A Levorg by any other name?
After dropping the Liberty wagon for the Levorg – the name a combination of Legacy, Revolution and Touring – Subaru decided to rename its WRX-based sports estate specifically for the Australian market.
Behold, the Subaru WRX Sportswagon. Released locally around 12 months ago, the latest iteration of the compact wagon has as much in common with the WRX Sedan as ever… with the exception of basically every body panel.
Under the skin the two cars ride on the same platform, are powered by the same high-output 2.4-litre Boxer turbocharged engine, and have near identical interior designs – at least, ahead of the rear seats.
Where the WRX Sedan leans in on the nameplate’s rally heritage and appeals to a more enthusiast demographic, the WRX Sportswagon is more pitched as a practical GT with luxury bent.
Station wagons used to be the family car staple, but in 2023 the WRX Sportswagon has next to no natural rivals with the exception of the Skoda Octavia RS, and perhaps the far dearer Volkswagen Golf R Wagon.
Does this turbocharged, all-wheel drive Sportswagon make a case for itself?
The top-spec WRX tS Sportswagon on test is priced from $58,990 before on-road costs, though the range opens at $50,990.
That represents a $1000 increase on when the car launched in 2022, and the Sportswagon range as a whole is $1000 dearer than the equivalent sedan.
The front-drive Skoda Octavia RS Wagon starts from $57,490 drive-away in base specification, but optioned up you’re looking closer to $64,790 drive-away – which lines up almost perfectly with the WRX’s $64,709 D/A sticker based on a Melbourne postcode.
The all-paw Volkswagen Golf R Wagon, which can dash from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds, will set you back at least $78,000 drive-away according to the company’s Australian configurator.
Other potential alternatives include the even pricier Audi A4 Avant 45 TFSI quattro S line ($78,200), Skoda Superb Sportline 4×4 Wagon ($70,990 D/A) and Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line Wagon ($67,790).
As you can tell, the WRX Sportswagon occupies a niche corner of the market.
2023 Subaru WRX Sportswagon pricing:
- Subaru WRX: $50,990
- Subaru WRX GT: $56,490
- Subaru WRX tS: $58,990
Prices exclude on-road costs
Like every other new Subaru… with sporty dressing.
The Japanese brand has been doing a lot of copy/paste with its recent designs, with the Sportswagon’s cockpit looking very much like a sportier version of the cabin in the Outback, or the upcoming Crosstrek (nee XV) and Impreza.
Your attention is quickly drawn to the upright 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which has a bit of Ford Ranger or Tesla Model S about it, while the tS’s exclusive highlights include STI-branded bits throughout the cabin.
Build quality is good, with a great mix of padded and stitched surfaces giving off the impression Subaru has paid plenty of attention to detail, and it blends old-and new school in numerous ways – think STI badges and analogue gauges mixed with new-age infotainment and design.
The front row is very comfortable, and there’s heaps of adjustment in the seats and setting wheel to get comfy for longer stints.
Both front seats are electrically-adjusted in this specification, with the driver’s seat also offering memory presets.
The analogue instruments flanking a smaller TFT display aren’t flashy or configurable as rivals from the Volkswagen Group, but they’re functional and a throwback to sporty Subarus of old. There are plenty of people that prefer simple, elegant analogue gauges.
Storage up front is pretty good too, with plenty of nooks for your odds and ends, plus a big centre cubby under the armrest and bottle holders in the doors.
Subaru’s latest infotainment system may look very swish and new-age, but it’s quite simple to use and easy to live with.
I’m a big fan of the upright orientation and bright graphics, but unlike some cars models in the range like the Outback and upcoming Crosstrek, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are only available via a wired connection – which isn’t super convenient given the small cubby for phones barely fits my iPhone 14 Pro Max.
The native navigation system has a habit of beeping and bonging every time you’re coming up to a safety or speed camera irrespective of whether you’re relying on the embedded system or smartphone mapping, and there’s a few functions buried in the display like climate controls and Auto Hold – why not just have a hard switch for the latter?
At least the digital climate controls are permanently placed at the base of the screen and have additional hard buttons for temperature adjustment. It’s certainly one of the better implementations of this kind of technology.
Hop into the second row, and the WRX Sportswagon isn’t the sort of impractical sports car your partner will scold you for.
