Added 31.08.2016 :
The Subaru Levorg is awarded five stars for safety in EuroNCAP test results announced today.
Added 08.08.2016 :
Subaru UK announce that the Levorg will be available with
three years or 30,000 miles free servicing until the 30th September.
GOOD : Handling, comfort, equipment, CVT is best yet experienced.
MEH : Only one trim, only one transmission, only one (thirsty) engine.
Subaru is the car manufacturing division of Japanese conglomerate Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI) and by production numbers is currently ranked the world’s 22nd biggest automaker.
At the heart of every Subaru is the flat, horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engine, named for the horizontal movement of the pistons – much like boxers throwing punches, while rivals favour the more traditional ‘in-line’ or ‘V-type’ engines.
The flat profile of a boxer engine provides a lower centre of gravity than other traditional engine designs, helping provide quick, improved handling response and composed, confident cornering. The unconventional set-up also means the car boasts ‘symmetrical’ four-wheel drive.
Nearly all Subaru models have used the symmetrical four-wheel drive layout since 1972. The boxer engines and all-wheel-drive became standard equipment for mid-size and smaller cars in most of its international markets by the mid-90s.
The lone and recent exception is the Subaru BRZ introduced in 2012 – a joint project with Toyota’s GT86. The BRZ still uses a boxer engine but instead has a rear-wheel drive architecture.
Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster – or ‘The Seven Sisters’ – one of whom tradition says is invisible, hence only six stars in the Subaru logo.
What is it?
This the new Subaru’s Levorg GT Sports Tourer. It’s a spacious, permanent all-wheel drive estate that offers good performance, exceptional comfort and practicality to a niche group of brand loyal customers. But is it good enough to attract potential buyers from other brands – known in the industry as ‘conquests’? Only time will tell, but having spent a week with it, I have a pretty good idea.
The Levorg name is apparently derived from ‘LEgacy’, ‘reVOlution’ and ‘touRinG’. Some say the Levorg the spiritual successor to the brand’s fourth generation Legacy estate. Subaru still make the Legacy, it just doesn’t reach the UK anymore and was superceded by the slightly raised and clad Outback in 2008.
The Levorg is six inches shorter than the last named Legacy to reach the UK thanks to its severely stretched underpinnings borrowed from Subaru’s Impreza family hatch. Shorter it might be, but Subaru have ‘done an Astra’ by offering more interior space than any previous Legacy model.
The Style Factory
Like wine tasting, all opinions are subjective. However, first impressions in car design are crucial. Get it ‘Bentayga-wrong’ and the public reaction is as rapid as it is rabid.
Style-wise, the Levorg is a car of two distinct halves.
From the B-pillars forward there is little if any difference between it and its WRX hot hatch stablemate. Thanks to the shallow placement of its boxer engine, the nose dips low and the headlights have a degree of menace ably supported by the deep bonnet scoop and gulping air intake under the bold, chrome-lined grill. The fog lamp/indicator quarter with the chrome dart splitting the two completes the front’s aggressive look.
Rear of the B-pillars is pretty much all new with its sleek, swept-back profile, tapering roofline, rising beltline and muscular surfacing. Twin tail pipes, a sculpted diffuser and a large roof spoiler complete an overall pleasant picture.
As medium-sized estates go, the Subaru Levorg is a good looking motor with homage evidently paid to the brand’s strong rally heritage.
The Inside Story
Take a seat inside and you’ll discover the Levorg is very space-efficient. Sure, it’s a lot shorter than the Subaru Outback, but thanks to clever packaging, there’s just as much cabin space as its larger stablemate.
The dashboard is set quite low affording an ever-present view of the raised bonnet scoop. To be honest the dash is a bit of a mish-mash with three screens vying for your attention. Still, it’s somewhat less of a mess than the Civic’s early morning canine cereal and toast.
The driver gets a clear view of the main instrument binnacle dead ahead. The centre dash console houses a seven-inch touch screen infotainment system that’s a few welcome steps up from Subaru’s usual after-market offering.
A multi-layered trip computer is housed in a smaller third screen set centred atop the dash. The intuitive and conventionally-dialled heating and ventilation controls are a welcome change although the dials do seem overly large.
Build and interior quality is fairly high. Everything feels well put together with no erroneous rattles or vibrations developing during the week. Plus, with ‘GT’ being the only trim grade, the toy box is full of goodies.
There’s plenty of room for up to five passengers in the fully-leathered furniture and a decent 522-litre standard boot capacity. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats down and this increases to a cavernous 1,446-litres to the roofline.
Engine & Transmission
There is only one engine at launch; a new 1.6-litre DIT (direct injection turbo) petrol unit which uses twin-scroll turbocharging. In isolation, the engine is a gem but is overly thirsty which is a direct result of its pairing with its given transmission, I expect.
The engine pulls well and should be less expensive to run than the larger, older engines offered in other Subaru models. The 1.6 develops 168 bhp between 4,800 and 5,600 rpm and maximum torque of 250Nm from 1,800 to 4,900 rpm.
There is only one transmission; Subaru’s own Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). I am no fan of the CVT and this one is no different. CVTs do not have conventional gears and progress is made by electronic ‘steps’ programmed into it which makes it feel like a conventional auto. But it isn’t. Like all CVTs, this one is rather slow-witted, whiney and generally detrimental to the performance of the car when left to its own electronically manipulated devices.
