It is difficult to wrap your head around the new Subaru Levorg.
The name barely gives a clue. Levorg is Legacy Revolution Touring in short, so it is plausible that it is a Legacy wagon because the current Legacy which was launched in Singapore in April comes in only sedan form.
But the Levorg is shorter in length, width and height than the Legacy and has neither of the sedan's 2.5- and 3.6-litre naturally aspirated engines.
If the Levorg is not a Legacy wagon, it could be considered a baby WRX wagon, since it shares the same A-pillar and bonnet with the WRX sedan. And it gets the "baby" label because the Japanese market gets a 2-litre engine that also powers the WRX, but Singapore will get a smaller 1.6-litre power plant.
SPECS / SUBARU LEVORG 1.6 GT-S
Price: $139,800 with COE (estimated)
Engine: 1,600cc 16-valve turbocharged flat-4
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission with paddle shift
Power: 170bhp at 4,800rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1,800rpm
0-100kmh: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 210kmh
Fuel consumption: 7.4 litres/ 100km
Mr Glenn Tan, executive director of Tan Chong International that distributes Subaru cars in Asia, says the Levorg is a "fun car with lots of space" and it is "spacious enough to store everything".
Indeed, the car has 522 litres of cargo space with rear seats up and 1,446 litres with the seats folded down - figures more commonly found in Volvo wagons.
Design-wise, Subaru designers exceed themselves by making the wagon actually look good. The prettiest profile is from the side - its backward slanting roofline has hints of the Volvo V60.
Astoundingly, Subaru claims a drag coefficient of 0.26 for the car, putting it in the same class as the BMW i8, Nissan GTR and new Jaguar XE. This means that the car not only looks sleek, the low drag will also translate to better fuel economy.
To launch the car, a carpark about the size of two football fields at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre was converted into a test-drive circuit. While driving in a circuit does not give an accurate gauge of how a car performs in real life, it was enough for the Levorg to shine in three areas: its engine, handling and equipment level.
Its 1.6-litre turbo engine may be small, but it cranks out a respectable 170bhp and 250Nm, matching the performance of the Legacy's 2.5-litre power plant (175bhp, 235Nm). On paper, it is also more frugal - 7.4 litres/100km versus 7.7 litres.
It is a matter of time before the new engine finds its way to other cars, although Subaru honchos would not say so when asked.
Paired with a continuously variable transmission with six virtual "gears", power transfer feels seamless and brisk.
What the car lacks in outright grunt, it makes up with exceptional handling. On a slalom course, it twists and turns so confidently as if invisible rails ran below the car.
And being a Subaru, it has permanent all-wheel-drive and a "boxer" engine that gives a lower centre of gravity and balance to the car, adding to its drive appeal.
The car was so fun to pilot that four Singapore reporters, including me, traded their rest for more time behind the wheel. In the early morning the day after the launch, we were punting the car in the circuit we had entirely to ourselves.
Local dealer MotorImage is bringing in the top variant in the 1.6-litre engine line-up. It has frills such as sunroof, 7-inch infotainment system with touchscreen controls, 18-inch sports rims and an unusual feature that allows the driver to lock and unlock the car with the key inside it. To open the door, the driver only has to tap the trunk release button of the tailgate in a pre-programmed, Morse code-like sequence. The function is useful for cyclists and joggers who do not want to carry their keys with them when they are exercising.
But what was unnecessary was having two USB ports on a console that is usually occupied by rear air-con vents. The wagon is sizeable and the front vents may be insufficient on hot days.
When the Levorg launches at the Singapore Motorshow in January next year, it should appeal to a wide range of buyers.
Families upgrading from sedans and hatchbacks will be tempted by the extra space, while those looking at continental wagons will be attracted to its high equipment level and lower price tag. And grown-up boy racers may be drawn to its "WRX-ness".
The Levorg is a competent all-rounder by being different things to different people. That is not hard to wrap your head around.