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Car reviews - Subaru - Levorg - GT-S

Our Opinion

We like
Versatile package, powerful drivetrain, useable CVT transmission, active safety features
Room for improvement
Over-active rear springs, chunky front seat backrests inhibit rear leg room, no rear vents in centre console, pricey

Subaru logo16 Sep 2016

By STUART MARTIN

Price and equipment

THE mid-spec Subaru Levorg GT-S tested here is priced from $48,890 plus on-road costs and the extra cash takes it a step up in terms of class, with leather trim, silver exterior mirror trim, a larger sat-nav-equipped touchscreen and a sunroof among the extras above the entry-level $42,990 GT.

Its near-$50,000 pricetag puts it above the top-spec $46,690 Mazda Atenza wagon, below Volkswagen’s flagship $59,990 Passat R wagon (here in November) and well above the Skoda Octavia petrol auto RS wagon $40,190.

Only the Volkswagen can match the outputs and number of driven wheels, and can hit 100km/h from a standstill in 5.7 seconds versus the Subaru’s 6.6s claim.

The GT-S features list also has power folding heated exterior mirrors, tilt and slide electric sunroof, rear privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels (but a space-saver spare), dual-zone climate control (with heater ducts but no centre console vents for rear passengers), two-stage heated sports seats, keyless entry and ignition, sports pedals, a reach and rake adjustable sports-styled leather steering wheel with myriad controls and paddle-shifters.

The six-speaker sound system has Bluetooth and USB link, voice control as well as Pandora internet radio (but no DAB+ digital radio) and the old-school CD slot further USB charging points are available with two in the centre console and two for rear-seat occupants which will please the offspring.

Interior

The interior space of the Levorg falls just short of the Mazda6 and VW Passat but that is by no means a suggestion it can’t carry five occupants, because it can – but only just.

Four adults are more likely to dwell comfortably for width, with just enough legroom and enough headroom for a 191cm passenger to sit behind a similarly tall driver.

Seat comfort is good front and rear, with the roof-mounted centre rear seatbelt the only complaint.

The driver sits on a power-adjustable sports seat with two-position memory and a grippy sports leather steering wheel, which has controls for phone, audio, voice control, active cruise control, the drive mode selector and trip computer controls, all of which makes for a busy appearance.

The dash is less frenetic, with the centre display (with a speed readout) flanked by the speedometer and tachometer, as well as another display with fuel use, boost pressure and other readouts for the curious.

A retractable cargo tonneau covers boot space which is listed at 522 litres with five aboard, rising to 1446 litres with the split-fold electric-folding rear seats folded, with tie-down points but there’s no 12-volt outlet in the cargo area.

Power supplies are well taken care of in other parts of the cabin with two 12-volt sockets and four USB power sockets to keep power-hungry devices topped up.

Door pockets with small bottle holders and a centre console with cupholders delivers reasonable but not cavernous in-cabin stowage.

Engine and transmission

Where the little wagon makes its bones is under its bonnet scoop, which feeds fast-flowing air to the 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged horizontally-opposed four-cylinder.

It needs 95RON PULP and runs a variable valve system and double overhead cam to produce 197kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm from 2400 through to 5200rpm, enough to push the 1622kg wagon to 100km/h in a claimed 6.6 seconds.

Official fuel economy on the combined cycle is 8.7 litres per 100km but the trip computer showed 11.8L/100km after our time in the car, which included plenty of open-road work as well as some more spirited driving to test the active all-wheel drive system the trip computer’s long-term figures remained in single digits.

While the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is not this author’s preferred type of transmission, it is one of the better incarnations of the breed, applying the strong band of torque without constantly clobbering the redline to make its point.

In the mainstream mode it seamlessly transfers the torque to all four wheels, cruising quietly at speed, with Sport and Sport Sharp (#) mode running a little higher in the rev range for more immediate impact with the right foot – it works.

The S# mode mimics an eight-speed ‘manual’ gearbox, operable by selector or paddle and it provides a useful level of control not often available with CVTs.

