Subaru are widely regarded as one of the best brands on the market to cope with a ‘country lifestyle’, as such you could likely count on just one hand the number of estates or farms throughout the country that don’t have one in the yard and we recently travelled to the Cotswold area for the launch and first drives of the 2017 Levorg.
Such cars are built for purpose, perhaps a little utilitarian in years gone by compared to today’s models but they last forever and with Subaru’s leading symmetrical all-wheel drive system and suitable ground clearance they are certainly a force to be reckoned with.
However Subaru are also widely known for providing proper drivers cars, cars that have taken on the world and came out on top of the rostrum, namely the Subaru Impreza 555 Grp A rally car that is guilty for my love of the brand.
Last year Subaru took to the British Touring car Championship with a highly modified Levorg model and in just its first season took a few podiums along the way with a lot of local support for Colin Turkington who drove for the team last season.
It is this model that I am here to tell you about and for years Subaru have been one of those car makers that didn’t offer huge amounts of quality or refinement in the cabin compared to its rivals; however what they lacked inside, it more than made up for underneath with its hugely reliable mechanical’s.
The Japanese manufacturer has set about changing this in recent years and after driving a few different models throughout the range recently, there is a very noticeable improvement throughout the whole range.
Generally Subaru have tended to keep model names for decades; such as the Impreza, Forester and Outback with each model getting changed dramatically every so often as technology moves on, though they always kept their names.
The Levorg is a little different as although it is a replacement model for the Legacy Estate, due to the Legacy name still being used in other markets around the globe, Subaru have had to come up with a new name which was from a combination of LEgacy, ReVOlution and TouRinG, names previously used on the brand’s sport tourers.
At a glance the Levorg is a stunning estate car indeed with chunky arches and the expected bonnet scoop that is somewhat trademark of the brand. With a large open grill along with front and rear lighting that wrap around the cars bodywork the Levorg is certainly sleek and visually it sits very low to the ground with the moulded side skirts running the full length of the sill.
Around the rear a dual exit exhaust protrudes from the lower rear diffuser and at the bottom of the rear window, on the tailgate is what resembles a moulded chin spoiler with a colour coded roof spoiler at the top of the tailgate with shark fin aerial on the rear of the roof.
On opening the tailgate I was very impressed by the huge amount of room the boot offers and with split/folding rear seats and a completely flat loading bay this area is very usable, combined with the large opening into the boot I feel this car is perfect for many owners.
For the rural user there is more than enough room for a small bale and a few bags of meal while the active city user can avail of very convenient buttons just inside the boot that once pulled release the rear seats instantly flattening them to allow loading of bikes, water sports gear or equine equipment.
Family life would be a complete breeze with the Levorg as there is enough room in the boot for a couple of buggy’s combined with shopping, perhaps a set of golf clubs with a trolley or enough space for a spaniel and a week’s luggage for a family road trip.
Inside the Subaru Levorg is far removed from the Subaru’s of old with its soft leather heated seats up front encased in blue stitching that were incredibly comfortable whilst the blue stitching and leather continues to the gear stick, steering wheel, door cards and dash.
For 2017 noise reduction inside the cabin has been implemented and don’t get me wrong, there is still some room for improvement with the plastics inside as they are still a little utilitarian in places but in general the inside of the Levorg is a nice comfortable place to be that looks welcoming.
Throughout the cabin, both front and rear there are more USB ports than many desktop PC’s for charging devices with the main one in the lower dash acting as the sync port to integrate with the app radio that comes as standard.
The infotainment hub is a tablet like 7 inch full colour touch screen which is perfectly sized and is equipped with BlueTooth, Sat Nav and reverse camera as well as Subaru’s starlink which allows access to internet radio and entertaining apps.
Above this screen, on top of the dash in its own housing is the Subaru multi-function display which shows various information about the car, how it is performing, what the economy is like and also vehicle stats and clock.
When it comes to choosing your Levorg, Subaru have kept things very easy for you as there is actually only one model available with a choice of only three colours (two shades of blue and a white), one engine and a single gearbox.
