Volkswagen Golf R Wagon 2015 review
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Richard Berry road tests and reviews the Subaru Levorg with specs fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
Just for a moment, imagine a world where hiking boots are popular – like hugely popular. And in Australia sales of hiking boots are about to overtake regular shoes. Families love hiking boots because they’re practical, younger people want them because they look good, while older people find them so much easier to get in and out of. And everybody likes the extra bit of height hiking boots give you, too. The thing is most of these hiking boots never leave the city and many aren’t even designed, too.
Now replace the word SUV for hiking boot, because an SUV really is the hiking boot of the car world. So before buying an SUV ask yourself why you want one. Perhaps you’d be happier in a sneaker, like Subaru’s Levorg.
There’s never been a Levorg before, this is the first one and it came about because during the past couple of years Subaru saw sales of other brand’s wagons under $60K take off. Subaru wanted in on this but all its wagons had disappeared. They had either grown into SUVs or had been dropped altogether like the WRX and Liberty wagons. So they made the Levorg.
Now the car company that developed a cult following for its sporty wagons is going back to its roots with a wagon based almost entirely on the WRX. So it’s the return of the WRX wagon right? Not according to Subaru – it sees the Levorg as the successor to the Liberty wagon. Let them believe that then…
The Levorg is about 90 per cent fourth generation WRX, the only major difference between the cars is in the body – not just because of the wagon rear end but because of its toned-down appearance, too. The WRX has a tougher attitude with its flared guards, the Levorg’s styling is less aggressive and more sophisticated. Thankfully the Levorg hasn’t been completely de-fanged and sports a huge bonnet scoop for the turbo intercooler poking out of its snout.
Subaru told us one of the reasons it based the Levorg on the WRX is to keep the costs down on a car they were testing the waters with – if the response to the car is good they will build a totally new Levorg using the new global platform. So keep in mind there may never be another Levorg quite like this.
Subaru is keener to measure the Levorg up against with the previous generation Liberty wagon. In comparison the Levorg is 65mm shorter than the Liberty wagon at 4690mm in length, 41mm narrower at 1780mm across, stands 50mm lower at 1485mm in height and has a 101mm shorter wheelbase at 2650mm.
The Levorg’s interior is almost identical to that of the WRX – stylish and sporty.
Even though the Levorg is smaller than the last generation Liberty wagon it has more boot space – 50 litres more at 486 litres.
And this is where the SUV cargo capacity argument falls flat. The Levorg’s boot is 64 litres bigger than a Subaru Forester’s and 83 litres bigger than the Mazda’s CX-5’s cargo capacity.
But let’s compare wagons with wagons. The Levorg’s direct rival is the Skoda Octiavia RS and that car’s boot capacity is almost 100 litres more than the Subaru’s.
The rear seats fold 60/40 and when flat you’ve got 1446 litres at your disposal.
Storage space throughout the cabin is good, with bottle holders in all doors, two cup holders in the front and two in the back. The front seats backs also have pockets which are good for tablets and magazines.
Despite the Levorg’s smaller dimensions than the last generation Liberty wagon there’s actually more backseat legroom.
Lighting in the cabin is excellent with a light in the cargo area, reading lights on both sides in the back and two map light in the front.
The Levorg range starts at $42,990 for the entry spec 2.0GT, steps up to the 2.0GT-S for $48,890 and tops out with the $52,890 2.0GT-S Spec B.
Standard features on base grade include a 6.2-inch display with reversing camera, dual zone climate control, tinted rear glass and 18-inch alloy wheels.
There’s a 6.2-inch touchscreen and 4.3-inch vehicle status screen, reversing camera, dual zone climate control, tinted rear glass and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The 2.0GT-S specification adds a leather interior, satnav, Bilstein sports suspension, black 18-inch alloys, electric sunroof, heated front seats, Siri and Pandora compatibility and two extra USB ports.
The 2.0GT-S Spec-B then goes to town with STI upgrades including STI front, side and rear spoilers, an STI front tower bar for better handling, STI shift knock and red STI ignition button.
One engine powers the Levorg line-up and it’s a cracker – the same 197kW/350Nm four cylinder turbo petrol found in the WRX.