Ride and handling

On an unmarked and smooth ribbon of road the Levorg presents a calm face, swiftly and smoothly sprinting from standstill without apparent effort and settles into a comfortable cruise, albeit with some road noise on coarse chip bitumen.

Throw in some corners and the steering weight is decent but it’s not full of feel the ride is firmer than the GT beneath it on the price list but it grips with gusto thanks to a clever all-wheel drive, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres and torque-vectoring, but bigger bumps and lumps delivered problems for the Subaru.

The front end is a Bilstein set-up with a MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear end, with coils and stabiliser bars – the Bilstein set-up is more composed than the GT, with the cleverer dampers doing a more comprehensive job on the unruly rear springs, which bounce uncomfortably and deliver little aftershocks as well, in some switchback bends the disturbance was enough to awaken the stability control.

For a brand that has a background in rallying it’s mystifying that such a second-rate tune made it through to production.

Safety and servicing

Subaru has put its third incarnation of the EyeSight system in the Levorg, which is a top-notch back-up for the driver the GT-S gets the Vision Assist extras that include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and auto high beam.

The system is less – but not completely devoid of – false alarms in twisting and fast driving, but the bulk of the electronic back-ups work nicely, spotting brake lights and pedestrians to good effect.

The adaptive cruise control still allows too much leeway between the set and road speeds – enough to potentially cost you money in Victoria at least – but there’s also a lane departure warning.

The all-wheel drive system varies the torque split, as well as applying torque vectoring as required, back by stability control, seven airbags (driver’s knee, front, side and curtain airbags), hill start assistance, electronic parking brake and reversing cameras – one for the rear and one to keep an eye on the kerb.

Automatic dusk-sensing LED low-beam headlights, daytime running lights, foglights, rear LED lights, rain-sensing wipers (which seem a little tardy in heavy downpours) and an auto dimming centre mirror all appear on the features list.

But at the other end of the safety spectrum, the Levorg has no parking sensors.

The presence of two reversing cameras is commendable but the sensors add an aural backup for the eyes, which can’t always be focussed on a screen and the limited vision provided in wet conditions further warrants the need for standard sensors at the very least on the rump.

Warranty coverage extends to three years with unlimited kilometres, with three years/75,000km capped price servicing and 12 months roadside assistance.

Services are required every six months or 12,500km, ranging in price from $312.97 to $524.29 (at the time of writing) – the intervals are less than segment leading than the VW group’s 12 months or 15,000km, although Mazda’s 10,000km interval sits beneath the Subaru.

Verdict

The Levorg keys were taken with high expectations and in many respects the Subaru wagon met them – strong performance from the drivetrain, clever all-wheel-drive system, an uprated interior and class-leading safety features among the highlights – but the high pricetag and more particularly the underdone suspension let the rest of the vehicle down.

Plentiful pep and grip from all-wheel drive is less useful when the chassis can’t keep it properly tied down, or the daily grind can’t be completed if speed bumps and ‘yumps’ flummox the rear end.

Rivals

Skoda Octavia RS 162 TSI auto wagon from $40,190
If only they did an AWD version of this – perhaps a Scout RS could appear – but the Levorg would then have a genuine head-to-head competitor, but regardless of the driven wheels the Skoda has the road manners to swing many in its favour.

With 162kW and 350Nm under the right foot it’s a feisty family hauler and its price tag would be the icing on the chassis cake.

Mazda6 Atenza 2.5 petrol wagon from $46,690
While it doesn’t quite match the Levorg for performance the top-spec Mazda wagon doesn’t want for much in other areas of consideration, with a spacious cabin and boot, as well as an enthusiastic drivetrain and suspension system that doesn’t have the kids asking to be taken to school in something else.

Volkswagen Passat R wagon from $59,990
It might cost $10,000 more than the Levorg but it will offer 206kW and 350Nm and it’s a fair bet the bigger German’s tail is not going to bounce around as much as the Levorg’s did. It’s a half-size up from the Subaru in terms of cabin and load space but until we see a return of the limited edition-only Golf R wagon, this is the nearest AWD VW load-lugger to take it on.

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