The fourth-generation Subaru Liberty wagon went out of production in early 2015. It was the brand’s best-selling wagon ever. But for the fifth-generation Liberty, the wagon body was discontinued. Buyers looking for more practicality would have to buy the Outback crossover. However, according to Subaru the feedback was that the new car was too big.
Surely, Subaru wasn’t going to let Liberty wagon’s loyal following slip away (to Skoda). And now we know what the Japanese car maker has been cooking since the dismissal of its much loved mid-size wagon – a new mid-size wagon of course!
This time it’s called the Levorg – a portmanteau of three words, LEgacy, reVOlution, touRinG (Legacy is Liberty’s global nameplate).
To appeal to Libery wagon owners looking for a replacement, Subaru has been careful with the Levorg’s dimension. While 100mm shorter, the Levorg’s width is identical to the fourth-gen Liberty wagon. Both cars have almost similar luggage capacities.
But even better, the Levorg is bringing back one of enthusiast favourites from the early 2000s – the WRX wagon.
Because the Liberty has grown so much over the years Subaru has based the Levorg on the WRX to keep it compact. This means the front half of the body is derived from the WRX, while the rear half is all new.
More than just a mix-and-match exercise, the Levorg also gets the drivetrain of the WRX donor car. Underneath the bonnet is a 2.0-litre direct-injected flat-four lifted straight from its more athletic sibling, delivering the same 197kW of power at 5,600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2,400 – 5,200rpm.
It drives all four wheels via a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), also carried over from the WRX automatic. No manual option is offered.
The result is a sporty tourer that will not only appeal to families but also enthusiasts looking for a blend of performance and function.
The car comes to Australia in two variants; the 2.0GT and the 2.0GT-S. Priced from $42,990, the entry-level model looks essentially the same as the $48,890 GT-S, safe for its dark metal finished front grille, body coloured mirror caps and monotone 18-inch alloy wheels.
Those looking for sportier looks can order the Spec.B model which we also have on test here. It brings a wide range of local fit parts and accessories from Subaru’s go fast division STI, for an additional $4,000.
It’s your say whether the premium over the GT-S is justified, but it seems that the add-ons are merely cosmetics (maybe a tiny bit of aero improvement), save for a chassis-strengthening front tower bar.
On the outside the looks are hotted up with a front bumper lip spoiler, side skirt extensions, rear under spoiler, rear side under spoilers, roof spoiler extension and gloss black 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, subtle changes to the WRX-sourced cabin include a STI shift knob and a STI red push button start.
Already proven in the WRX, the Levorg’s direct-injected turbo four serves up its might early in the rev range for an effortless drive around town and in the country. It is also remarkably refined and stays relatively muted unless poked, at which point it howls enthusiastically to its 6,200 rpm cut off.
While CVTs have a reputation of diluting the driving experience and emitting unpleasant drone, we are glad to report that the Levorg’s CVT suffers from neither. In fact, it’s so silky smooth in all proceedings that we actually prefer this CVT over a conventional auto for day to day driving.
In Sport mode or when you’re enthusiastic on the throttle, the CVT even mimics a traditional 8-speed torque converter auto. The virtual “steps” can be operated by the paddle shifters behind the wheel. The transmission is also quick to react to throttle input, kicking down swiftly when you ask for more power.
With a 50kg weight penalty compared to its WRX sibling, the Levorg sprints from 0 to 100km/h 0.3 second slower the WRX at 6.6 seconds. It’s not a scorcher but still pleasantly quick for a family wagon.
The Bilstein dampers that come equipped in the GT-S and Spec B are a tad firmer than the standard suspension in the base GT but endow the wagon with sharper and sportier dynamics.
On a stretch of twisty back roads the Levorg’s WRX traits become immediately apparent, serving up impressive grip levels from the permanent all-wheel drive and ultra-sharp turn in, with minimal body roll.
In the wet, the added assurance offered by the all-wheel drive system really makes the Levorg a true all-weather sports wagon.
