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Subaru Levorg GT

Click to view picture gallery“You’ve got to hand it to Audi and
  BMW — it was their lifestyle-veneered
  estate cars that upped the wagon
  game; now, just about every car-
  maker has their own individual take
  on the ‘sporting estate’...”

WHICH BRINGS US TO SUBARU, better known in the UK for rugged all-wheel drive cars such as the Forester and go-faster 'Scooby' sports hatchbacks. Naturally Subaru's new Levorg Sport Tourer is fitted with the brand's trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive — now something of a rarity as many of today's four-wheel drive systems are only part-time on-demand, running for most of the time in two-wheel drive.

And, not unexpectedly, in the engine bay sits another of the Japanese brand's icons a 'flat-four' (horizontally opposed) Boxer engine. In this case, it's an all-new 1.6-litre petrol unit that's been paired with a CVT (Constantly Variable Transmission) autobox.

While this newly-developed, all-aluminium, 1,600cc turboed powerplant is smaller, it's said to give the same level of performance as one of Subaru's naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre Boxer engines. Its 167bhp and 3,000rpm-wide torque spread (184lb ft between 1,800 and 4,800rpm) give it plenty of 'get up and go' and it feels agreeably quick and pokey at any speed.

The turboed 1.6-litre
Boxer engine is said to
give the same level
of performance as
a naturally-aspirated 2.5.
With a 3,000rpm-wide
torque spread
there’s plenty of ‘get up
and go’ and it feels
quick and pokey
at any speed...”
Nought to 62mph comes up in a brisk 8.9 seconds; top speed is 130mph. And while it drinks unleaded it doesn't guzzle our hard-charging week behind the wheel saw a real-life average of 38.1mpg; very close to the official 39.8mpg Combined Cycle figure.

And the new flat-four is quieter than you'd expect given its 'burbly' Boxer heritage. It's also impressively smooth and stays that way throughout its rev-band, helping to keep noise levels low in the cabin.

The main benefit of CVT transmissions is that they can vary torque seamlessly with no need to constantly shift up or down, all while maintaining the engine revs at the best number for both efficiency and power. In manual mode, the Levorg's Lineartronic CVT feels like a 'geared' autobox thanks to six pre-programmed 'steps'. If you're just pootling the Lineartronic can happily be left to its own devices, when it's as easy-going and as well behaved as any conventional automatic.

However, if you're in the mood for some sportier driving you can take control using the paddle-shifters to move sequentially up and down the six-stepped scale. You also have the choice of running in either of two custom driving modes that tweak engine/throttle response and the Lineartronic's shift characteristics: Intelligent or Sport (flick between them using the buttons on the steering wheel).

Intelligent serves up optimum fuel efficiency allied to a smooth power delivery and maximum grip on tricky surfaces; Sport suppresses unnecessary gear changes, holding pre-programmed 'gears' for longer for more decisive acceleration and when cornering, as well as enabling quicker downshifts for re-acceleration immediately after braking. Sportier, then!

One look at the Levorg's body and you can see that it combines the best of both worlds: a sporty bodyshape with a compact on-road footprint. Unlike some overtly 'lifestyle' estates, the Levorg's loadspace doesn't lose out to over-egged styling: the capacious boot will swallow 522 litres of luggage and with the 60:40-split second row of seats folded down it offers a loadbay that will take whatever it is you need to carry be it bikes, sports kit, or even pets, the Levorg will oblige.

The Levorg is definitely cast in the mould of what you'd imagine a 'sport tourer' to be starting with a thrusting, hunkered-down nose with a power-scoop on the bonnet and significant chrome-work framing the hexagonal-shaped grille. Standout 18-inch machine-faced, high-gloss dark grey alloy wheels take your attention as your eye follows the swept-back flank along a rising window line that kicks-up at the shoulder to finish off the glasshouse with a flourish.

The Levorg offers
the best of both worlds:
a sporty bodyshape
with a compact on-road
footprint. Unlike some
overtly ‘lifestyle’ estates,
the Levorg’s loadspace
doesn’t lose out to
over-egged styling and
the capacious 522-litre
boot expands to a
1,446-litre loadbay...”
At the back, either side of a black diffuser, there's a large chromed tailpipe at each corner, and a spoiler capping the top of the tailgate. Metallic paint is included in the price and there's a choice of three colours: Steel Blue Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, and the Lapis Blue Pearl of our test car that certainly looked The Biz.

Inside it's equally attractive. Subaru say the cabin is one of their most refined, with a greater use of high quality materials. And it's true you can't miss the high-quality piano black and ritzy metallic accents; and soft leather is used generously, not just on the shapely sports seats (cosily embracing, supportive, well-bolstered and enhanced by blue stitching) but additionally on the centre console, on top of the multifunction display on the dash, and on the door trims.

Physically there's a fist of headroom in the front with loads of stretch room for the passenger (but not at the expense of legroom for the person sitting behind them), plenty of space for elbows and shoulders and a first-rate driving position: you can see the end of the bonnet while holding the meaty rim of the flat-bottomed steering wheel that houses remote controls for just about everything (voice, infotainment, cruise, and the SI-Drive) as well as the autobox's paddle-shifters.

