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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Subaru Levorg GT-S with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Yes, it must be hard to come up with decent names for new cars, because all the good ones - Mustang, Falcon, Laser and… Probe - have been taken by Ford, but that’s still no excuse for giving Subaru’s newest wagon for the Australian market such a terrible one.
Behold the Levorg (try saying it with the voice of the voiceover guy from film trailers). It sounds like a rubbish sci-fi villain, possibly from mid-seventies Doctor Who, with a cardboard fin on its back and plastic teeth on its fingers for some reason.
Subaru explains that it’s a portmanteau of the words Legacy (Liberty is an Australia-only nameplate), Revolution and Touring. Someone should explain that a portmanteau is never a good thing, unless it’s a flavour of jelly.
Yes, Levorg also spells ‘grovel’ backwards, but why not assume it’s a misspelling of ‘gravel’ instead, and thus a clever a reference to Subaru’s past rallying glories?
That seems more fitting, because the Levorg is basically a Subaru WRX wagon, which seems like a great idea, at first, except that Australians aren’t really buying wagons that size any more. Still, the old WRX wagonette was pretty popular, so this really could go either way. Unless people are too put off by the crappy name.
There are two Levorgs (it kind of sounds like “cyborg” when you pluralise) on offer, the $42,990 GT and the $48,890 GT-S, which is the car we had for a week.
There’s a huge bonnet scoop to feed the turbo’s intercooler radiator. Doof-doofers will love it.
Standard on the GT-S are 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, weird side-vision camera, keyless entry and start, auto headlights and wipers, active cruise control, electric driver’s seat with memory, sat nav, LED headlights, partial leather trim, powered and heated folding door mirrors, sunroof, heated front sports seats, blind-spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
The larger 7.0-inch Starlink screen is a nice addition to the GT-S (and GT Spec.B), has USB and Bluetooth for smartphone integration and is Siri compatible for iOS devices. Lastly, there’s a Pandora app, but that’s about as clever as it gets, as there’s no sign of Spotify and definitely no CarPlay or AndroidAuto.
The satnav is a bit low-res, but does the job. The screen itself is pretty snappy and responds quickly to touch – in fact, it’s electro static so you barely have to brush it. It’s one of the fastest touchscreens in the business.
The weird side-vision camera looks forward from under the doorhandle, supposedly to help you park, but it looks like something bores post to YouTube. It does help, but it takes a bit of getting used to. The vision from that camera is displayed up in the auxiliary gauge screen, while the main screen shows the reversing camera. So much to look at.
Subaru’s wacky decision to exclude front and/or rear parking sensors continues to disappoint. Perhaps they think the reversing camera is enough, but show us someone who prefers a camera to beepers and we’ll show you someone who likes names like Levorg.
Being a Subaru, what you see is pretty much what you get, although there is a Spec.B pack, which includes painted 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and start, leather gear knob, body kit and a front strut brace.
Up front there are two cupholders and a storage bin beneath a sliding armrest. The armrest covers both when thrust fully forward, meaning a possible liquid-on-car incident if you’re indulging in a large quantity of syrupy goodness from a Super Duper Big Gulp.
There are another two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest and each door has a bottle holder good for a 600ml unit.
The boot is an excellent 522 litres with the seats up and 1446 with them folded forward, a pretty good result for a not especially large car.
Because it’s related to the Impreza, this wagon is an odd-looking vehicle, with an unbalanced front-to-rear look in profile. The front is low and slim while the wagon addition is heavy-handed and boxy. Even the Subaru XV looks better than one of these.
Liberal use of shiny chrome on the grille and bumper is overdone and the chrome strip along the window sill ends abruptly at the C pillar. Get a look at it from the front three-quarter and it starts to make a bit more sense, but it’s not a classic by any stretch.
In an effort to remind you the car is related to the WRX, there’s a huge bonnet scoop to feed the turbo’s intercooler radiator. Doof-doofers will love it.
Inside, things are decidedly more convincing. There’s obviously a lot of Impreza here, and while it’s fairly conventionally laid-out, it’s well-executed. Stacked in the centre part of the dash is the climate control, main 7-inch screen and then an auxiliary screen at the top, no doubt disappointing the aftermarket gauges crew with its various readouts.
The dash is small but clear and the steering wheel is a flat-bottomed leather item, which somehow manages to be less irritating than similar squared-circle wheels from Audi.
To make up for being nice to hold, the wheel is peppered with 20 separate buttons, some of them making absolutely no sense whatsoever. I resorted to pressing them all to see what would happen. One button seemed to make a beep but not do anything else. Useful.
