2017 Subaru Levorg review
Isaac Bober’s launch-based 2017 Subaru Levorg review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The new Subaru Levorg harks back to the old Liberty GT, shares much of its oily bits with the WRX and offers the practicality of a wagon.
2017 Subaru Levorg
Price $42,890+ORC Warranty three-years unlimited warranty Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder (Boxer) petrol engine Power/Torque 197kW/350Nm Transmission CVT Body 4690mm (L); 1780mm (W); 1490mm (H) Weight 1538-1582kg Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 8.7L/100km
SUBARU IS CALLING it a spiritual successor to the Liberty GT wagon, but you could just easily claim the Subaru Levorg is really just a WRX wagon. Either way, on paper, both performance and practicality make for an exciting proposition.
But, what about the name? Levorg is taken from a mash-up of the Japanese name for the Liberty, which is Legacy, and the words Evolution and Touring, which I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t have guessed. And, yes, if you read it backwards it says, Grovel. Whatever.
What is it?
As suggested above, the aim of the Levorg was to bring the concept of a go-fast Liberty wagon into the NOW. And the best way to do that was, it seems, to use the best bits of the stuff the Japanese car maker had lying around, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
See, around half of the Levorg is a WRX, and that’s a very good thing indeed. Increasing the appeal of the go-fast wagon is the fact the sixth-generation Liberty is only offered in Australia as a sedan; in some markets, like the UK for example, the positioning of the Levorg and Liberty is a little tricky as the Liberty in that market is only offered as a wagon.
The Levorg is offered here in two trim levels, the Levorg GT and GT-S (which are only available with a CVT) with the optional Australia-only Spec B pack which includes a whole host of tasty STI gear, like an STI shift knob; STI front spoiler; STI side spoiler; STI rear under spoiler; STI rear side under spoiler; STI 18-inch black alloy wheels; STI front tower bar; STI red push button start; and an STI roof end spoiler. Pricing for the Levorg GT is $42,990+ORC rising to $48,890+ORC for the GT-S and the Spec-B option is a $4000 premium, seeing the price rise to $52,890+ORC.
The entry-level pricing for the Levorg GT comes in above the price of the DSG-equipped Skoda Octavia RS wagon which, I’d suggest, is this car’s closest rival, and it lists at $41,390+ORC. For the coin, the Levorg GT could be better equipped and carries one notable omission and that is the lack of sat-nav, which for the price is a disappointment. The GT-S, is much more expensive than the Octavia RS and adds Subaru’s 7.0-inch touchscreen sat-nav system as well as other goodies like heated leather seats, high-beam assist, power driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, Bilstein suspension, and Siri compatibility. For a full list of standard features on both variants, scroll to the bottom of the article.
The Levorg is slightly shorter than the fifth-generation Liberty wagon (and longer than the WRX sedan) yet offers an almost identical seats-up boot space of 522 litres which rises to 1446 litres with the 60:40 split fold back seats folded down. The seats can be folded down via press buttons on either side of the boot; they don’t fold entirely flat.
So what about the looks? From the B-pillar forwards the Levorg is basically a WRX with that same swooping snout and hawk-like head lights, while at the back the wagon bum is all-new and seems to borrow from both Impreza hatch and Liberty wagon with a little bit of XV when viewed from directly behind. To my eyes it’s a good looking thing with some muscular surfacing and a hunkered down look, although it’s nowhere near as overtly styled as the Octavia RS, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What’s it like?
The local launch of the Levorg saw a smattering of GT, GT-S and GT-S Spec-B variants, but this correspondent only managed to cycle through the GT and GT-S, and they are like chalk and cheese, and that’s all down to the addition of Bilstein suspension on the GT-S variant. But I’ll come back to this shortly.
So, as mentioned the Levorg shares its front half with the WRX and that means it gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontal-opposed (Boxer) four-cylinder petrol engine that makes 197kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2400-5200rpm. It’s mated exclusively to the same CVT that sees service in the WRX, meaning it offers between six and eight preset ratios depending on the driving mode selected. It offers a claimed combined fuel consumption of 8.7L/100km. Power, torque and fuel consumption as well as CVT programming is the same across GT and GT-S variants, and that means the 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds applies to both models.
Thumb the starter button and the Levorg comes to life quietly with none of the off-beat burble you’d normally associate with a Subaru boxer engine, but it’s quite probably more in-keeping with this thing’s pitch as a more civilised go-fast wagon. As you press on, the engine note rises and hardens up but it’s not the sort of exhaust note you’ll revel in every time you squeeze the throttle.
