Subaru is calling its oddly-named Levorg (it’s Grovel backwards) the spiritual successor to the Liberty GT station-wagon.
Fair enough – everybody loves playing the nostalgia card these days – but does the Subaru Levorg have the substance to fill those big boots?
On paper, it looks good. From the B-pillars forwards, it’s pretty much straight WRX and of course, it uses Subaru’s non-negotiable all-wheel-drive system. The engine is also the same turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit punching out 197kW of power and 350Nm of torque, so that seems to be up to speed also.
The big question mark hangs over Subaru’s decision to equip the Levorg exclusively with a CVT transmission. Okay, it’s been adapted to work with the brand’s SI Drive to tailor it to what the driver is after at that moment in time, but a CVT? Really?
The good news is that there’s been some local input into the tuning of the springs and dampers, the calibration of the CVT and even the cruise-control’s parameters. But if this thing really is the new Liberty GT Wagon, then it needs to set some kind of a benchmark for compact wagons on the road. And that CVT better not get in the way. So does it?
No, and the fact that it’s stepped (six steps in Normal and Sport mode and eight steps in Sport Sharp) means it never feels flary and flighty like many a conventional CVT. The converter feels nice and tight, too, and that means it has good step off and the feeling that the petrol atoms being burned are going towards thrust, not just noise.
In manual mode it will also obey the paddles consistently and faithfully, even if you deliberately select a tall gear at low speed and squish the gas pedal. Along the way, you also get good throttle response and plenty of torque to haul you out of turns. Power down? As good as you’d expect something on grippy tyres and all-wheel-drive to be.
So where does it go wrong? Mainly in the suspension which seems too soft and too short on travel to be really convincing on rough, broken country roads. Several times on our drive on the Oxley Highway in NSW, we found the front bump stops, even when the speeds were moderate and the offending crater didn’t look too confronting.
The rear end seems to suffer a little from the extra weight of the wagon body hanging over it, and there’s a sense of the car porpoising a little as the rear springs compress and the dampers fail to arrest the oscillation immediately, even with the Bilstein suspenders of the GT-S version.
The steering feels nice without being over-active, but like a lot of cars, the Levorg feels great up to about eight-tenths, at which point it can be convinced to shove its nose wide. Persist and the push gets progressively worse until you’re heading for the edge of the road and you realise you’re wasting everybody’s time.
The big concern, of course, is that the all-new, global Impreza platform due next year will outshine the current WRX trolley on which the Levorg is based. For now, the Levorg is good enough, but if the new Impreza is better, you’ve got to wonder a little.
3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: Practical, sporting alternative to an SUV.
DISLIKE: Suspension feels too soft
Engine: 1998cc flat-4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger
Power: 197kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 2400-5200rpm
0-100km/h: 6.6sec (claimed)