Yes that’s right, the Levorg only comes as a “1.6i GT Lineartronic”.
In simple terms this means the Levorg is a 1.6L turbo (twin scroll) petrol boxer engine coupled to an automatic lineartronic gearbox which puts the power to the ground via Subaru’s renowned symmetrical all-wheel drive system.
On starting the engine via the key-less push button starter, there isn’t that instant boxer burble that I expected however when driven in a spirited manner, this infamous burble soon makes itself known which is a good thing.
Producing 168bhp with 184lb/ft the Levorg is far from sluggish, propelling itself to 62mph in just 8.9 seconds and acceleration via the lineartronic gearbox is instant and somewhat electric car like due to the nature of the drive train, fuel consumption is equally as rapid too with an average over a week of mixed driving of mid to late twenties.
This gearbox is equipped with paddle shift but I will admit, when on a rush along a nice meandering coastal road, the paddles are more of a guide as to where you want the gearing to be rather than the exact spot you need the gearing, a twin clutch type gearbox with paddle shift would really feel at home in the Levorg.
The driving experience is aided with Subaru’s Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) which in the words of Subaru “allows a selection of engine and transmission characteristics according to the drivers driving style, driving expectations and driving situations”. Sport mode on the Levorg was very noticeable and still incredibly refined.
The engine itself was very refined on normal driving however when in a hurry the combination to the CVT ‘box makes it a little loud but due to the boxer configuration of the engine, all of the weight sits very low meaning this Subaru offers one of the lowest, most natural centres of gravity around which in turn benefits the handling no end.
Via the 18 inch alloy wheels, Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system comes into its own, it performs in harmony with the nature of the boxer engine and I can honestly say the Levorg is probably the best handling estate car I have ever driven; it was simply fantastic and inspiring.
For 2017 the Levorg comes as standard with EyeSight which is Subaru’s driver assistance system that acts as a ‘second pair of eyes’ for drivers. While systems from other manufacturers use various sensor technologies such as camera and radar or microwaves, EyeSight functions optically employing stereo-camera technology.
One camera is mounted each side of the rear view mirror to monitor the road and traffic ahead for potential hazards up to 110 metres up the road. Up to a speed of 28mph accidents can be avoided and the severity significantly reduced at higher speeds.
EyeSight features six technologies to maximise safety: 1. Pre-Collision Braking alerts the driver of a potential collision using a visual and audible warning. If the driver does not take evasive action, the brakes will be applied automatically to either prevent the accident (up to 28mph) or reduce the severity of an impact. If the driver brakes but does not apply enough pressure, the system will increase braking force.
2. Pre-Collision Throttle Management works by notifying the driver (visually and audibly) if they select drive instead of reverse and the car is parked facing an obstacle. The system will also cut engine output to help avoid a frontal collision.
3. Adaptive Cruise Control adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a set distance from the car in front. 4. Lane Departure & Sway Warning alerts the driver with a visual and audible warning if the vehicle sways or departs its lane without indicating. 5. Lane Keep Assist offers gentle steering control if the vehicle is about to deviate from its lane at approximately 40mph or above.
6. Lead Vehicle Start Alert prompts the driver with a visual and audible warning that traffic ahead has started moving. ADAC, the German Automobile Club recently tested emergency brake assistance systems and EyeSight was the only system in their test (which included four premium brands), to achieve full points in the three categories tested – pedestrian, cyclist and night driving.
Levorg is the first Subaru in Europe to be fitted with the Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) suite of safety technologies. The system helps the driver to change lanes on the motorway safely or detect hard to see hazards when completing low speed manoeuvres.
SRVD is a radar-based system, with radars fitted beneath the Levorg’s tail lamps and covered by the rear bumper, detecting vehicles to either side of the car enabling Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
With pricing starting at £29,680 and very few options available (if it were me ordering I would have the full STi lower spoiler kit all round as it simply looks stunning) the Subaru Levorg is certainly good value for the spec and it really is in a class of its own in regards to performance and practicality Vs price and capability.
Words: Graham Curry