And hands-free is the name of the game: voice control (activated by pressing a button on the wheel) can be used, for instance, to select a radio station or album, set a SatNav destination or alter the climate control. But if you're a more fingers-on than verbal type of person, your fingertips can do the same things by tapping the touchscreen.

Whichever way you get there, the 3D mapping is finely detailed with easy-to-follow directions. For more connectivity, synch your smartphone to the touchscreen using Subaru's built-in Starlink system and use your apps. Sounds come though a six-speaker hi-fi (with CD player) plus there are twin front and rear USB ports plus Aux jacks as well as Bluetooth hands-free and audio.

Adding an agreeable edge to the physical business of driving are ally pedals, a Start/Stop engine button, electric parking brake with hill-hold, and a leather-skinned sports gearknob that's a great fit in your palm.

Look as hard as you might, but you won't find an on/off switch for the Levorg's front seat airbag deactivation. That's because it's all done for you; the occupant detection sensor in the seat automatically turns off the passenger airbag when a child seat is fitted to the front passenger seat.

“Subaru say the cabin is
one of their most refined,
with a greater use of
quality materials
including high-quality
piano black and ritzy
metallic accents.
Soft leather is used
generously — and not
just on the supportive,
well-bolstered and cosily
embracing sports
The airy rear cabin is designed to make journeys long or short as relaxing as possible, with five reclining angles for the backrests, dedicated ventilation ducts, a fist of headroom, decent foot- and leg-room and a big, wide, well-padded central armrest with built-in twin cupholders as well as nicely padded outer armrests and bottle-holding door bins.

With permanent four-wheel drive, fully independent suspension front and rear, a turbocharged boxer engine and an electronic stability control system that's not overbearingly nanny-ish, you'll be expecting some fun driving time, particularly on winding B-roads. While you don't get the 'tearaway' character of earlier hardcore Scoobies, you do get and will settle happily for satisfying grip and stability in all conditions.

The Levorg's four-wheel drive system defaults at 60:40 front:rear but it's an active torque so it can dole out the drive (up to a 50:50 split) to which axle needs it most. Added to which the Levorg is fitted with an Active Torque Vectoring system similar to that of the high-performance WRX STI.

Torque vectoring effectively brakes the inside wheels under cornering, apportioning greater torque to the outside wheels, effectively preventing understeer and oversteer and allow a more predictable and controlled line through corners while you keep the power on. All the better for you to point-and-squirt!

Which is precisely when you'll appreciate the electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering it's keen and well-weighted, and with body lean well reined-in (far more than your average estate, and helped notably by a low centre of gravity), and not forgetting plenty of grip from the permanent four-wheel drive, it makes taking corners in the well-balanced Levorg a pleasure. As too does the slightly smaller, flat-bottomed steering wheel that needs less effort for quicker steering inputs.

The ride, while being on the firm side, is compliant enough to class as 'grand tourer' and, via a progressive pedal, the vented all-disc brakes deliver decent drama-free stopping whenever.

Measuring 4,690mm from nose to tail, the Levorg nevertheless manages to pack in a lot of load space, initially with a very practical 522 litres. But it doesn't stop there; flip down the back seats and the resulting 1.9-metre-long loadbay will take 944 litres or, if you don't mind stacking to the roof instead of the window line, a very persuasive 1,446 litres. Beneath the lidded boot floor you'll find a further 40 litres for secret storage as well as a place to keep the luggage roller blind cassette when not needed. On top of that, the Levorg can tow a handy 1,500kg (braked).

“With permanent all-
wheel drive, fully
independent suspension
front and rear,
a turbocharged boxer
engine and an electronic
stability control system
that’s not overbearingly
nanny-ish, you’ll be
expecting some fun
driving time —
particularly on winding
There's only one UK spec: GT. It provides a generous helping of equipment all you'll need, really, including keyless access and push-button engine start, dual-zone automatic AirCon, bespoke leather heated sports front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system with Subaru's Starlink connectivity.

Also included is a decent audio system, Bluetooth hands-free, plenty of USB/Aux ports and 12-volt feeds, Subaru's two-mode Intelligent Drive, cruise, multifunction sports steering wheel, rear camera, electric windows, powerfolding heated door mirrors, rear privacy-glass, roof spoiler, shark-fin antenna, metallic paint and 18-inch alloys.

Plus there's equally comprehensive active and passive safety, starting with a five-star EuroNCAP rating and continuing with the permanent four-wheel drive, traction control, Active Torque Vectoring, High Beam Assist, Hill Start Assist, and Rear Vehicle Detection that combines Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist (warns of fast-approaching vehicles behind when the driver indicates to change lane) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (detects and warns of vehicles passing behind when you're reversing out of a parking space).

Other standard-fit safety items include whiplash-reducing seats, height-adjustable front seatbelts, front, front side, knee, and curtain airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, safety pedal system, windscreen wiper de-icers, auto lights with LED headlamps, pop-up headlamp washers, and automatic rain-sensing wipers.

A sporty touring estate offering plenty of room for people and cargo, the Levorg is also comfortable and generously specced with 'real' all-wheel drive for sure-footed handling whatever the conditions. A reassuring place to be in an uncertain world. ~ MotorBar

Subaru Levorg GT | 27,495
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds | Test Average: 38.1mpg
Power: 167bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2: 164g/km