Subaru’s Si Drive allows a three-mode control of the throttle response – Intelligent, Sport and Sport # – with the latter being the sharpest setting. We find the middle Sport setting the best, offering good response but not overly sharp.
The brakes are progressive and has good pedal feel, though we’d prefer they bite harder during hard driving. We can’t fault the steering either, which is well weighted and provides good feedback.
Despite sitting on sports suspension and low profile tyres, the Levorg is still surprisingly compliant on our crumbling roads. There’s no harshness and it’s utterly comfortable to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Subaru says the Levorg will return 8.7L/100km. On test, we managed between 8.8L – 9.8L/100km, a respectable figure for a vehicle of this type.
Space is of course a major point of consideration for anyone looking to buy a wagon and the Levorg doesn’t disappoint. There are decent headroom and legroom for all occupants plus 522 litres of cargo space at the back, 27 litres more than the fourth-gen Liberty wagon. Folding the 60/40 split rear seats expands the capacity to 1,446 litres and liberates a 1.9m long load bay.
Storage spaces are aplenty around the cabin. There’s also no shortage of power sockets to cater for our modern appetite for anything digital. A 12 Volt power socket and two USB ports are conveniently located ahead of the gear shifter, while an additional 12 Volt power socket and two more USB ports can be found inside the centre storage. A further two USB power charger ports behind the centre armrest keep rear passengers happy.
The Levorg scores 5-star ANCAP rating, with ABS, electronic stability control, traction control and adaptive cruise control all standard. It also comes with Subaru’s Eyesight system, which uses two cameras to scan the road ahead for pedestrians and other vehicles and apply the brakes if the driver fails to. The system is also able to detect a vehicle’s brake lights, which explains why the radar cruise control is one of the best we have tested.
Blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are also standard in the GT-S and Spec.B.
The 7-inch infotainment screen is starting to show its age despite a recent update. There is no DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is still fairly intuitive, however.
Design and Comfort: 8.5/10
Performance and Handling: 8.5/10
Equipment and Features: 8.0/10
A sports wagon might seem peculiar in a booming SUV market. But precisely because of this backdrop the Levorg looks unique and offers something different, especially in the Spec.B trim. The combination of practicality and all-wheel drive turbocharged performance isn’t uncharted territory, but it’s refreshing and welcoming to see the Levorg does it with style, quality and comfort, plus a good dose of WRX.
- Handsome styling
- SUV-rivalling practicality and space
- Potent WRX-sourced drivetrain
- Sharp dynamics
- Tight servicing schedule
- No manual transmission
- No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
2016 Subaru Levorg pricing and specification
|Pricing (Excluding on-road costs):||From $42,990Levorg 2.0GT: $42.990 / As tested: $42,990|
Levorg 2.0GT-S: $48,890 / As tested: $48,890
Levorg 2.0GT-S Spec.B: $52,890 / As tested: $52,890
|Warranty:||3 years/unlimited kilometres|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||1 year roadside|
|Country of Origin:||Japan|
|Service Intervals:||6 months/12,500km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder turbo intercooled petrol: 197kW @ 5,600rpm, 350Nm @ 2,400-5,200rpm|
|Transmission:||Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)|
|Drivetrain:||Full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive|
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||2.0GT||2.0GT-S / Spec.B|
|0-100km/h (claimed):||6.6 seconds|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 8.7 / Tested: 9.6|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||60|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, Active Torque Transfer, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, daytime running lights, rear view camera, ISOFIXGT-S only: Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Left-hand side kerb view camera|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,690 / 1,780 / 1,490 / 2,650|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||2.0GT||2.0GT-S / Spec.B|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,200 / Unbraked: 750|
|Entertainment:||6.2-inch colour touchscreen, AUX, USB, 12V socket, Bluetooth|
GT-S / Spec.B only:
7.0-inch colour touchscreen with built-in satellite navigation and apps.
Competitor: Skoda Octavia RS Wagon