REX TURNS TOURER

The latest Subaru wagon is no sedate suburban saloon, as Liz Swanton discovers during a chance encounter with the Levorg…

They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet and I think it might be a similar scenario with the Subaru Levorg.

Not in terms of the way it smells, but the way it drives. I’m sure it would be every bit as much fun if it was called something that didn’t remind me of the forces Jean-Luc Picard was constantly doing battle with.

I am certain, however, that the Star Trek Next Generation captain would have happily decided to ‘make it so’ as soon as he felt the warp drive on offer in the current generation Levorg 2.0 GT-S that Subaru let me take for a run.

MY17 Subaru Levorg

Functional and fun

So what’s to like about this car? Quite a bit, as it turns out, and the first thing I notice is how fit for purpose it is for what I have in mind. An elderly friend is suffering from ‘cabin fever’ and wants a break away from the retirement village for a few days. Will there be room in the car for her walking frame, she asks? The answer is yes.

As it turns out, the Levorg’s rear end has more than enough room for the walker without folding it up, and our overnight bags. With space left over – in case we want to bring home large souvenirs. Just too easy. We are on our way.

Five seats and five doors are more than we need, but that’s because the Levorg has been designed as a practical family car, effectively a non-SUV wagon replacement for the company’s Liberty wagon that disappeared from dealerships a few years back.

First launched in 2016, the Levorg was updated in the second half of last year with the addition of two 1.6-litre variants to the range, making a total of four variants. Of those, “our” car sits just below the top level STI Sport. Prices across the range run from around $A36,000 to $A52,000 (as of September 2018). The test car is priced around $A49,000.

Japanese-built, this variant comes with a two-litre turbo-charged flat four petrol engine and all-wheel-drive (echoes of the rally-bred WRX), with a continuously variable transmission.

Family resemblance

From the front, the Levorg’s resemblance to its sporty sibling (bonnet scoop anyone?) is strong; from the side and rear, it is unmistakably a wagon, and I have to confess I’m a bit mixed on that styling. From some approaches it looks sleek with elegant, flowing lines; from others a bit heavy, as if the designers might have run out of inspiration, mid-way through the project – not that the car’s looks interfere in any way with how it does its job.

MY17 Subaru Levorg

The cabin is light and airy with excellent all-round vision and a layout that is clean and well thought through. It’s not exciting, but everything is easy to operate and where you expect it to be – which is actually a very pleasant surprise in an era where I often feel I need an advanced degree in engineering, just to manage the sound system.

We had planned our getaway departure for after the morning peak but traffic is still heavy as we head out, and it is good to have some technology in the shape of Subaru’s Eyesight Camera System on my side as I join several thousand drivers on the motorway.

I’m the first to admit I haven’t quite got my head around autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning yet (I don’t have them on my regular daily drive), so it’s always an effort to get used to them, yet again, when I’m test driving. That being said, the Eyesight system proves its worth in this situation as I do battle with high-speed traffic in unfamiliar surroundings – I decide I feel much safer knowing where everyone is and that we aren’t going to meet by accident!

A champion drive

Once out of Melbourne, I am able to stretch the Levorg’s “legs” on the Great Ocean Road, and it is magic. The CVT gearbox includes an eight-step manual option, operated by paddles behind the steering wheel. Aside from being a heap of fun, it is the best way to deal with the swoops and loops of one of the best driving roads in Victoria.

MY17 Subaru Levorg

Add a decent amount of grunt, plenty of grip and accurate steering, and it is hardly surprising I feel like Possum Bourne – or Molly Taylor – even if my driving talent is about a poofteenth of those two rally champions!

I’ve read reviews that criticised the Levorg’s suspension, mainly with regard to the longer rear section, but I am more than happy with the way it copes with a wide range of surfaces, high speed sections, and twists and turns that require lower gears and hard braking.

And if the elderly passenger isn’t complaining, then it is definitely not too shabby. She doesn’t hang on once during the several hundred kays we knock over, and she was an excellent driver in her day, with a lot of long-distance miles under her belt.

In fact, she has her own impression of the vehicle: a short, sharp “this thing rides well” is high praise! That was followed by a laugh and: “I think you’re enjoying this car”!

It’s a good thing!

The truth is, we both enjoy our few days away in the Levorg. It is extremely comfortable and practical, handles well and seems equally at home in the city or the country. A really good touring car, that feels far nippier than its size would suggest, when it has to be.

And while we don’t do any fuel figures on our getaway, I am agreeably surprised how painless a trip to the petrol pump proves to be, given the distance we cover. I can understand why a friend has been raving about his Subaru Levorg – it’s a good thing!

 

 

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