Subaru revels in its engineering prowess and different take on things, as demonstrated by the petrol-only, four-wheel drive Levorg, but it's the automatic transmission that upsets what's otherwise a credible, practical and sporty wagon.
In the Metal:
Apparently Subaru's customers preferred the previous generation Legacy Tourer, so in the Levorg it's giving them what they want - a more compact estate. It's smaller proportionally then, but internally some clever packaging means the Levorg's a capacious machine, with greater luggage capacity than that bigger Legacy. The Levorg looks particularly striking with its WRX STI-like front end, the huge bonnet scoop hinting at big performance.
Inside, it's Subaru's usual robust build, though there is enough soft-touch materials to make it a pleasant environment, while the integration of its neat touch-screen infotainment system is impressive. The boot is big and well-shaped, and there's lots of passenger room in the back too. Subaru's usual attention to detail means things like greater opening angles for the rear doors to aid access.
Four-wheel drive remains at the absolute core of Subaru's offering, as do boxer engines. Here that four-wheel drive system splits output 60/40 front to rear, with a maximum 50/50 split when required. The engine is a new unit, a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged flat-four that's only a few hp shy of Subaru's naturally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol unit and it has the torque to beat it. Expect this engine to be rolled out to other Subaru models in time.
It drives all four wheels through Subaru's Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission. Stepped ratios are added to the European models, giving six 'gears'. These automatically come into play if you push the accelerator more than 35 per cent of its travel (or 30 per cent if you're in S mode). There are gearshift paddles too, though using those reveals a sometimes-tardy response. Unfortunately, the CVT transmission is rather dominant in the driving experience. It's acceptable if you're not in a hurry, where it's relatively quiet and smooth, but start getting into the area where the Lineartronic introduces those steps and it gets a bit noisy and unrefined. That's a shame, as with a manual gearbox or dual-clutch automatic the 1.6-litre turbo would better be able to demonstrate its performance. It's commendably smooth, perhaps too much so, as Subaru's boxer off-beat noise is completely absent in all but start up. Even then it is subtle, which, given it's one of the core facets of Subaru's appeal, is a shame.
Grip is good, as you might anticipate, so the Levorg is surefooted in all conditions and Subaru makes much of its agility. Indeed, given its relatively modest performance it's surprising its engineers admit that it was benchmarked for handling and roll-control against its own BRZ sports car and cars like Audi's S3.
It has worked though, as the Levorg corners without any noticeable body roll, yet seemingly provides a decent ride quality - at least as much as can be ascertained on the smooth test track where we experienced it. The steering is weighty, though there's not much feel and the chassis balance is neutral, though pushing too hard will result in mild understeer. It's capable then, but really, the Levorg delivers its best at a more sedate pace, with good refinement, particularly if you don't ask too much from that CVT transmission.
What you get for your Money: N/A
We'll have to leave this rating off for now as EU prices have not yet been released, not to mention whether or not the Levorg will be offered for sale in Ireland. Elsewhere, two specification levels will be available, GT and GT-S, both well-equipped - the latter coming fully loaded. It's not going to be a cheap car to run, with relatively high emissions meaning a high tax bill, while economy isn't particularly notable, either. Residual values aren't likely to be as much of a concern though, as Subaru says most customers hang onto their cars longer.
You'd have to really want the Levorg's four-wheel drive system to buy it over more established rivals - if it goes on sale here. It doesn't help its case in Ireland by coming solely with a petrol engine, but the automatic transmission is its biggest failing. That's a shame, as the packaging and chassis are impressive.