There’s ample room for two adults, and kiddies will be fine back there. ISOFIX anchor points feature on the window seats as you’d expect, in addition to top-tether points across all three rear positions.
Rear air vents, heated outer rear seats and USB charging ports headline the amenities list, and there are map pockets on the front seat backs as well as bottle holders in the doors.
There’s also a fold-down armrest with cupholders, though the raised seat base, driveline hump and the back that juts out means it’s not the most comfortable for an adult – best left for kids.
The Subaru WRX Sportswagon measures 4755mm long, 1795mm wide and 1500mm tall on a 2670mm wheelbase.
There’s 492L of cargo space, expanding to 909L with the rear seats folded. Total volume with the second row folded is 1430L if measured to the roof.
Under the boot floor of all variants is a 17-inch space-saver wheel.
Power in the WRX line-up comes from a 2.4-litre turbocharged Boxer horizontally-opposed four-cylinder petrol engine.
Power and torque outputs are rated at 202kW (5600rpm) and 350Nm (2000-5200rpm), channelled to the brand’s signature full-time all-wheel drive system via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Don’t scoff yet at the inclusion of a CVT – Subaru has programmed eight “steps” you can toggle between using the paddles. The company says the CVT allows for faster ‘gear changes’ than before, and there’s a downshift blipping control. This is the only transmission available on the wagon.
The AWD system defaults to a 45:55 front-rear torque split, and in the tS it can be set into a more aggressive Sport mode limiting the amount of torque shuffled forward.
Oddly, for what is pitched as a performance-oriented model, Subaru doesn’t quote a 0-100 time for any WRX, let alone the Sportswagon range, though resident race car driver Chris Atkinson managed 6.47 seconds in the WRX Sedan CVT – which would make it about half a second quicker than the Skoda but well behind the Golf R.
Combined fuel economy is rated at 8.5 litres per 100km, with 192g/km of CO2. The fuel tank measures 63 litres, and requires minimum 95 RON premium unleaded.
It’s been a while since I’ve driven a Subie, but that signature rumbly start-up felt very familiar.
The muted rumble of the turbocharged Boxer engine sounds no different to a Forester or BRZ really; whether that’s good or bad is up to your taste.
Performance is strong but not necessarily all that thrilling, with all 350Nm available from 2000rpm giving it that boosty nature Subaru’s turbocharged engines are known for.
In its standard setting the CVT behaves as you’d expect, holding revs and slurring through its variable ratios in normal driving. It’s not particularly ‘sporty’ in feel when driven this way.
But press the steering-mounted drive mode button to engage Sport or Sport# and the CVT starts to behave like an eight-speed automatic.
The CVT will ‘shift’ through simulated ratios and does a pretty snappy job of it. I tended to engage Sport regularly just so it could drive like a conventional auto.
In normal driving though, you’d be better off leaving it in the standard setting for the sake of efficiency. The top ‘ratio’ in the Sport setting is a little short, leaving the engine revving over 2000rpm at cruising speeds, where in the more relaxed modes the CVT will drop revs to about 1500rpm.
When things speed up, the WRX Sportswagon does a decent job of getting along with decent grip, but I was left feeling a little numb.
I went on a drive through the winding roads near the Bass Coast in Victoria’s south east, and was in convoy with friends in Toyota Supras and hot hatches through some pretty fast and technical stretches of country road.
The Subie proved to be pretty quick at full throttle, and the immense grip afforded by that all-wheel drive system means you can take corners with confidence. It doesn’t mind being pushed, but don’t forget this is a 4755mm long estate weighing 1613kg (tare).
You can feel its weight in corners, and the softer suspension tune (even with adaptive damping) means the WRX Sportswagon can lean a little. I never pushed it hard enough for it to fully fall apart, but it doesn’t feel as sharp or as keen as something like a Skoda Octavia RS or Golf R Wagon.
At full noise the rumbly Subaru engine note is present but never at a level that’s particularly engaging. Boxer fans will no doubt enjoy the engine note, but even then it’s a little subdued for a performance flagship wearing STI bits inside.
The steering is pretty accurate but lacking in feel, and the way it weighs up in sportier modes can feel a bit artificial. Lovely for long, sweeping bends, but not as great for the tighter, more technical stuff.
