It’s a WRX wagon. What else do you really need to know?
The good news: The Subaru Levorg is essentially a WRX wagon. Which means a Levorg is a practical five-seat - well, like most notional five-seaters, Levorg is a practical four-seater with an impractical extra seat for someone you really hate, across the Nullabor - but it’s a practical family car that you can punt. Seriously punt. It’s a WRX wagon. Frankly, it’s friggin’ awesome.
The wagon bit is big enough to be really useful in that ‘landed gentry / breeder’ context. To verify this, for - literally - shits and giggles, I drove north on the freeway for about 45 minutes in the Levorg GT-S spec.B, recently. I picked up 12 - count ‘em - 12 bags of chook shit, for the garden, from one of the local boutique chook shit vendors. (Don’t tell Subaru Australia’s PR guy.)
I must say, for this 'test', it smelled quite distinctive. Nothing I like more than me and the missus, and 12 bags of chook shit crammed in the back like the worst smelling oversized sardines in the fastest tin with Symmetrical all-wheel drive you can imagine, having a punt and hoping like hell nobody Liberaces us from the rear. (Is there any other way to be Liberace’d?).
You want the definition of family friendly practicality - that’s pretty much it.
COMPARED WITH AN SUV
So if you want a traditional family SUV to feel like a valium enema on top of a Rohipnol milkshake - drive a Levorg first. They’re about the same price. And they’re about as practical - if you don’t need the SUV ground clearance. It’s a WRX wagon. Australian families buy SUVs because … SUVs. Keeping up with the Joneses. Whatever. If you want to overtake the Joneses, on the outside, in the wet, with a one-finger salute as you pass, buy a Levorg.
So, without getting bogged down in it - everything I said about WRX with a CVT >> pertains to Levorg. Performance: about the same. It’s the same powertrain, and there’s only 50 kilos in it - there’s only three per cent in power-to-weight. You’d never even feel it. Goes like a WRX. But there’s 45-series rubber on Levorg and 40 on WRX, and WRX also has one-inch wider wheels - but the same width tyres.
HANDLING & SAFETY
Levorg just feels crisp and composed. It does what you tell it to. It’s engaging. Its limits are way ahead of most drivers - lots of safety margin there. And it’s got EyeSight - Subaru’s brilliant safety system that gives you fatigue warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Really impressive … slightly annoying. That’s a reasonable tradeoff, if it saves your life one day. I highlighted some of what EyeSight can do in my robot cars report >>
So there’s two-and-a-half different flavours of Levorg. The GT. That’s the base model. Fabric seats, smaller touchscreen - but not poverty. Still gets a proximity key, a reversing camera, and 24 different buttons on the steering wheel. Twenty-four. (I remember that because not even with every finger, every toe and all three wedding vegetables engaged is it sufficient to count them all. And in any case, this is quite a poor excuse with the constabulary for having the wedding vegies out. As it happens.)
Anyway, it’s going to take you a while to become a maestro with that wheel, which is D-shaped. And the shape, frankly, is a fail. Good for a race car, but horrible on a road car where some hand repositioning is required. A triumph of marketing over function there, sadly.
The GT-S adds much of the stuff that Subaru calls ‘Premium’ elsewhere in the lineup: the bigger touchscreen, leather, a side camera assist system, rain-sensing wipers, plus Bilstein suspension bits. It’s about $6000 more for GT-S - a pretty good investment if you’ve got the cash, in my view.
LEVORG GT-S spec.B
GT-S spec.B is like GT-S plus nine STI upgrade bits that are all cosmetic. You get black 18-inch STI wheels - but it’s quite strange seeing STI wheels and no red STI calipers inside them.
Anyway, STI body kit. Red STI starter button. STI reminder on the shifter - like that. It’s $4000 for spec.B - and I’m not totally sold that this is an easy spend to justify. But, hey, if it’s only money…
The point about this is: some people bitch and moan about Subaru putting a CVT in its vehicles - especially in anything with performance intent. But I have to tell you, when you look at getting the power down… If you really want to make shit happen, the engine needs to operate at wide-open throttle and peak power revs. For as long as possible.
