Subaru recently invited Tartan Tarmac to drive the revised BRZ and Levorg models. Guess which we were thinking of when we accepted……correct…..but it certainly wasn’t the one-sided affair we were expecting. The revised Levorg was a very pleasant surprise.
Looks-wise, it has that chunky bumpy Subaru look, but the lines do seem to be a little colour-dependent. I think it looks great in the blue, but it’s a whole lot less special in white.
It’s a family estate; not Volvo V90 big, but plenty of room for five and a decent amount of load space (522 litres). On the road it feels the size of a Focus, not a Mondeo, but that is perhaps down to handling, more of which later.
Getting into the car delivered the first pleasant surprise – a Subaru interior that entices and impresses. While it still has that “I can take the abuse” Subaru feel of tough surfaces, the design touches are a step up from some other Subarus of old. The blue contrast stitching is particularly nice against the charcoal seat trim.
There is a distinct quality feel to the cabin. It feels well thought out too. There are places to put things. That may sound like a redundant statement but some car designers do seem to overlook this. The Levorg has useful door bins and cup-holders that will actually hold the cup you are likely to buy. The tailgate reveals a low loading level and there is a 40 litre underfloor compartment to keep valuables out of sight.
There is only one level of trim, the GT, so there are no options, but the spec is very high. The Starlink multi-media system is properly integrated with a large touch control screen. There are additional displays in front of the driver and in the dash-top centre binacle.
In safety terms, Subaru have made a lot of recent advances and the Levorg is certainly right up with the current crop of safety-tech-fest machines. I didn’t particularly try to create an accident for the EyeSight system to prove itself, but the Adaptive Cruise Control was one of the better ones I have driven recently, without the whiplash-inducing deceleration that some systems seem to have. Subaru will also be very pleased for me to tell you that the German Automobile Club have given it top marks for the emergency brake system, ahead of some of the usual premium brand suspects.
There’s a lot of hardware behind the rear view mirror and you do notice the amount of windscreen real-estate the cameras take up, but it doesn’t actually impair your forward vision. The system is camera based to the front and radar based to the rear in order to provide all sorts of lane changing, lane positioning, blindspot, reversing, pre-collision and rear-vehicle-detection cleverness. It’ll even nag at you if you don’t notice the car in-front has pulled away at the traffic lights (although it may be beaten to it by the driver behind you).
Moving onto the driving experience, I’m going to discuss the CVT gearbox now in order that we can end on a high note by talking about the handling. The gearbox is fine. There you go. High praise indeed for a CVT.
Continuously Variable Transmission boxes do seem to be rather contrary to driver-enjoyment. The core principle of them (infinitely changing the ratio up and down a cone shaped drive while maintaining the engine in an optimum rev-range) is a little contrary to driver-enjoyment, but Subaru have created distinct steps in the control system which does enough to remove the main issue. The gearbox didn’t annoy. I’m sure it delivers all the adjustabiity, economy, packaging and reliability benefits of CVT, but the headline is that enthusiast drivers need not stay away in their hoards because it doesn’t smush around like older CVT boxes.
Driving the Levorg was the real surprise of the day. For me it jumps a long way up the “potential daily driver that maintains some sporting cred” list. It rides a little on the firm side, but in a “I know what’s going on” sort of way, not a “I’d hate to go a long way in this” kind of way. The wide tyres were certainly there to be heard from inside the cabin, but wind noise was not. Despite the low-profile rubber, the ride was untroubled by potholes and drain-covers.
The engine is punchy enough for overtaking safely and it has that Boxer engine note. Furthermore, in “S” mode, the gearbox holds the simulated gear-steps a little longer for you to enjoy the sound. The steering feedback is good and the nicely designed wheel feels good in your hands.
The handling is confidence inspiring. I was expecting to be a little annoyed by a car whose sporting looks weren’t matched by the reality, but I wasn’t. Subaru’s UK staff shone bright lights in our eyes the previous night until we had all been made to understand how the packaging and low centre of gravity benefits of the Boxer engine and full-time AWD chassis made it handle really well, so I started the drive needing to be convinced of my torturers’ assertions, but I was.
Between the sporty feel, the quality, the practicality, the high spec, the brand and the looks (in the right colour), I could go for one of these. Had it had 200 PS and a gearbox that impressed as opposed to one that just didn’t annoy me, then it would have been 5 out of 5.
ENGINE: 1600cc 4-cylinder DOHC Turbocharged Boxer
POWER: 170 PS
TORQUE: 250 Nm
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 130 mph, 0-62 mph 8.9 secs
CONSUMPTION: 39.8 mpg (combined)
CO2: 164 g/km