Behind the steering wheel are a set of paddle shifters if you feel like taking control of the CVT’s steps yourself, and with the exception of the odd slur through ratios here and there they do a pretty good job.
When you’re not wringing its neck the Sportswagon makes for quite the tourer, with an array of driver assist systems to go with the comfortable, relatively refined drive on the highway.
Adaptive cruise control and lane centring offer semi-autonomous assistance, which is great for extended stints behind the wheel, while blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert help judging that long booty when merging lanes or reversing out of tight spots.
There’s front, side and reversing cameras which make judging this 4755mm long and 1795mm wide wagon in car parks that little bit easier too, and helps you to not scrape those polished 19-inch alloys.
WRX Sportswagon highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Auto LED headlights incl. adaptive beam
- Intelligent, Sport, Sport Sharp drive modes
- 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- 4.2-inch instrument cluster screen
- 6-speaker sound system
- Cloth upholstery
- Keyless entry and start
- Dual-zone climate control
- 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Electronic parking brake with auto hold
- Paddle shifters
- Automatic stop-start
- Reclining, one-touch folding rear seats
- Dual rear charge ports
- Ambient lighting
WRX GT Sportswagon adds:
- Satellite navigation
- CD player
- Leather upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Heated rear outboard seats
- 8-way power driver seat incl. lumbar
- 8-way power passenger seat
- Driver seat memory function
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors with auto-dipping
- Ambient lighting
- LED puddle lights
- Dual rear charge ports
- Front and side view monitors
- Driver Monitoring System
- EyeSight Assist Monitor
- Hands-free power tailgate
WRX tS Sportswagon adds:
- Electronically controlled dampers
- Comfort, Normal, Sport, Sport+, Individual drive modes
- Ultrasuede upholstery
Neither WRX body style has been tested or rated by ANCAP nor Euro NCAP – it’s not even sold in Europe.
Standard safety features include:
- 8 airbags
- incl. driver’s knee
- incl. front passenger seat cushion
- Autonomous Emergency Braking
- Forward, Reverse
- Autonomous emergency steering
- Adaptive cruise control
- Auto high-beam
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Driver attention monitoring
- Emergency lane-keep assist
- Intelligent speed limiter
- Lane centring assist
- Lane keep assist
- Leading vehicle departure alert
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Traffic sign recognition
WRX GT Sportswagon adds:
- Front View Monitor
- Side View Monitor
Like the wider Subaru line-up, the WRX is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
There’s also five years of capped-price servicing, with intervals of 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
Pricing has increased incrementally since last year, with the first five services capped at $378.33 (+$23.10), $517.96 (+$36.31), $453.19 (+$23.80), $792.10 (+$55.88) and $394.78 (+$33.53) on all automatic models.
All up, you’re looking at $2536.36 for the first 60 months/75,000km of maintenance, which isn’t all that cheap nor is it the most expensive. For reference, Skoda charges you $1850 for the Octavia, while the Golf R will set you back $3000.
In terms of real-world fuel consumption, we were seeing the trip computer hovering around the 10-11L/100km mark, which is a little up on Subaru’s 8.5L/100km claim.
The WRX Sportswagon makes for a solid all-rounder.
Like the brand’s other products, it makes a good case for itself by offering heaps of standard equipment, good interior space by class standards, and the brand’s signature full-time all-wheel drive.
The tS has all the fruit and feels like an upmarket vehicle, but if anything it’s the WRX badging that’s my sticking point.
It’s not as quick or sharp as something like an Octavia RS, and while the CVT does an admirable job imitating a torque converter auto in Sport modes it still has a bit of an elastic, lazy feel that doesn’t encourage you to drive this thing like you would a WRX.
What this makes perfect sense as, is a successor to the fourth-generation Liberty GT Wagons of the mid- to late-2000s. From this perspective, the WRX Sportswagon tS fits the brief; it’s quick, comfortable, luxurious and understated.
But with that in mind, I’d suggest looking at saving yourself $8000 and buying the base model, which misses out on the adaptive dampers and STI trimmings but maintains the exact same drivetrain.
Otherwise, if you want some luxurious the mid-spec GT is $2500 cheaper than the tS and doesn’t miss out on any of the important stuff.
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MORE: Everything Subaru WRX