Automotive Misstep: Subaru Admits It Came in Too Hot, Removes Power From Slow-selling Model

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
automotive misstep subaru admits it came in too hot removes power from slow selling

A vehicle most American enthusiasts would want — or at least claim to want — has undergone an emergency operation. Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show, the revamped Subaru Levorg will no longer thrill buyers in entry-level form.

Counterintuitive? Definitely not, says Subaru. Apparently, the Levorg, which can best be described as a WRX wagon offered in two power flavors, scared buyers away. What else could Subaru do except lower its standard horsepower?

Okay, where do these weak-kneed buyers live, you ask? Well, Japan, Europe, and other overseas markets all get the Levorg, which came on the market in 2014/2015, but the brand’s real concern is Europe.

The model was meant to replace a wagon variant of the Legacy sedan, but its WRX underpinnings promised an increased level of sport — as did its brace of turbocharged flat fours. Base unit was a turbo 1.6-liter engine, good for 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in Japan, with a 2.0-liter unit cranking out 300 hp and 295 lb-ft. Sounds like a fun grocery getter.

Alas, the Levorg was too sport-focused, at least in its entry-level guise, Subaru admits. The new Levorg revealed in Geneva ditches the 1.6-liter turbo in favor of a familiar, and fairly tepid, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four. Power now comes in at a sedate 148 hp and 146 lb-ft, overseen by a watchful Lineartronic CVT. A very Impreza-y persona, to be sure.

But Subaru didn’t stop there. It also dialed back the firmness of the vehicle’s suspension, ensuring a more relaxed road feel for those who just wanted an all-wheel drive wagon, not a WRX with room for the dogs. Wild to mild.

“We made a mis-step with the Levorg and made it too extreme, too sporty. It just wasn’t right for our customers,” said Torbjorn Lillrud, development director for IM Group, the UK Subaru importer, in a conversation with Britain’s Autocar.

“The combination of that turbo engine and the firm suspension has been a real turn-off for customers.”

The public’s distrust of the old Levorg was made clear by sales stats. In Europe in January, Subaru sold just 90 of the potent wagons.

[Image: Subaru]

Join the conversation
2 of 33 comments
  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Mar 07, 2019

    An overly firm suspension would be a turn-off for me. A laggy turbo engine that uses more fuel than necessary for my purposes and requires premium might also be. But I doubt I'd get that far in my analysis of this particular vehicle. I'd probably dismiss it for looking like some Fast and Furious fan attached a bunch of silly plastic to the front bumper after purchasing it from someone who had installed plastic covers on oversized wheels that would have been merely uncomfortable and impractical if they weren't so ugly.

  • SPPPP SPPPP on Mar 07, 2019

    Hmm, very interesting. So if Subaru sells, perhaps, 80 of these in Europe next January, will they go the other route and drop a STI engine in it?

  • Theflyersfan As a kid, a neighbor had one of these full-sized conversion vans with the TV and wet bar in the back. And it was so cool to go in - as a kid it was, driving it had to be terror at times with blind spots, iffy power and brakes, and the feeling that you're hauling your living room with you! Kids of the 1970s and 1980s had this experience. Afterwards with minivans and then CUV everything, not so much.And I'm crushed that a 1977 van doesn't have some kind of mural on the sides. Coyote howling at the moon, American flag, Confederate flag, bright stripes, something! You can't have a 1970's era van with plain sides! At least a "Don't Laugh. Your daughter's in here" bumper sticker on the back. I always get a Gacy or Bundy vibe with these vans...
  • Jeff S In the EV market Tesla is not a niche player it is the major player. According to the latest data of the California-based vehicle valuation and automotive research company  Kelley Blue Book, Tesla has the lion’s share with 75 percent market share in  the electric vehicle market in the first three months of 2022.Tesla has dominated the electric vehicle market for years in the United States. The electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla accounted for 79 percent of the new electric vehicles registered in the United States in 2020 and 69,95 percent in 2021. The decrease in the market share in 2021 might be explained by backlogs and the global chip shortage, but the company is ramping up its sales and has already increased its market share to 75 percent in the first quarter of the year. According to Kelley Blue Book, the top 10 EVs sold in the US in the first quarter of 2022 are;[list=1][*]Tesla Model Y[/*][*]Tesla Model 3[/*][*]Ford Mustang Mach-E[/*][*]Tesla Model X[/*][*]Hyundai Ioniq 5[/*][*]Kia EV6[/*][*]Tesla Model S[/*][*]Nissan Leaf[/*][*]Kia Niro[/*][*]Audi e-Tron[/*][/list=1]Tesla has delivered 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, another first-quarter record. The success of Tesla is proven once again as the company has three electric cars in the top 10 most selling electric vehicles in the United States, while no other manufacturer has even two different models on the list.Tesla leads all others, selling slightly over 936,000 units in 2021. This gave the company a market share of nearly 14%.Mar 30, 2022
  • Jeff S I did not know Plymouth had a full size van prior to the mini vans. I did know about the Plymouth pickups and the Trail Duster.
  • Arthur Dailey When I grew tired of the T-Bird trying to kill me by refusing to start at the most inconvenient times/places, I replaced it with a '79 fullsized Dodge (Sportsman) van. Similar to this but with a different grille and rectangular headlights. The 4 'captains' chairs in my van were pretty much identical to the ones in this van. Mine certainly was not as nicely finished inside. And it was a handful to drive in snow/ice. One thing that strikes me about this van is that although a conversion it does not seem to have the requisite dark tint on the windows.
  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.