Fortunately, there is an alternative…
Should you choose to deploy the flappy paddles – and you should – things get a little more interesting. Under man-management, the six step CVT will hold a particular ‘ratio’ for as long as you keep it there and offers more engagement than any other CVT I have ever experienced and edges perilously close to fun. But again, there is a severe thirst penalty.
It is hoped that a torquey turbo-diesel and a short-throw manual gearbox with real metal gears may follow. It would certainly be on my wish list.
There is only one ‘GT’ trim grade available and it is a generous one.
Always a good start is a leather-clad sports steering wheel with matching gear knob. There’s also heated front seats and an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
Standard goodies include dual zone climate control, auto wipers and lights, power windows throughout, remote control keyless access using the handle-mounted touch-swipes on the doors (which are a pain and best left alone), a push-button starter, windshield wiper de-icer and heated door mirrors. Other toys include satnav, DAB radio and 18-inch alloy wheels.
If you like a bit of a sing-song along the way, there’s a great sounding audio system via the six-inch touchscreen, with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, two front USB ports and an auxiliary input jack, USB ports for rear passengers and a six-speaker audio system.
Subaru tends to avoid creating options lists and with the Levorg are not about to break any house rules. Instead, buyers are afforded the opportunity to accessorise their chosen chariots with a myriad of weight-gathering tat. With the Levorg’s trim grade, engine and transmission boxes pre-ticked, the good eggs at Subaru have left you with just one choice to make – that of colour.
But before you succumb to an adrenaline rush and career naked around the pussy willow under a full moon like a Yoruba possessed, Subaru UK present you with a choice of three colours; a metallic steel blue grey (as tested), or crystal white and lapis blue, both of which are pearlescent.
Subaru has a good record on the safety front and the Levorg continues that good record. There’s front and side airbags, driver’s knee bag and the front seats have been designed to reduce the chances of getting whiplash.
Active safety measures feature blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert which tells you if a vehicle or pedestrian is about to pass behind when you are reversing out of a parking space.
However, while the Levorg’s four-wheel drive and stability control should keep you out of the trouble you were foolish enough to get yourself into in the first place, it doesn’t feature adaptive cruise control or automatic emergency braking, both of which are offered on rivals.
On the Road
Subaru are using the Levorg to introduce their own and all-new 1.6-litre boxer engine and home-grown CVT transmission. The combination apparently gives a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Subaru says that it has “benchmarked the Levorg against its performance models and should provide a more dynamic drive than you used to get from the old Legacy Tourer”.
On the road, the ride is as sporting as its looks and there’s a confident feel to the Levorg when pushing on. It uses many of the suspension components from Subaru’s sporty WRX STI model, which has resulted in a family estate car that (once you master the flappy paddles) can be fun to drive, albeit a little firm.
The steering is responsive and accurate, there’s lots of grip and the car in general feels impressively nimble. So just to be clear…yes, considerably more dynamic that the Legacy Tourer.
The drive is relaxing on smooth surfaces, but the firm suspension makes itself heard and felt over poor or crusty road surfaces where the rear can be a tad jiggly, too.
Thanks in part to its fuel-sapping four-wheel drive and revvy CVT transmission, the Levorg has an official 39.8 mpg in combined EU economy tests, which is mediocre to say the least. During the week’s test, the best I achieved was 39.0 mpg after three hours of motorway driving at a cruise-controlled 60mph.
However, over a total of 423 mixed test miles, I achieved an average of 36.3 mpg which – all things considered – is reasonable. Still, such figures fall way short of other petrol-fuelled rivals, let alone diesel or hybrid models.
Price & Warranty
The Subaru Levorg GT Sports Tourer is currently priced at £27,495.
It’s covered by a generous five-year/100,000 mile warranty and the paintwork has three-year’s warranty cover. Additional assurance comes from a comprehensive (UK only) three-year recovery and assistance programme.
Subaru knows full well that the Levorg will be a minority choice in its very competitive segment. But it also knows that for a select few brand-loyal customers, it will hit the desired mark. Those buyers will get a charismatic, spacious estate with good performance, high levels of standard equipment, good residuals and the best 4WD system in the business. In other words, a car of many talents.
However, up against stronger rivals, the Levorg is fighting the good fight with one hand tied behind its back and sporting a pirate’s eye patch. Slot in a strong, torquey diesel and a six-speed manual gearbox – as Subaru is likely to at some point in the near future – and the Levorg will come close to matching its rivals and establishing legitimate mainstream appeal.
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Fast Facts : Subaru Levorg GT Sports Tourer
Price : £27,495.
Engine: 1,6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer.
Power: 168 bhp (170PS/125kW) @ 4,800 – 5,600 rpm
Torque: 280 Nm (184 lb/ft) @ 1,800 – 4,900 rpm
Transmission: Six-step constantly variable transmission (CVT)
0-62 mph: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 130 mph
Fuel consumption: 39.8 mpg (combined cycle)
Fuel tank: 60 litres (13.1 gallons)
Theoretical mileage: 521 miles
CO2 emissions: 164 g/km
Luggage capacity: 522 litres behind row two
Luggage capacity: 944 litres behind row one
Luggage capacity: 1,446 litres behind row one max to roof
Kerb weight: 1,531kg
Insurance group: 24
Annual VED: Band G, £180 for first year, £185 thereafter.
Release date: On sale since September 2015.