Like the WRX the Levorg has Subaru’s excellent all-wheel drive system, which is as much a safety feature as a handling one.
The four cylinder is what’s called a boxer engine because the pistons lie flat and punch outwards rather than up, like a um, boxer. That’s why they sound different to regular four cylinder engines, and there’s all sort of advantages to the set up – particularly in terms of the car’s handling because the flat engine gives the car a lower centre of gravity.
Carmakers use CVTs to improve fuel consumption and Subaru says you should see it sip 95 RON at an average combined rate of 8.7L/100km. But if you drive this car like it’s begging to be driven you’ll see 13.4L/100km like I did. There’s a stop-start system, but in our mainly country road blasting it never reared its sensible head.
We first drove the Levorg in Japan last year. That gave us a good taste test of the wagon, but we were keen to see what it's like on our roads especially as Subaru's engineers change the suspension to suit Australian conditions. We only had the chance to steer the 2.0GT-S specification and the B Spec. Most of the time (and hundreds of kilometres) was spent in the 2.0GT-S so the following is an account of this car.
There’s a reason why WRXs are the pin-up cars of a generation of boy-men – the bang for your bucks is almost unbeatable. And while the Levorg is far more grown up and sophisticated looking, all the WRX’s natural abilities are just under the skin.
Not many cars for this price give you this level of connection with driving. The power rack and pinion steering feels natural and precise with plenty of feedback. Throttle is light and so controllable, you can adjust input minutely to point the light-feeling nose of the car wherever you want to shoot it. The turbo spools up so quickly and in such a smooth way that it’s almost instant and you’re not left waiting like some of its rivals who seem to fire out of a cannon long after the moment has passed.
Then there’s the handling – the Levorg is balanced and planted, responding to turns without rolling its body and gripping with all its 225mm of Dunlop rubber impressively. Some performance cars want to ‘show you who’s boss’ and even threaten to bite you back, but the Levorg wants to play (and let you win) and brings all-wheel drive to the party, too, for better traction.
I’m not a fan of CVTs (or DSGs) but this one isn’t bad, in the more hardcore sport mode it’s been programmed to act more like a traditional torque converter auto.
If I can think of any other issues it’s the driving position, I’d like to sit lower to feel more part of the car and even on its lowest setting the seat felt a tad too high.
Also brakes. It seems to be a Subaru thing that some of their vehicles don’t have the stopping ability of their rivals. The first thing I’d do if I bought a Levorg is upgrade the anchors to bigger beasts, but then I wear out brakes like you wouldn’t believe.
Look, this isn’t a lightening quick car like a Nissan GT-R, and it’s nowhere near as hardcore as the WRX STI but it’s about the handling which makes the Levorg fun. It’s not slow though: 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds isn’t bad – but if my sources are correct the performance has been intentionally limited so that P-platers can drive it too – after all Subaru has families in mind with the Levorg. Oh and there are (legal) ways to make Levorg quicker if you want – think of it as a blank canvas.
The Levorg gets the WRX’s five star ANCAP rating. There’s safety features galore such as ABS, traction and stability control. All Levorgs come with Subaru’s Eyesight system which uses two cameras that watch the road ahead looking for pedestrians stepping out or cars pulling up suddenly – it’ll then stop the car (yours not their’s, it’s not that good) to avoid a collision. Eyesight has also been taught to know what a brake light looks like and that makes the adaptive cruise control astoundingly good.
The 2.0GT-S and 2.0 GT-S Spec B comes with more advanced safety features including a backwards facing radar for blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts.
For child seats there are three top tether points across the back seat and two ISOFIX mounts.
Subarus come with a three year/75,000km warranty and capped price servicing. Be aware that Subaru requires owners to service their vehicle every six months or at 12,500km intervals for the first six services.
This Levorg is a superhero suit with a built-in backpack. On the track or winding roads you’ll begin to feel like you are wearing it rather than driving it – so good is the connection between the road, car and driver. You might not win too many drag races, but you’ll catch them in the corners. Then you’ll climb out of it and remember it’s a wagon. A wagon with better boot space and towing capacity than many small SUVs and a billion times more fun to drive.
Do you think the Levorg is a successor to the WRX or Liberty wagon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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