Subaru has a secret. A secret that it is trying hard to hide from us but really should be shouting about. A secret that when the buying public find out about they will wonder why they hadn’t heard about it before.
You see, Australia is becoming a SUV country. There is an almost unstoppable swing away from normal cars to SUV’s. However, there are still some of the public, myself included, that occasionally want the practicality of a normal wagon, the benefits of AWD, yet still want some sporty pretence along with style, luxury and safety thrown in.
Ironically enough, Subaru developed such a sportswagon way back in the 90’s. It was called the Liberty RS Turbo Wagon and it was a ripper. Here was a family wagon that for its time was stylish, practical and fairly fast. Why can’t we have that again?
Oh wait, Subaru has done that again! The secret is the Subaru Levorg 2.0L STI Sport. When you think about Subaru vehicles you think of the WRX, Outback, XV, Forester and Impreza, but almost no one knows about the Levorg.
During the week that I tested the Levorg, I was stopped a number of times by people to ask what the car was. They saw the Subaru badge but hadn’t heard about the Levorg. The public has spoken!
Overwhelmingly the consensus was that they liked the look, the swanky interior and were surprised by the performance.
I have to say that just about sums up my view as well. Add to that my delight in the surprising smoothness of the CVT combined with a turbo boxer engine that is friendlier than the WRX. The CVT feels better matched in the Levorg than the recently released XV range.
So let’s chat about the Levorg STI Sport. The Levorg was first introduced to Australia in 2016 and updated in late 2017. Although similar to the Impreza Hatch it is a different vehicle.
The first thing you notice is that the Levorg has a long, low sleek profile, accentuated by the bonnet scoop, prominent grill, sweeping back LED headlights, LED fog lights and cool 18 inch alloys. It reminds me of a stalking feline with poise and grace. It’s also one of a few cars that looks good from the rear as well. So it looks pretty damn good!
The STI features, which include the exclusive WR Blue colour, different front bumper and grill, different alloys and tailpipes, all add a subtle flavour.
It’s inside where the STI Sport has some wow factor. Immediately you notice the deep rich maroon leather trim that contrasts beautifully with the exterior WR Blue.
So the Levorg STI Sport has a big tick for its looks and style!
Lower yourself into the front seats and again you immediately notice how comfortable and supportive they are. I am one that always utilises an electronic lumbar support, with a dodgy back, and the plush leather seat firmly holds my back in place. The side waist and shoulder bolsters also support more than most seats.
I have to point out that these seats are amongst the most comfortable I have sat in!
One person who stopped me to chat described the interior as ‘swanky’ and I kind of like that description. It combines luxury with a bit of WOW.
Being a sportswagon rather than a SUV you notice that you sit lower and over bonnet visibility is a little different. The front corners tend to disappear a little. However, all round visibility isn’t bad and the Front View Monitor (FVM) really helps with seeing where the front of the car is when parking etc.
In front of the driver is the STI leather trimmed flat bottom steering wheel, both height and reach adjustable, incorporating the controls for the infotainment system and the SI drive. The stalks for the lights and wipers etc are visible above the steering wheel spokes.
The STI dash is the familiar Subaru large twin dial and three stage central MFD with SI Drive indicator on top, safety display in the middle and trip meter etc below. Clear, concise and easy to read. Big tick item.
The central stack houses the now larger 7.0 inch LCD Multi-Function Display that is clear and visible in most conditions. It features the reversing camera but the screen looks a little dated with its gloss black surround and the touch function is a little non responsive at times. However, the biggest issue these days is that it doesn’t include Android Auto and Apple Car Play. That is disappointing and misses the mark for potential buyers.
Above the central screen is Subaru’s second 5.9 inch MFD. This houses a number of features but the most valuable is the display for the Subaru Vision Assist technology. The central console has plenty of storage with a spot for your phone in front of the CVT which also houses the USB plugs, AUX input and 12V outlet.
There are two large cup holders with a slide cover, a decent size console bin that houses yet more USB outlets and the top is softly padded. Other storage options include a large glove box and handy door pockets. There is also a clever slot where a normal handbrake would be that can house a phone as well.
The door panels are leather trimmed as well and the dash has a soft touch feel. Overall the interior ambience is one of comfort and luxury.
Other luxury touches include memory electric seats, heated front seats, dusk sensing – self-levelling – steering responsive LED headlights with pop up washers, LED DRL’s, rain sensing wipers, one touch electric windows for the front, front windscreen de-icer, heated door mirrors, smart rearview mirror, electric park brake, automatic vehicle hold, red detail stitching on the seats, doors and trims, DataDot security technology and finally a sunroof.
Rear seat passengers are treated to the same degree of luxury, however the knee and leg room is a little restricted for taller passengers. The seats are sculptured for two and, like most vehicles this size, the room is better for two rather than three. The seat backs do recline though for extra comfort.
