When we grow up, take on more responsibilities, and start a family, the choices of automobiles become rather limited. And conjugal.
More often than not, you'll look for something more functional with things like extra cupholders and ISOFIX anchors for child seats. You'll need to look for something more spacious to accommodate the extra stuff you'll be bringing around, and we're talking about strollers and groceries more often than recreational sports gear.
Those requirements, along with many others, means you'll be limited to things like crossovers, SUVs, or even MPVs. They fit the bill of what you need, but won't exactly offer the driving pleasure you'll sorely crave when the roads are cleared or when you're driving long distances over some nice winding roads.
But there is one more option you can check out: the Levorg GT-S from Subaru.
The Levorg itself is not new, as this model has been around since late 2015 in our market. What makes this a viable option is that it offers similar space and practicality of a wagon, not unlike an SUV, but with the driving dynamics of a sport sedan... this is, after all, rather closely related to the great WRX, and in more ways than just being a Subaru.
For the curious out there, the name Levorg is somewhat of an acronym, one that comes from a rather unusual combination of the words Legacy (LE), revolution (VO), and touring (RG). Yeah they really forced it, so when another customer at my friendly neighborhood carwash asked me what the name stands for, I said Legacy “cyborg” just for kicks. Sounds cooler, eh?
Style-wise, nothing has really changed. The body, the front, the rear, and the sides are all the same (save for a few minor tweaks with the foglights) as the one we tested in 2016 and 2017, which isn't a bad thing at all. We do like how the Levorg looks from every angle, and love how that hood scoop gives it quite a bit of character.
Inside, not much has changed at first glance; the steering wheel, the shifter for the CVT, and many of the other primary controls are the same. If you're familiar with the previous Levorgs we drove, you'll start noticing that Subaru has made a few minor -but tasteful- adjustments like reducing the bright silver trim accents and replacing them with a more subdued gray pieces. The leather is still black with the cool blue stitching, and the seats have a very proper feel about them, offering comfort and ample lateral support from the bolsters for cornering.
The rear seats have fairly good legroom, so long as the driver and front passenger don't push their seats so far back. It's not as wide as you would like given that it's supposed to be Legacy-sized; actually the back seat is definitely more Impreza-ish, as having a third adult in the middle would require a bit of squeezing in, depending on the sizes of the people involved.
The boot space is quite good at 522 liters (about 60-liters more than an Impreza sedan) and expands to just over 1400 liters. There's plenty of space for big, family-sized luggage for your weekends away.
Looking around the cabin (and without checking the spec sheet), I can tell that this Levorg is very well specced. There's an upgraded touchscreen audio unit, though I weren't really able to play with the new features as much as I'd like; my Spotify playlist sounds good on it though. There are plenty of buttons on the steering wheel for receiving calls, for adjusting volume and selecting tracks, for cycling through the multi-info display, for the smart cruise control (more on that later), and two buttons for the SI (Subaru Intelligent) Drive system. You get a climate control system on the center stack and an electronic parking brake on the center console flanked by an AVH button for the automatic vehicle hold function which proves useful in traffic. You can spot SRS airbag labels all around; two in the front, two curtain airbags, two side airbags, and even one for the driver's knees. As with all other press cars, we don't want to test them.
Pressing the ignition lights up that engine under that big hood scoop. Unlike previous versions of the Levorg, this one doesn't have a 1.6-liter turbo intercooler flat-four. This is now a much larger 2.0-liter turbo intercooler flat four with a CVT. If that engine sounds familiar, it's because the 2018 Subaru WRX also uses the same engine with the same power and torque ratings: 268 PS and 350 Newton meters of torque. And being a Subaru, this one has Symmetrical AWD. Yeah, this is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
On a daily commute to and from work or when taken on errands, the Levorg GT-S performs as expected. With the Intelligent mode activated, it's actually a nice car to tool around town with. At low speeds, the suspension feels fine, absorbing much of the bumps as it can. The response from the engine and the initial torque can be a bit too eager, so there's a bit of adjusting needed to be really smooth with the Levorg in traffic, but it's not too bad. Fuel economy is quite decent too at 6.7 km/l in city driving (20 km/h) isn't too bad considering it's so tempting to mash the throttle when the lights turn green. On expressway speeds that improved significantly to around 12.5 km/l.
I think we need to take a few moments to talk about the issues, particularly the ride at higher speeds. The suspension we liked when driven casually in traffic seems out of its depth if driven at faster speeds on the same road. Case in point: on an early morning drive on a relatively bumpy road (in this case, EDSA), the suspension was bottoming out rather hard, and can feel quite unpleasant. And this was at 60 km/h only. Also, the other issue is with the fairly low ride height of 135mm which makes me nervous when traversing fairly ordinary village speed bumps. Also, there's the rather long front overhang; the portion of the car sticking out past the front wheels. Unless you approach typical mall ramps or sidewalk parking slots at a carefully estimated angle, the front bumper can scrape.
What I appreciated with the Levorg is the biggest upgrade this version got: a system called EyeSight. You can tell your Subaru has EyeSight if there is a big fixture just above the rearview mirror with a few cameras on it. EyeSight uses these color cameras to detect other vehicles and obstacles on the road, and activates certain features to mitigate or possibly avoid frontal collisions altogether. It can even function as a smart cruise control in crawling traffic, something very useful during rush hour driving. We've tested it in many of Subaru's vehicles, and you can read up up about it in one of our previous articles.
But what I really and truly loved about the Levorg is how well it works when you get a chance to drive it on a nice, long stretch of road with a lot of corners tossed in. The engine, which has so far been restrained in Intelligent mode, is now relaxed in Sport mode, and boy, does it respond better. Acceleration from that powerplant is really nice to play with; 6.6 seconds to 100 km/h is pretty fun. But more than that, it's the surefooted way that the acceleration is delivered that's reassuring.
Around the bends, the WRX -er- the Levorg GT-S is a hoot. The WRX is still sharper (and lighter), but this Levorg is no slouch, even though it's much heavier. The suspension is softer, but cornering speeds that seem unnatural (or a little excessive) somewhat seem more natural. That's the magic of the all-wheel drive system and Subaru's torque vectoring allocating the power to the wheel (or wheels) that can make the most of it. The braking could be better; it isn't as bitey as I would want for the speed and performance that the Levorg is capable of, but it's not bad at all.
The 2019 Levorg 2.0 GT-S sits in a place that I would call the middle ground between adolescence, and full-on adulting. If you enjoyed driving something like a WRX, an Evo, or a Type R in your youth, and cringe at the prospect of trading in for something like an Montero Sport, a Carnival or even an Innova, then the Levorg GT-S would offer you the happy compromise, especially if it comes down to getting the approval of your boss: the wife.