Subaru’s Levorg station wagon has flash and power

Subaru's Levorg has a 1,600cc 'Boxer' engine, all-wheel-drive and fine design

If you were in the market for a station wagon, you would naturally gravitate towards brands such as Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen and, maybe, Peugeot.

But if you wanted something that is value for money, equally or more dependable than the European makes and is stylish enough to be next to an A4 Avant, the choices become narrower.

Only Mazda, Hyundai and Subaru offer models that meet those criteria. Among them, Subaru has the distinction of being the only one with all-wheel-drive and a hearty helping of attitude.

The new Levorg sticks to the formula. Based on the Subaru Legacy, this all-wheel-drive estate literally swaggers with its pronounced air intake on the bonnet and oversized foglamp housings in front.

For a wagon, where being understated is a virtue, the Levorg's brash flashiness takes some getting used to. But once you get past that, the car is really quite interesting- looking. Beyond the boy-racer bits that make it recognisably a Subaru, it is sleek, elegant and dignified, which is an achievement for a brand that is not exactly known for fine design.

Inside, the car is a step up from the dated cabin one has come to expect of many Subarus. Here, the marque again makes its racing heritage known.

  • SPECS/SUBARU LEVORG 1.6 GT-S

    Price: $126,800 with COE

    Engine: 1,600cc 16-valve turbocharged flat-4

    Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with paddle shift

    Power: 170bhp at 4,800rpm

    Torque: 250Nm at 1,800-4,800rpm

    0-100kmh: 8.9 seconds

    Top speed: 210kmh

    Fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/ 100km

    Agent: MotorImage

You will find perforated metal pedals, a flat bottom multi-function steering wheel and paddle shifters. The only omission is a handbrake lever, which has been replaced by a flap that operates the electrically operated brakes.

Other modern conveniences include keyless access and ignition, dual-zone climate control and a decently sized infotainment screen.

But like all Subarus, the Levorg's main proposition is in the way it drives.

The car is powered by a newly developed turbocharged 1.6-litre "Boxer" engine that makes 170bhp and 250Nm of torque from 1,800rpm.

At the wheel, the Levorg feels as energetic as a 2.5-litre normally aspirated car. Its engine, paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), pulls willingly and enthusiastically.

Subaru has been using CVTs for several decades and the refinement of the Levorg's gearbox is proof of a recipe that works.

The same, however, cannot be said for the car's steering and suspension. The steering is inordinately heavy and the suspension is rock hard. These traits may well be suitable for a rally car, but not for a family wagon.

In tight carpark manoeuvres, it requires plenty of elbow grease. And even the slightest tarmac undulation results in the kind of jiggling that would curdle milk.

On the flipside, you get high-speed confidence as well as sharp and fearless cornering. Which, if you are a diehard Subaru fan, is all you need.

For others, the Levorg is a sporty, spacious and competitively priced station wagon that is worth considering. Just avoid long-distance milk runs in one.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Not a bland wagon'. Print Edition | Subscribe