Levorg STi sure to start in NZ

Good news Subaru sports fans: The Levorg STi just unveiled in Japan IS coming to New Zealand – just maybe not until 2018, Subaru NZ says.

Potential a sizzler edition of the soon-to-arrive Levorg wagon not being officially available here until maybe 2018 will advantage grey importers has been brushed off by the national distributor.

Subaru New Zealand boss Wal Dumper has already begun pitching for a New Zealand market-specific edition of the just-announced Levorg STi.

“Am I keen? The car’s cool. I’ve seen it in pre-production form and it looks fantastic. We’ve put our name in and said we want it. We’re trying to get a New Zealand one.”

Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries – soon to be known as Subaru Corporation - has signaled positively about the Technica car being allowed to head overseas, however there’s a catch.

Demand in Japan means the special sports machine is subject to the same delay that is the reason why the mainstream model is only now about to hit NZ, more than a year after its home market introduction.

Conceived to accompany the rally-bred WRX STI performance sedan – and also viewed as a celebration of this being the 50th year since the brand began making its trademark flat four ‘boxer’ engine – the STi is potentially two years away, Dumper has suggested.

“We can’t get it for ages.”

While that conceivably gives opportunity for traders in new and used Japanese domestic product to play the field, Dumper says whatever comes in via those channels will not be as good as the car he envisages.

That has already been seen with the used and parallel-import editions of the regular Levorg, which launches here at the end of June.

“We already have some (import) Levorgs coming in now and they’re all in a weird spec with a smaller capacity engine.”

He doubts it’ll be any different with the STi car because, despite it being rather more specialist fare for export, there will still be a number of variants offered the domestic scene.

“STi do various stages now. The press releases tend to be only about the top spec but what tends to confuse people is that you can get an STi whatever and you’ll discover that it hasn’t got everything they might imagine it would.”

“I don’t want one of those … I want a real one.”

Detail surrounding the STi car is slim, however it’s thought the production model is closely related to the show car that presented at the most recent Tokyo Auto Salon.

Pictured today, the concept has aggressive bodywork, oversized brakes with BBS wheels and an interior borrowed from the STI sedan.

That machine also pinched the WRX STI's driveline, doing away with the regular Levorg's CVT automatic transmission in favour of the performance car's six-speed manual unit.

In production form, however, Dumper believes the Lineartronic CVT will be the sole transmission choice.

That’s a big and radical call for the performance arm, which until a few years ago wouldn’t even offer an orthodox auto as an option.

So, no manual at all? “Nope. We asked that too. We thought there might be a manual six-speed with, say, another 50 horsepower but they said ‘no, only Lineartronic.“

While the full-blown sports package is still distant, there’s potential the mainstream model might offer an STi-developed sports cosmetic bodykit and sports suspension package. Subaru has commissioned aftermarket dampers and springs, a front strut tower braces, 18-inch Enkei lightweight alloys, front and rear under spoilers and side skirts, a larger exhaust and drilled brake rotors.

It is believed the NZ range will include a model based on the Japanese GT version, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer four, however there is potential a 2.2-litre version of the same engine.

Subaru NZ has previously suggested the Levorg fills the space in the range left by the Legacy GT wagon and it seems the customer base believes likewise.

Dumper says around half the 140 or so people who have so far signaled serious interest in buying into the new wagon are current, or previous, Legacy GT owners. Quite a few of the remainder have previously owned the now defunct WRX hatchback.

“We know well over half are existing Subaru customers who really want to see and drive it.”

Meantime, Dumper says his office’s intention to deliver a local market special edition celebrating the boxer engine’s 50th anniversary is not being made easy – because the Outback that seems most suitable for this job is in such limited supply.

“We have hundreds of back orders. We’ve looked at how we can do a 50thanniversary celebration car, we really like the concept, but we need more cars.”

“We are in a beautiful situation – this year we’re having a record sales year. We’re 40 percent up on last year and yet we’re still missing out on sales because we cannot get enough cars.”

And anxious Levorg intendees can blame the media for the car now not launching until the end of June, about four weeks’ behind original schedule.

Dumper says the press test cars that were supposed to be included in a consignment now en route to NZ weren’t built in time to make the boat, so that required a change to the local timetable.