Subaru Levorg

Clearly, Subaru has no doubts about the carís ability to deliver on the road or in the showroom

by MATT PRIOR

Nostalgia-tinged station wagon packs a punch, but is it enough?

ENGINE 1998cc flat-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 197kW @ 5600rpm / TORQUE 350Nm @ 2400-5200rpm / WEIGHT 1538KG/ 0-100KM/H 6.6sec (claimed) / PRICE $52,890

S ubaru is calling its oddly-named Levorg (itís Ďgrovelí backwards) the spiritual successor to the Liberty GT station wagon. Fair enough Ė everybody loves playing the nostalgia card these days Ė but does the Levorg have the substance to fill those big boots?

On paper, it looks good. From the B-pillars forward itís pretty much straight WRX and, of course, it uses Subaruís non-negotiable all-wheel drive system. The engine is also the same turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit punching out 197kW of power and 350Nm of torque. The big question mark hangs over Subaruís decision to equip the Levorg exclusively with a CVT transmission. Okay, itís been adapted to work with the brandís SI Drive to tailor it to whatever the driver is after at that exact moment in time; but a CVT? Really?

Clearly, Subaru has no doubts about the carís ability to deliver on the road or in the showroom. Thatís supported by offering multiple variants at the local launch; a base-model GT specification and a GT-S trim level are confirmed with estimates of between 200 and 250 units a month. The GT-S option adds Bilstein suspension and, for even more bling, you can add a locallyfitted option pack called B-Spec which gets you a range of STibranded interior bits and body kit parts, including a roof spoiler and a strut tower under the bonnet.

But all Levorgs are well specced with Subaruís third-gen EyeSight crash-avoidance tech on board.

Ticking the GT-S box adds even more gadgets to that package with laneassist, rear-traffic alert and more.

Prices are $42,990 for the GT, $48,890 for the GT-S and $52,890 for the B-Spec pack.

The good news is that thereís been some local input into the tuning of the springs and dampers, the calibration of the CVT and even the cruise controlís parameters. But if this thing really is the new Liberty GT Wagon, then it needs to set some kind of a benchmark for compact wagons on the road. And that CVT better not get in the way. So does it?

No, and the fact that itís stepped (six steps in Normal and Sport mode and eight steps in Sport Sharp) means it never feels flary and flighty like many conventional CVTs. The converter feels nice and tight and that means it has good step-off as well as the sensation that the petrol particles being burned are going towards thrust, not just noise.

In manual mode it will obey the paddles consistently and faithfully, even if you deliberately select a tall gear at low speed and squish the gas pedal. Along the way, you also get good throttle response and plenty of torque to haul you out of turns.

Power down? As good as youíd expect something on grippy tyres and all-wheel drive to be.

So where does it go wrong? Mainly in the suspension, which seems too soft and too short on travel to be really convincing on rough, broken country roads. Several times on our drive on the Oxley Highway in NSW, we found the front bump stops, even when the speeds were moderate and the offending crater didnít look too confronting. The rear end seems to suffer a little bit from the extra weight of the wagon body hanging over it. Thereís a sense of the car porpoising a little as the rear springs compress and the dampers fail to arrest the oscillation immediately, even with the Bilstein suspenders of the GT-S version.

The steering feels nice without being over-active, but like a lot of cars, the Levorg feels great up to about eight-tenths, at which point it can be convinced to shove its nose wide. Persist and the push gets progressively worse until youíre heading for the edge of the road and you realise youíre wasting everybodyís time.

The big concern is that the all-new, global Impreza platform due next year will outshine the current WRX trolley on which the Levorg is based.

For now, the Levorg is good enough, but if the new Impreza is better, youíve got to wonder a little.

STAR RATING

3.5

Like

Fast wagons are cool; punchy, practical performance

Dislike

Suspension tune feels underdone; pricey in B-Spec guise