With a big chunk of torque available just off idle progress is easy and relaxed, with a noticeable step-up in intensity from above 2400rpm when you’re playing with peak torque output. And the CVT does a good job of both dialling out any turbo lag below 2400rpm and providing a nice smooth ‘shift’ when using less than 35% of throttle. There’s none of the drone you get in some other CVTs that simply try and keep revving in peak power, giving you that horrid stretchy feeling that’s given CVTs such a bad name.
When you select either Sport (S) or Sports Sharp (S#) on the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) system and you’re in D for Drive the transmission will move into a preset stepped mode offering eight ratios. And it provides a very good imitation of a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission that responds well to the steering-mounted paddles or when left to its own devices.
While the default will be for the transmission to run quickly to ‘eight’, if it determines you’re, well, driving enthusiastically, it’ll hold a lower gear virtually until redline to maintain accelerative force and feel and, when called on can even flash down, or up, a handful of gears to allow near instant punch.
Everything said so far applies equally to the Levorg GT as it does to the higher-spec, Bilstein-toting GT-S variant, but it’s the way the two Levorg variants ride and handle that start to cause problems. At the launch, which saw us travel the excellent Oxley Highway between Port Macquarie on the NSW North Coast and Tamworth the Levorg GT-S felt confused and despite Subaru’s intention of making it sportier and more involving by fitting Bilstein shock absorbers front and rear they ended up making it uncomfortable…
See, the WRX doesn’t get Bilstein shock absorbers and no-one’s ever complained that it’s not involving enough to drive. But, according to Subaru, the Bilsteins went in to increase the level of driver involvement. And they certainly did that, just not in a good way.
Across the fantastic-ly cornered Oxley Highway, the surface of which leaves a little to be desired in places but is perfect for showing off on-limit ride and handling, the Levorg GT-S with its Bilsteins was firm and thumpy in the front-end which would then transform into bouncy and floaty in the rear. It was as if the two ends were wildly out of sync.
Even across the most common of surfaces on Australian roads, like a bridge joint, the front would compress hard and sometimes buck at the front as if the thing had run out of spring and travel and then the rear would hit the joint, compress and then rise up and joggle about disconcertingly. And, time and again the same sensation happened, whether it was a joint in the road, a pothole or a mid-corner bump.
This out of sync twitchiness meant the driver never felt as dialled into the car as you would have expected because of the WRX bones. And then we climbed into the entry-level GT and the thing felt totally different. And by that I mean it felt excellent.
Suspension noise was instantly more controlled and quiet, the ride was more settled and the handling more neutral with the front and rear in harmony across bumps and ruts. The GT felt more comfortable being driven on the edge and gave more back to the driver… it just felt more natural, more like a well-behaved go-fast wagon should feel.
And the grip, from the 225/45 Dunlop SportMaxx tyres on 18-inch wheels, is prodigious and felt even more so in the GT than in the GT-S which felt a little to twitchy to really be leaned on in hard cornering.
Even when pushed there’s very little understeer from either variant and the steering, which is an electric-assist system, is nice and quick and well weighted but is totally lacking in feel through the wheel, giving you little indication of what the front wheels are doing. But that might be labouring the issue, because for the 99.9% of drivers the steering will be fine.
Braking is good and the pedal feel is both progressive and fulsome in its action. We didn’t get a chance to drive the Levrog in the wet, but we dare say that, based on its dry road grip and neutral cornering stance that it would be just as stable.
Climb inside the Levorg GT or GT-S and anyone who’s driven a Subaru in the last few years will feel right at home. Sure, the quality of materials has been lifted with soft-touch trim just about everywhere now, but the uncomplicated layout that’s become Subaru’s thing from Impreza to Liberty, Outback and Forester is the same in the Levorg.
And I like this. It means the controls are neatly laid out and easy to use and the seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, communication and infotainment unit in the GT-S is a cinch to get the hang of. That it doesn’t offer Apple Car Play or Android Auto compatibility is a bit of a let down for a new model. The other disappointment is the fact the entry GT which is priced at $43k doesn’t come with sat-nav, but I’ve mentioned that already. Yes, it frustrates me.
The GT-S variant gets electric adjust leather seats and while they’re grippier than the cloth seats in the GT I personally found them to be less supportive and was constantly having to stretch my back out while driving. That wasn’t the case with the GT’s cloth seats which felt squishier in the base, but more supportive through the back.
