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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • 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?

  • Lou_BC Question of the day: Anyone actually care to own an old TVR?
  • Bd2 First, this was totally predictable. 2nd, Genesis already does have hybrids in the form of a 48V mild hybrid, but more performance oriented (supercharged and turbocharged), so not really helping with regard to fuel consumption. 3rd, Hyundai's hybrid systems don't really help as there currently isn't one that would be suitable power-wise and the upcoming 2.5T hybrid system would have to be heavily reworked to accommodate a RWD/longitudinal layout. 4th, it seems that Genesis is opting to go the EREV route with the GV70 the first get the new powertrain.
  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .