As far as badges go, Subaru has built ‘STI’ into a legend. Right up there with AMG, RS and GTI. But with reputation comes responsibility.
When the STI badge ventured from the WRX to the fourth-gen Liberty, Subaru went all-out with pillow-ball suspension, Brembo brakes and a healthy engine tune to keep its reputation intact. Now the badge meets the Levorg.
The priciest GT-S variant was trounced by Skoda’s Octavia RS230 in a MOTOR-hosted face-off not so long ago, where the Czech exposed a lacklustre chassis and uninspiring boxer engine on the Subaru’s part.
This time around, the badge has bumped the price above $50K with interior bits, exterior upgrades and a new colour. At its core, though, the turbo 2.0-litre four carries over unchanged, delivering 197kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm at 2400rpm. With a not-terrible CVT transmission behind it (there’s no manual option, disappointingly), the all-wheel drive wagon should easily best the GT-S’s old 6.6sec claim to 100km/h from rest.
Styling-wise, it has a new front bumper, new grille, and importantly, a pink badge in the grille’s bottom-right corner. Our test car came in WR Blue with attractive 18-inch STI alloys.The other stuff is inside, with the side sills, instrument cluster, and steering wheel scoring STI logos. Although the real highlights are the maroon leather sports seats, which are more comfortable than the WRX STI Spec R’s Recaros, and suit the cabin’s solidness and refinement.
The Levorg’s strut-front suspension and multi-link rear are retuned with new spring rates, damper rates and length, along with different bushes and rear anti-roll bar. Subaru claims better ride and flatter cornering with the update, while the STI also scores a unique tune for its Bilstein dampers.
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We can report cornering prowess has improved, slightly, while upgraded brake pads have firmed pedal feel and revealed the new suspension setup doesn’t pitch as hard into corners.
This composure still unravels the faster you go, though. That front axle or the tyres never feel up to your enthusiasm levels. There’s also still too much jiggling over bumpy stuff as the dampers struggle to keep the wagon’s mass tied down – not to mention the fact the steering is void of feel, feedback or precision. At corners you take bites with the speed-sensitive steering to find a line, which is a shame because the Levorg balances well once hooked in.
Ultimately it only takes a couple corners to know that the Levorg STI Sport is far from the real deal. Which is very disappointing. You could argue that ‘Sport’ suffix serves as an asterisk, but there’s no evidence of it on this Levorg’s rump. And the reality is the car is nowhere near as rapid, grippy, or rewarding enough to earn itself the honour.
STAR RATING: 3/5
Like: Solid cabin; lovely seats; wagon looks
Dislike: Bland steering; poor ride; grip limits
2018 SUBARU LEVORG STI SPORT SPECS
Engine: 1998cc flat-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 197kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 2400-5200rpm
0-100km/h: 6.6sec (estimated)