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2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S review (video)

As part of the company’s regular model year updates, the 2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S comes bristling with fresh enhancements to keep the small and sporty wagon current and attractive to buyers.

Headlining this is the availability of a new entry-level 1.6-litre turbocharged flat four engine that punches out 125kW at 5600rpm and 250Nm at 1800-4800rpm, while returning 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. This new engine is set to spread across the range in due course, which would really help the underpowered Subaru Impreza and XV.

But it’s the Levog GT-S with its 2.0-litre, 197kW and 350Nm turbo boxer that we have here, which also carries with it a raft of updates aimed at making it both easier to live with and more appealing. As we discovered, they improve an already brilliant car in meaningful ways. But there are still a few flaws in the package. Read on to find out what they are.

2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo flat four-cylinder
Output: 197kW@5600rpm / 350Nm@2400-5200rpm
Transmission: CVT automatic
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 18×7.5, 225/45
ANCAP: Five stars (scored XX out of 37)
Tare weight: 1582kg
Power-to-weight: 8.03:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.7L/100km
Economy during test: xL/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 60L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 22.64kW:L/100km

0-60km/h: x3.55 seconds*
0-100km/h: 6.62 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.07 seconds*
1/8 mile: 9.78 seconds at 127.8km/h*
1/4 mile: 14.85 seconds at 156.7km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.712g
100-0km/h braking: 3.07 seconds at 40.37 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.169g
Decibel at idle: 43*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 78*
Priced from: $49,140

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S – THE PACKAGE

Wagons definitely have a cool factor about them as many turn to stodgy SUVs. The Levorg has a sexy form factor and cleverly sits between Impreza and Liberty. It is 4690mm long, 1780mm wide and 1490mm tall on a 2650mm wheelbase. The boot volume varies between 489L with the seats up to 1413L with the new 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats folded down.

Unlike the new Impreza and XV, which use a new SGP (Subaru Global Platform) chassis, the Levorg uses the older platform. With steady sales, we can probably expect it to migrate to SGP in a few years, around the same time as the next-gen WRX. This also means that it has the older interior and infotainment system compared with the latest Impreza.

New additions include a 5.9-inch LCD multi-function display atop the dash, up from 4.3 inches, headlights that move with the steering angle, a smart rear-view mirror, cosmetic enhancements to the bumper and grille, a hill holder feature, harder compound brake pads for 2.0T versions, a new WR blue colour and a top of the line 2.0 STI Sport version.

We think the interior, with its blue stitching highlights, has aged well, with Subaru’s traditional high levels of quality and comfort. The steering wheel is just the right thickness and diameter, with an array of handy buttons at your fingertips. Analogue and digital speedometer are good allies to keep your licence points intact and the comfortably bolstered seats come in handy for exploiting the excellent dynamics, as we’ll detail below.

2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S – THE DRIVE

Sharing so much with the WRX, including its powertrain, gives the Levorg a solid foundation from an enthusiast’s standpoint. The steering is nimble and responsive, the low centre of gravity afforded by the symmetrical AWD boxer powertrain means you can tackle corners with more confidence than most other cars in this class. Body roll is almost non-existent, and the Levorg turns in with energetic enthusiasm. It definitely puts a smile on your face, but there are some minor drawbacks.

The Lineartronic CVT gearbox has paddle-shifters to select from eight virtual ratios. This is a complaint we’ve made before about Subarus equipped with the same gearbox, but it bears repeating since the problems remain. Initial, off-the-line response is dull, meaning that you wait a few seconds for the locomotive shove. This is less pronounced in S# (Sport Sharp) mode, but an inescapable drawback of CVT-equipped cars.

As a result, during enthusiastic cornering, downchanges don’t provide much engine braking or inertia, meaning you have to rely on the brakes, which in this spec are underwhelming ventilated discs front and rear. The do fine in regular use, but if you’re planning sporty driving they can seem mismatched to the acceleration performance. Speaking of which, we clocked 0-100km/h in brisk 6.62 seconds (on par with Subaru’s claim of 6.6).

Another issue is the short travel of the front suspension, as mentioned in our 2017 Levorg review. Around some corners when you have a bit of a lean on, the front struts hit their bump stops much sooner than you would expect. Subaru has made some revisions to the Bilstein suspension (non-Bilstein for 1.6T GT) for MY2018, with new damping forces front and rear, revised rebound length, and altered spring rates. There’s also a new diameter for the rear stabiliser bar. Subaru says this all helps to provide a more consistent and comfortable ride in all situations. But unfortunately it hasn’t helped, in our opinion. The handling is very good, with direct turn-in and plenty of grip. It’s just when pushed a bit the front end can bottom-out.

Those issues aside, it is a generally enjoyable car, with the added bonus of adaptive cruise control and Subaru EyeSight to give it great touring capability. There’s also a selection of three driving modes to play around with, altering the throttle response and engine pickup for either economy or performance.

Fuel economy is quoted at 8.7L/100km, but we experienced around 10.4L/100km in mixed driving conditions. After extended use, outside the testing realms of a press vehicle, you could expect to see around 9-9.5 we think. Some of the economy potential is thanks to the CVT, which allows the engine to remain in its most efficient rev range for any given conditions.

One aspect we thoroughly enjoy is the surround cameras fitted to the new model year. The side-view cam and front camera are particularly helpful when negotiating tight car park spots and take all the guesswork out of the equation.

2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S – THE VIDEO

2018 Subaru Levorg GT-S – THE VERDICT

Despite not yet on Subaru’s new platform, the Levorg holds up well and has a cool factor that comes with being a wagon. It’s genuinely versatile while offering the same driving experience you would expect from the WRX sedan, only with the substantial practicality benefits of a wagon cargo area. Decent sales support its appeal, with 976 units shifted so far this year (through October). While the CVT gearbox might not appeal to traditional driving enthusiasts and a manual would be handy, you grow to appreciate the way it keeps the turbo engine in its power curve for longer. It’s also effortless in the way it builds speed in normal conditions.

These tweaks make an already attractive vehicle even more appealing.

PROS:
– Great handling and grip
– Excellent driver assistance features
– Nice interior, good fit and finish
– Stylish rims for 2018 MY

CONS:
– Short travel front suspension can crash on bumps
– Brakes don’t match the engine performance
– CVT automatic is flawed and a nuisance for enthusiasts

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mitchell is a contributing journalist and features writer at PerformanceDrive. He has been a passionate petrol-head from a very young age. He is excited by the future of the industry, and considers himself as a bit of a fanatic when it comes to the technical aspects of cars. He is also fascinated by new cars that are popping up in developing markets.

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