You just can’t do that in a manual - imagine all the time you waste changing gears. Imagine all the time you waste away from the critical 5600 ‘make maximum shit happen’ revs. CVTs - if they’re tuned right, and this one is - are just awesome at getting the power down. It might not feel like it, but they are. Bring on the trollshit - I know it’s out there - I can feel it. But there’s the evidence.
One point that deserves a mention. The wing mirrors. Subaru does a brilliant job with this - moving them away from the A-Pillars. And it’s a great move that reduces the visual mass of the bottom of the A-pillar, allowing you to … ummmm … see stuff. Stuff that might kill you. Like a car with a texting driver not paying attention. Clever little bit of detail design. Big tick. Well done, Subaru.
Now - lest you think this review is getting a bit sucky - let’s look at the other side of the coin. Because there is a tail.
That name. Really? Levorg. Was that the best you could do? An alleged portmanteau of the words LEgacy, REvolution touRinG. Not - as it was suggested to me - by someone I won’t name - LEsbian, bREast RinG. In some ways I like that more. As Rodney Rude once said: I’ve seen all their movies. Japanese car companies really need to engage fluent English speakers before making mistakes.
One colleague, who I won’t name - Brett Davis, from performancedrive.com.au - put it to me like this. He said: “Who’s going to wear a ‘Levorg’ jacket?”
They could have called it - I dunno - suggestion from left field - WRX Wagon. WRX Tourer. WRX Estate. WRX Box-on-the-friggin’-back. Anything but Levorg.
Given the immense investment in the WRX nameplate and the unimpeachable, affordable performance pedigree that this badge represents, over 24 years of existence, just speculating, they might have kicked a real goal with that. Especially as there’s currently no WRX hatch.
SPACE SAVER SPARE
So, there’s also a space-saver spare tyre. Not a real win for Australia, with long distances between A and B often traversed on the big family getaway. Undignified, getting a flat, unloading your two dead bodies, 12 bags of chookshit, the two kids you love and the one you hate, sitting in the middle at the back - whatever - and then strapping on a pizza cutter spare tyre, all the way home. At 80 kays an hour...
SERVICE INTERVAL & COST
And the service interval - six months and 10,000 kilometres. I’m certain there’s no engineering or metallurgical justification for that. I’m tipping there’s some fear of a dealer network revolt if the concept of 12-month servicing ever gets seriously mooted. Or the quid pro quo that would be demanded by way of compensation. However, Subaru has a great reputation for looking after its customers. That’s a huge plus, even though servicing’s expensive.
Finally - the CVT. Some people just don’t like it. It might be irrational. It might simply be speculation that CVTs won’t hold up over time. There’s no evidence for that, but I understand the reservation, especially considering all that Nissan and Jatco have done, for example, for reputational damage on the CVT front. And they don’t seem especially happy at low speed against heavy loads - like backing a trailer up a driveway.
So, in the face of this foreseeable reservation in the market, Subaru could have - I dunno - offered a manual transmission. Especially as, fortuitously enough, one is available in the WRX. The R&D equivalent of cutting and pasting. The obvious benefit on the showroom floor being: “Sir I understand your reservation. Can I interest you in the manual?”
Still, these are comparatively minor criticisms, given the WRX-sized serve of ‘awesome’ that comes pre-packaged in every Subaru Levorg. Make mine the GT-S - just a joy to drive. Not to edgy to drive every day, or in traffic. [LOOK LEFT] Did I mention it reminded me of a car they could have called the WRX wagon?
So, if you’d like to save thousands on a Levorg, or any other car - hit one of the big red links on this page, or go here >>
It’s what I do. Get new cars cheap, and stress-free (in Australia). CVT haters: please queue in an orderly fashion to the right - the comments field awaits you. And I look forward to reading it.
Bottom line: I’d own a Levorg tomorrow - but not the matching jacket.