Subaru circles wagons
WRX power fills a gap in the line-up and resists the attack of marauding SUVs
SUBARU doesn’t want you to call its new Levorg a WRX wagon but that’s pretty much what it is. And it’s a damn good thing, filling a niche Subaru hopes to account for between 200 and 250 sales a month.
There are still some folk — Subaru dubs them “SUV rejecters” — who prefer the inherently better roadholding of a wagon and the Levorg now plugs that hole in the Impreza and Liberty line-ups.
The range kicks off at $42,990 for the GT, rises to $48,890 for the better-equipped and better suspended GT-S and tops out at $52,890 for the GT-S Spec B.
Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior says the Levorg is the spiritual successor to the fourth generation Liberty Spec B wagon that drew a cult following for its practicality and potency.
The car will also spearhead a new branding campaign — “Subaru do” — to draw in younger customers. “We need to inject more personality into the Subaru brand … we stand for action and so do our cars,” he says.
Those younger customers — in the case of the Levorg young families or outdoor aficionados who need space to cart the kayak/mountain bike/ snowboards — are presumably cashed up, given Subaru predicts the GT-S will be the volume seller.
To accommodate the target audience’s need for space, the back end of the WRX platform has been stretched by 95mm to improve rear legroom and boost cargo capacity to 522L.
The car inherits the WRX’s five-star ANCAP rating and uses windscreen-mounted dual cameras for autonomous emergency braking. This generation of the tech can also detect brake lights activating on the car in front and start to beep/brake accordingly.
Subaru aims to pinch sales far and wide, including the Mazda6 wagon, Volvo XC60 and Audi A4 Avant.
ON THE ROAD
The basics were always going to be good on a vehicle derived from the WRX and the Levorg doesn’t disappoint.
It is a hugely forgiving car, capable of coping with midcorner changes in steering, throttle and braking inputs.
It is also bloody noisy on coarse-chip roads, while a howling wind on the Thunderbolts Way in NSW produces a decent hiss over the windscreen pillars and side mirrors.
Subaru Australia chief engineer Hiep Bui says the Dunlop SportsMaxx was one of many tyres tested during local tuning and has the best compromise between grip, noise and price.
On less punishing surfaces and at lower than freeway speeds, the tyres do the job well and only start to howl as you approach the considerable limits of adhesion.
A couple of decent bumps through turns briefly unsettled the car but it will take a decent drive on familiar roads to determine whether that’s an issue or simply a case of coping with poor conditions.
The continuously variable transmission is one of the best in the game in terms of its ability to stay in the ideal rev range without droning on.
We’d still take an auto or a manual if we could get one but there are six artificial steps in the regular driving modes, rising to eight predetermined “cogs” in the sportiest setting or when using the paddles to shift manually.
The burble from the boxer engine has also been muted in the Levorg to the point where the sound doesn’t match the sensation of speed.
Subaru doesn’t have massive expectations for the Levorg given Australia’s ongoing fascination with SUVs but this car should be high on the list for those who want driving dynamics with plenty of cargo room.
If I was in the market, I’d be seriously considering it … after checking the forums to see which aftermarket rubber quells the road roar.