Anton Andres / Kelvin Christian Go | July 18, 2018 12:35
An alternative to the anti-crossover crowd
Locally, the wagon market is on thin ground. Looking at the buyer's guide, there are only eight being offered in the country today. There's the Mazda 6 Sport Wagon, Peugeot 308 SW, Volvo V60, by some stretch, the Mini Clubman, the soon to be outgoing Volkswagen Golf GTS and recently debuted Santana GTS, and the Subaru Levorg. Blame our penchant for anything with more ground clearance, but I doubt we'll be seeing more station wagons in the future.
The Subaru Levorg has always been a curiosity for me, although I have to give props to Subaru for offering this wagon here. Despite our SUV-loving nature, here's Subaru, with their own range of crossovers, showing off a low-riding wagon here. The question now is this: is the Levorg the cure for the common crossover?
Granted, there's the Subaru Outback. Essentially a Legacy wagon on stilts, the company is adamant that it's a crossover. The Levorg on the other hand is more focused as a station wagon. A sporty-looking one too. Chiseled bumper corners, a bold grill and a hood scoop make you think its a WRX and the slim, upswept headlights add to it a bit of aggression.
Side skirts and low-profile 18-inch wheels add to the sports wagon effect. It's a bit more conventional at the back but the dual exit exhaust pipes and tailgate spoiler hint at its sporting intentions. Had it come with wider fenders, Subaru had effectively made a more practical STI. Paint it in signature WR Blue and you'll probably get a WRC vibe off of it too.
Inside however, things are much calmer. No red stitching, nor does it have body-hugging bucket seats. In fact, there's no hint of sportiness in here at all save for the aluminum pedals and the flat-bottom steering wheel. Soft touch materials and aluminum accents boost the interior ambiance and the generous glass area gives the impression of more space. Overall though, it's more of an upscale C-segment wagon than a high-performance load lugger.
Having tested the all-new Impreza sedan, the cabin now feels a generation behind its contemporaries. Still, that's not a bad thing as Subarus have some of the best dashboard layouts around. It's not stylish in any way but it is more functional, and appeals to the logical part of the brain. Ergonomics are spot on with every switch and dial where you expect them. It's festooned with storage bins too to keep clutter out of sight. Gadget addicts can also keep their devices topped up as there are six USB charging points to go about.
Leg and foot room are decent, and headroom isn't that bad considering there's a sunroof. There's not much of stretch-out room but it's good enough. Being a wagon, it's important to talk about the cargo area and the Levorg doesn't disappoint. It has a wide, flat floor meaning you can load pretty bulky items and it's long enough to carry a couple of golf bags.
For all its sporty looks however, it's pretty tame under the hood. The Levorg is powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine. It is turbocharged (hence the hood scoop) and it helps it put out 170 PS and 250 Nm of torque. Far from being a performance car but a decent power output nonetheless. The lone transmission choice is a continuously variable transmission. This being a Subaru, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is, of course, standard.
Start up the Levorg and you won't get the signature rumble from past Subarus. It's a quiet, hushed affair and, unlike the exterior, gives no hint of performance intentions. The pull from its small, turbo boxer engine is good, but don't expect it to be a WRX wagon. It's far from that, not with its transmission.
That's not to say the transmission is a source of derision; it's actually a good CVT as it has simulated 'gears' and keeps power delivery smooth and effortless. Also, those 170 horses are enough for overtaking without the need to pray three Hail Marys and one Our Father. It's enough for most although some might want a little more pull from the lower parts of the rev range.
Fuel economy on the other hand is decent, if not outstanding. Averaging just 16 km/h, it rang up 7.8 kilometers per liter although highway driving (average of 91 km/h) brings it up to 14.3 kilometers per liter. The added kilograms of the all-wheel drive system may have affected fuel economy slightly. Still, it's a lot better than the old, naturally aspirated 2.0-liter from the Impreza hatch (remember those?) which does about 6 to 7 kilometers per liter in the city on a good day.
I am glad to report that the steering is one of best things about the Levorg. It's well weighted, offers feedback and feel, and most importantly, involving. This station wagon can be a joy around winding roads. The Levorg doesn't seem all too bothered with the extra weight at the back either. You have the security of all-wheel drive and it just grips the road with little fuss, even when it's raining. It also seems like it rains every time we test a Subaru, putting that grip to the test. Granted, ride may be on the firm side for some but the trade-off is a fun driving experience and it's still comfortable enough for the daily drive.
Think of the Levorg as a step between the standard Imprezas and the WRX models. Its faster, and more dynamic than the four-door but it won't give you the compromises of the more cooking versions. It's quite far from being a practical performance car but it's at least a step above the non-turbocharged Impreza. A tempting proposition? Perhaps, but there's one hurdle.
At Php 1,888,000, it's a big price to pay for if you want to get into wagons. In fact, it's more expensive than a similarly equipped Forester 2.0i-P, which starts at Php 1,768,000. The Levorg is well equipped as it has high-beam assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert to mention a few things, but its own high-riding cousin has the similar features, and more.
I could understand why more people would much rather choose the Forester. It's bigger, has more ground clearance and more affordable. If you do choose the Forester, it's completely understandable. You just miss out on having a fun to drive, practical station wagon, provided you can cough up the extra cash, of course.