? Ag­ile per­for­mance, greater con­trol, and a smoother ride, with Subaru’s Lin­eartronic CVT trans­mis­sion do­ing an am­i­ca­ble job of not los­ing in­ter­est un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion. I found my­self us­ing the steer­ing-mounted pad­dle shifts of­ten enough, but any­one with a less fussy driv­ing style will likely not even bother with us­ing them.

IN­TE­RIOR CHARM

Subaru in­te­ri­ors hardly rep­re­sent the pin­na­cle of au­to­mo­tive cabin de­sign, but the Levorg’s leather-trimmed seats wrap you in a cosy em­brace, and sur­faces are clean and typ­i­cally fuss-free. Although the dark in­te­rior could use more bright­work to liven up the space, a high level of in­te­rior build qual­ity is ap­par­ent, and jus­ti­fies Subaru’s tra­di­tion­ally pre­mium price point.

The Star­link In­fo­tain­ment Sys­tem pro­vides mo­bile-phone con­nec­tiv­ity, MP3 com­pat­i­bil­ity, and In­ter­net ra­dio. It is all con­trolled via a 7” touch screen, which also pro­vides ac­cess to Ap­ple CarPlay for iPhone users.

That speaks to another as­pect of the Levorg’s char­ac­ter. As well as be­ing an im­pres­sive sports tourer, it is a use­ful fam­ily ve­hi­cle, with a well-specced in­te­rior that com­bines com­fort and func­tion­al­ity to pleas­ing ef­fect.

Of course, any fam­ily car worth its salt pro­vides safety as well as space, and the Subaru Levorg more than de­liv­ers.

It fea­tures an ar­ray of safety fea­tures, in­clud­ing Subaru’s Eye­Sight early col­li­sion warn­ing and au­ton­o­mous brak­ing sys­tem and Rear Ve­hi­cle De­tec­tion (SRVD). The afore­men­tioned mon­i­tors your blind spots and pro­vides an au­di­ble and vis­ual warn­ing if a col­li­sion looks likely.

Along with pas­sive safety fea­tures such as airbags and Subaru’s RingShaped Re­in­force­ment Frame to pro­tect oc­cu­pants, the Levorg does every­thing right to keep you and your pas­sen­gers out of harm’s way.

LAST WORD

To my mind, there can be no doubt that this ve­hi­cle is a sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tion to Subaru’s sta­ble. It takes the com­pany’s ex­pe­ri­ence of build­ing rugged all-wheeldrive cars and wraps it in a well-equipped, com­fort­able, and con­ve­nient over­all pack­age. Although pric­ing is not yet avail­able, the Levorg is likely to be of­fered with Subaru South Africa’s stan­dard 3-year /100,000 km war­ranty and 3-year/100,000 km main­te­nance plan.

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