Five Things You Need to Know About the New Subaru Levorg

Do not wait for the performance GT station wagon.

If you think you know the new, second-generation Subaru Levorg just unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, you are either a Subaru savant, or you don't really understand it. That's because the car, sold in the Japanese Domestic Market since 2014, doesn't quite fit anywhere into the North American Subaru lineup.

That's nothing new for a niche car from a Japanese automaker. Since the Subaru Levorg, described as a "prototype," was unveiled at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show, we've come to have a better understanding of it. The Levorg has no practical chance of becoming a North American import, but it does offer some hints about the long-awaited next generation Subaru WRX and the STI. Let's start with this:

1. The Subaru Levorg is a "tweener" car.

It's larger than an Impreza hatchback or Crosstrek CUV, but it's not as large as an Outback wagon. It looks like a next-generation WRX, but with a midsize wagon cargo body grafted on to the back.

2. It's not a hard-edged WRX, and certainly not an STI.

Subaru will offer the new Levorg only with a continuously variable transmission. There will be no manual option like for a WRX or STI, or even a Crosstrek or Impreza. Kazuhiro Abe, corporate vice president and chief general manager for Subaru's product & portfolio planning division, describes Levorg as a "high-speed tourer with a high level of safety. It is very different from a WRX."

3. It marks the end of Subaru's EJ20 engine family.

The Levorg's 1.8-liter lean-burn turbocharged H-4 is the first of a new engine family. Subaru has not released horsepower or torque numbers, and has yet to give the engine an alpha-numeric designation, though variations of the engine will undoubtedly make their way into such U.S.-spec models as the Legacy/Outback and Impreza, Crosstrek, and Forester. "Displacement and turbo pressure would be different in the WRX," Abe says. Subaru also displayed its WRX STI EJ20 Final Edition at the Tokyo show, but that car is to commemorate the end of the EJ engine series for the JDM, and has none of the extensive chassis and suspension upgrades used to make the North American S209 model a more serious, hard-edged sports-rally sedan. The JDM STI's 2.0-liter engine will almost certainly be replaced with a new 2.0 turbo H-4 and the North American model might get that engine or a 2.5 H-4, with a turbo 2.5-liter H-4 probably saved for our STI.

4. Levorg's enhanced, next-generation EyeSight automated safety will likely make its way to the U.S. rather quickly.

The new version of Subaru's EyeSight includes updated stereo camera scanning with a wider viewing angle, four radars in the front and rear bumpers, expanded range of pre-collision braking, and a high-definition map and vehicle locater. With enhanced mapping, the advanced cruise control slows down automatically for corners and turns. Drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheels as EyeSight keeps the Levorg in its lane, as long as long as the driver keeps his or her eyes on the road.

5. Best guess is a new WRX for very late 2020, STI in '21.

Subaru says the new Levorg goes on sale in the JDM in the second half of next year. It's a performance touring station wagon with absolutely no crossover pretentions, so American enthusiasts might beg for its import here. But any realistic sales projections will not support it, and the manual gearbox model that enthusiasts would demand would double the car's $1 million U.S. certification costs here. With the Subaru WRX STI S209 Final Edition on sale in North America, and the WRX STI EJ20 Final Edition ready for the JDM market, we'd guess an all-new base WRX will launch some time after the Levorg's vague, second-half of 2020 on-sale date in the JDM. Let's say December '20 for the new WRX and the next STI following it at least six months later.