There’s reach and rake on the steering and the seat adjustment, both up and down and forwards and backwards is pretty good. And there’s excellent vision right around the cabin, enhanced by Subaru’s latest-generation EyeSight system which, on the GT-S, offers a whole host of monitoring, including blind spot. The vision assist element of the new EyeSight system includes a row of LEDs forward of the steering wheel which flash to indicate the warning, whether its blind spot, to either side of the car, or a forwards collision. The LEDs mean you don’t have to move your eyes from the road as you’ll pick up the flashing in peripheral vision.
Over in the back there’s room for two adults with enough head and legroom for a six-footer, although the middle seat is a perch only due to the intrusion of the transmission tunnel. We’ll find out how well it takes child seats once we’ve had the thing on test for a week.
The boot at 522 litres is smaller than that of an Octavia RS wagon, but bigger than the boot of the fifth-generation Liberty wagon. It’s a usable space with a good shape and the low load height makes loading and unloading easy. Underneath the floor is a space saver spare, but there looked to be room for a full-size spare.
In terms of safety, the Levorg shares its five-star ANCAP rating with the WRX and that’s because the front-end structures are the same. It also gets EyeSight, although the GT-S offers some extra bits, like the vision assist LEDs on the dashboard, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert and more. In general though, EyeSight uses stereo cameras mounted up near the centre-mounted rearview mirror that are capable of recognising brake lights, while the length and width of the camera view have grown by 40% compared with the second-generation system.
There are seven airbags as well as permanent all-wheel drive, traction and stability controls with active torque vectoring and the ability to shuffle torque from front to back as required.
2017 Subaru Levorg GT
- ABS anti-lock brakes with four-wheel discs and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
- Brake Assist
- Child seat anchor points
- Curtain airbags – full length
- Driver’s knee airbag
- Dual front airbags
- Dual side airbags
- Fog lights – front; with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)
- Four wheel disc brakes (ventilated)
- Front seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters
- Front adjustable seatbelt anchorage
- Hill Start Assist – forward and reverse
- Rear door child lock
- Rear seatbelts with pretensioners
- Reverse camera
- Seatbelt indicator lights
- Shock absorbing brake pedal
- Side intrusion bars
- Three-point A/ELR rear centre seatbelt
- Vehicle Dynamics Control (electronic stability control system)
- Welcome lighting
- 6.2-inch touch screen AM/FM radio, single in-dash CD, six speakers
- AUX jack +USB port
- Bluetooth audio streaming
- Bottle holders in each door + two cup holders in centre console and rear
- Cargo area light
- Central locking – remote
- Climate control air conditioning – dual zone
- Cruise control – steering wheel buttons
- Driver’s footrest
- Height and reach adjustable steering column
- Height adjustable driver’s seat
- Immobiliser security system
- Leather trim steering wheel with audio controls; leather gearshift
- Map lights (2)
- Multi-Function Display (MFD) – 4.3 inches
- Power steering, mirrors and windows
- Privacy glass – rear
- Push button start with smart key
- Rear illumination electroluminescent instrument cluster display and Liquid Crystal Display
- Remote fuel lid release – tethered fuel cap
- Seatback pockets
- Subaru-branded front door sill panel
- Two remote central locking keys
- USB charger port for rear passengers
- Vanity mirrors – illuminated
- 60/40 split/fold rear seat
- 12V/120W power jacks
- Colour-coded mirrors and door handles (2.0GT)
- Double locking system
- Electronic folding mirrors
- Headlights auto off
- Rear diffuser
- Rear cargo door spoiler
- Rear LED brake lights
- Rear roof mounted colour-coded shark fin radio antenna
- Self-levelling automatic LED headlights with pop-up washers
- Sports body kit
- Tail pipe covers – twin
- 18-inch alloy wheels – space saver spare
- Auto cargo door unlock on key
- DataDot security technology
- Electronic Throttle Control (ETC)
- One-touch indicators
- Three year Roadside Assist
- Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty
LEVORG 2.0GT-S ADDS:
- Auto lights and wipers
- Bilstein suspension
- Black accents on wheels and headlights
- Electric sunroof
- Heated door mirrors
- Heated front seats
- High Beam Assist
- Leather trim with blue stitching
- Power driver’s seat with dual memory function – eight-way adjustable
- Factory fitted satellite navigation – 7.0-inch screen
- Rain sensing windscreen wipers
- Rear Vehicle Detection – includes Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, RearCross Traffic Alerts
- Rear view mirror with auto glare function
- Side View Monitor
- Siri + Pandora compatibility
- Sports front seats
- 18-inch alloy wheels with dark gray accents
- 2 x USB in lower centre dashboard