One feature I don’t like is the middle rear seat passenger seat belt coming from the roof behind the row of seats. That just gets in the way and I don’t see why Subaru can’t have it coming from the seat like a lot of other cars. There are no A/C vents in the rear but there are two USB ports.
The boot area is quite large and, with a convenient load height, very practical. The rear seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 configuration to maximise load flexibility, provide a long load area and have a release button at the rear of the boot area for convenience. The cargo cover is a little fiddly behind the seats in the way it attaches.
As an additional safety measure, the Levorg is also the first Subaru to use oil dampers within the seats, limiting the speed at which seats fold, to prevent users from trapping their fingers.
The Levorg STI Sport also gets a big tick for the interior!
Okay we have spoken a lot about the interior, what about the business end – the engine and suspension?
The Subaru Levorg 2.0 STI Sport is powered by the familiar 2.0L turbocharged boxer engine. It produces 197kW of power @ 5600rpm and 350Nm or torque @ 2400-5200rpm.
Of course, the Levorg transfers the power to the wheels through Subaru’s brilliant Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system that is tried and true. Levorg’s lineartronic CVT transmission has a theoretical 8 gears and is seemingly well mated to the engine. It definitely feels to work better than the ‘7 speed’ CVT in the recently launched XV range.
While not a sports car, the Levorg is sporty with a 0-100kmh time of 6.6 seconds, however it is the responsiveness within the different speed ranges that makes it feel sportier. It certainly doesn’t have the harshness or whine associated with CVT’s of old.
On test we managed to achieve fuel economy around 7.0L/100km on the freeway and around 11.5 – 12.0L/100km around town. These figures are remarkably close to the unrealistic ADR figures and that was a pleasant surprise.
Subaru recently upgraded the suspension of the STI Levorg with specially STI tuned, revised Bilstein front and rear suspension. This has improved the ride, handling and compliance according to Subaru. From a driver’s perspective, the ride is smooth and definitely compliant, yet firm when it needs to be.
Combined with the upgraded suspension, Subaru has improved the braking with a high friction coefficient brake pad material that improves braking efficiency by 20%. I don’t know what they were like before but they are damn good now.
The Levorg allows the driver to have some degree of customisation in the driving experience with variable SI drive input and Sport # mode.
It’s worth spending a paragraph on the feel of the Levorg STI. Unlike the WRX STI Premium, which can be a bit brutish in acceleration and ride, the Levorg STI Sport is all about linear comfort. It accelerates in a composed linear fashion, providing the fun without the thump. It is quiet, smooth and comfortable, with sporty overtones. It does however miss out on the exhaust note of the WRX.
All Subaru’s have a 5 star ANCAP safety rating and the Levorg is packed with features such as: Vehicle Dynamics Control, ABS with EBD, brake assist etc as well as airbags that include curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, dual front airbags and dual side airbags.
Vision Assist Features include: Side View Monitor, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alerts, High Beam Assist and Front View Camera.
Subaru’s EyeSight® Driver Assist System features: adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, pre-collision braking system, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, pre-collision steering assist, brake light recognition and lane keep assist
As I look back over this article, I think I may have rambled a bit. That is a product of how much I really enjoyed driving the Levorg 2.0 STI Sport. It is classified as a sportswagon in the same vein as the Audi A3 Sportback or the Skoda Octavia RS 245. However, by the very nature of its Symmetrical AWD System it also sneaks in the SUV category, the same as the BMW X4 xDrive does.
This is a classic lifestyle wagon. Ideally suited to a small family that wants a little more practicality than a sedan, a little more style and sophistication than normal cars and a little more performance to engage the driver.
To paraphrase an earlier description of the Liberty RS Turbo Wagon of past years, the Levorg 2.0 STI Sportswagon is a ripper. I think I have found my favourite Subaru. Please Subaru, stop keeping the Levorg a secret and let the public know about this gem – you should sell heaps of them!
What is good?
- Build Quality
- Value for money
- Smooth driving experience
What is not so good?
- No Android Auto or Apple Car Play
- No Head Up Display
- Cant disable Adaptive Cruise Control
What are the alternatives?
Audi A3 Sportback Quattro
Skoda Octavia RS 245 Wagon
BMW 3 Series Touring
Peugeot 308 GTi
Model: Subaru Levorg 2.0 STI Sport
Model Price: $57,513 RDAP
Engine: 2.0L Turbo Boxer
Drivetrain: 8 Sp CVT Symmetrical AWD
Power: 197kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 2400 – 5200 rpm
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
CO2 Emissions: 201 g/km
Economy: (ADR comb) 8.7 L/100km
0 – 100Kmh: 6.6 Sec
Top Speed: TBA
Servicing: Capped Price 3 yrs. /75000km
Warranty 3yr/unlimited km with full roadside assist
Overall AnyAuto Rating 86/100
Behind the Wheel 9
Ride & Handling 9
Fit for Purpose 9
Fun Factor 8
Street Cred 9
Value for Money 9