First Drive: 2017 Subaru Levorg

First Drive: 2017 Subaru Levorg

My name is Mark and I like station wagons. There, I said it. Not that I have needed any kind of intervention to admit that. Just think of the BMW M5 Touring, the Audi RS6 Avant and that icon, the Volvo 850R estate, in yellow of course. These are all full-size station wagons, but there is another genre — the semi-estate, or Sportback if you speak Audi.

One of the best of these was the Subaru Impreza GT wagon that was so highly sought after at the turn of the century. It hit the market at a time when Subaru was a cult brand, dominating world rallying and making teenagers bow down as an STi went by. That was then though. Compared to those days, today Subaru is less of a brand and more of a “bland”. It has left its cult status behind, abandoned the rally stages and instead decided it wants to be Toyota — reliable and slightly uninspiring.

It has great models — the Forester and Legacy Outback — but while there are some performance models and it has its legendary all-wheel drive package, it’s not the brand it was.

Then I recently spotted a few units of a model called the Levorg appear in the monthly industry sales figures. I knew of the Levorg — it competes in the British Touring Car Championship so that’s a good start — but it looked unlikely to come to SA. It turns out Subaru SA has brought in a few units of the current model to test the waters and decide whether to bring the facelifted version here in 2018.

So it was that we found ourselves testing a model that is not on sale yet, a rare occurrence. The Levorg is not an Impreza, well not officially. Subaru has ditched the Impreza name from the WRX, which is now just a WRX, unless it is a wagon, in which case it is a Levorg. So essentially this is the WRX wagon. And it behaves like one too.

We tested the 2.0-litre turbo GT-S which generates 197kW and 350Nm and is claimed to hit 100km/h in 6.6 seconds. It does this while also having standard boot space of 522l expandable to 1 446l. It almost recreates that Impreza GT wagon era.

The engine suffers from slight turbo lag but then it shunts. Switch to Sport# mode to try to reduce the lag slightly and things improve, but it does scream before changing gears. Technically, it doesn’t really change gears because here is the big flaw — it’s a CVT (continuously variable transmission). To give Subaru its due, it is one of the best CVTs in the business, but it made me yearn for the manual gearbox.

Then you find a twisty road and you can almost forgive the box because the Levorg has grip that defies the laws of physics. It is almost unflinchable as you use the paddles to drop a couple of gears and dare it to hold on in the corner. It is phenomenal.

So should Subaru bring the Levorg in 2018? I want to say yes, but many of you will be yawning at the idea of a wagon. People like SUVs here.

It will not sell in numbers, but for those who love wagons and those who still hold a flame for Subaru, the Levorg could well be the vehicle they are waiting for. – Mark Smyth