The materials are all very pleasant to touch but the blue stitching might not be to all tastes. The front seats are tremendously comfortable, if lacking a little in under-thigh support, but they’ll hold you in very nicely through the corners.
Subaru’s famous 2.0-litre turbo boxer engine hides underneath the scooped bonnet, producing 197kW and 350Nm. Driving all four wheels through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the 1622kg Levorg will reach 100km/h in 6.6 seconds, 0.3 seconds slower than the sexier WRX sedan.
Subaru will tell you that on the combined cycle the Levorg will use the required premium unleaded at the rate of 8.7L/100km.
Sadly, the Levorg is a hard drinker, especially in heavy traffic – we sat helplessly watching the display creep up to a V8-rivalling 15.2L/100km. Did we mention it drinks premium?
Overall we got a still-scary 12.8L/100km after a week of normal suburban driving, with some fast running early one Saturday morning.
There’s no stop-start function or energy recovery to reduce the boxer’s thirst.
Seven airbags (including a knee airbag for the driver), ABS, traction and stability controls, blind-spot sensor, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, brake assist, forward-collision mitigation.
The June 2016 ANCAP crash test resulted in a five-star rating, the maximum available.
The GT-S comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight, now (thankfully) in its third generation. It uses a set of cameras in the windscreen to see what’s in front of you, providing steering, braking and throttle assistance if it thinks you’re going to crash. It’s highly clever.
The lane-departure warning and lane-sway warnings are still a bit frantic but these days provide fewer false positives, so you’re less likely to switch it all off. It also beeps at you if you haven’t noticed the car in front moving away, which is mildly infuriating in stop-start traffic.
Individually, there’s a lot to like about the Levorg – the 2.0-litre turbo seems stronger than its 350Nm suggests, the all-wheel-drive system is a known and impressive quantity and the gearbox… well, the CVT is okay in other Subarus, and is certainly one of the better examples of this occasionally infuriating breed.
The only problem is, Subaru seems to have missed something while putting the individual parts together. To be totally fair, for 90 percent of the driving experience, it’s fine. The power is there, the transmission is not too noisy (CVTs whine, so does this one, that’s all there is to it) and there’s a pleasing combination of chuffs and sighs from the intercooled turbo.
Sadly, even tragically, you can’t get a manual Levorg.
When you’re giving it a nudge, the steering is a bit slow, and it just doesn’t have the pointiness you might expect from a car with sporting pretensions. There’s an initial lurch on turn-in when you’re chucking it at corners, which is at odds with the drivetrain.
Both of these things detract from the morning-blast-down-a-winding-road experience, while the all-wheel-drive grip and super-characterful engine make up the deficit. It’s no WRX, however.
Ultimately, though, it’s the CVT that lets the side down. Even in the sportiest of the drivetrain’s three modes – S# (as in Sport Sharp) – where it pretends to be a seven-speed auto, there’s still that elastic-band slack in the uptake that forces you to work the paddles to get some engine braking.
Even then, there’s an irritating overrun after you lift off the throttle, as the inertia in the gearbox keeps winding up rather than the speed falling off like in a good traditional auto or dual-clutch. Sadly, even tragically, you can’t get a manual Levorg.
The gearbox setup from the Outback R, where throttle and gearbox response in S# is super-impressive, would be more appropriate in the Levorg.
The ride is also inconsistent, with a fidgety jiggle over high-frequency bumps, although it is excellent over the bigger, tougher bumps. The Levorg would probably grind you down on most Australian motorways, and with the jiggling and the tyre roar around the ‘burbs, the suspension noise might get on your nerves as well.
As our loan drew to a close, with the rain bucketing down and the streetlights on, the EyeSight system chose the conditions in which it is most useful to fail. The time-honoured tradition of turning the car off and on again fixed it, but then it did it again a few minutes later. This the only time we had this problem.
Subaru’s warranty extends for three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assistance for the first year in the form of a membership with your local state motoring organisation (NRMA, RACV, RACQ etc.)
The capped-price servicing scheme runs for three years/75,000km, ranging from $313 to $525 over the three years, which includes an initial free service after one month and then a service every six months/12,500km. The three-year total is $2255, averaging $376 per service.
The Levorg is not a completely convincing quick wagon – that goes to the rather more expensive Volkswagen Golf R – and there’s a trio of gotchas in the fuel consumption, the weird ride and the less-than-sharp CVT auto.
Of course, just because you want a turbocharged wagon, you’re not necessarily going to want everything the WRX has to offer. The Levorg is rapid, will swallow a lot of gear and is quite versatile. It’s also very well put together and not bad value once you take into account the performance, safety and space.
Just try not to think about the name.