Hidden among heavily forested mountains south east of Tokyo is a historic cycling training complex that just so happens to count a scaled down version of the Nurburgring among its facilities.
Its decaying structures could double as a Bond villain’s compound, with the 6km billiard table-smooth ribbon of tarmac ideal for shaping super humans in readiness for a new civilisation.
We’re not here for world domination or decimation, but rather to put the equally Bond baddie-sounding Subaru Levorg wagon through its paces ahead of its local arrival in mid 2016.
You could be forgiven for assuming the Levorg is simply the long-awaited replacement for the WRX wagon that skipped the hatch and sedan-only third-generation, as that’s essentially what it is. Aside from a specific front bumper, the Levorg is all fourth-generation WRX sedan from the rear wheels forward.
Behind the rear wheels it gets a wagon roofline, plus an extra 95mm of rear overhang that helps it stretch to within 4 litres of the previous Liberty wagon’s seats-up cargo space. Clever packaging means that the rear space is also a near match for the fifth-generation Liberty wagon.
Given the lack of a Liberty wagon in the sixth-generation lineup – the Outback is as close as it gets - Subaru sees the Levorg as plugging both the WRX and Liberty wagon holes in Australia.
This Liberty wagon substitution is reflected in its name, forming a contraction of Legacy (Japanese Liberty branding) EVolution touRinG.
We’re not here for world domination or decimation, but rather to put the Levorg through its paces.
The Levorg is available in Japan with 1.6 or 2.0-litre turbocharged flat fours, but Australia only has eyes for the WRX-matching 197kW/350Nm larger engine for the time being.
Like the last WRX wagon, the Levorg gets more discrete wheelarches than the WRX sedan. In Japanese-guise at least, it looks more high spec than high performance. Hopefully the Australia-bound models score the more aggressive wheels from the WRX.
You may be wondering what all the excitement is about given the shrinking mid-size wagon segment in favour of SUVs, but performance wagons are indeed a key part of the brand’s DNA. While the Levorg is only expected to provide incremental sales growth down under, its aimed at recapturing some of the enthusiasm that made the fourth-gen Liberty GT wagon the brand’s best seller.
Australian spec is yet to be finalised, but two trim levels are planned, with both paired with the CVT auto. Expect a premium over the $40,990 base WRX auto, but hopefully not too far from the $41,390 commanded by the petrol auto Skoda Octavia RS wagon that will form its closest rival in Australia.
Onto the mini-'Ring, and the Levorg does not disappoint in its ability to go fast with little effort. While a manual would offer more driver satisfaction, the CVT seamlessly allows the engine to do its best.
The all-wheel drive lets you get on the power very early, and the Levorg’s extra 43kg hanging over the tail makes no discernible difference to the WRX platform’s predictable cornering balance.
Our time in the driver’s seat was brief and fast, but the Levorg seems to have lost none of the dynamic magic that has made the current WRX such a success.
Driven back-to-back with a Forester XT over the same course, the latter feels tall, flabby and understeery by comparison. Given we‘re otherwise a fan of the turbo Forester, this bodes well for the Levorg.