Regular readers would know that the Subaru Levorg STI Sport wagon is a favourite vehicle of mine. The concept of a sportswagon with AWD as opposed to a SUV certainly appeals.
This time I got to take one on a trip from Sydney to Perisher Ski Resort with Subaru. We went last year as well to Perisher, but in an XV and Outback. This year along with the Levorg STI Sport we also had an Impreza 2.0I-S AWD and a Levorg 1.6GT Premium.
We left mid-afternoon on the Tuesday after picking up the Levorg. With two on board and luggage for a week trip to the snow as well as additional boxes of miscellaneous material, the boot space was filled but accommodated it all. I managed to fit it all in the boot and pulled the cargo blind over, with nothing on the back seats, which is a bonus.
Leaving mid-afternoon meant that we missed the bulk of the traffic along the M7 and Hume highway that builds up until after you pass the Campbelltown turnoffs.
With little traffic, my driving partner set up the Bluetooth for some music, we hit cruise control and settled in for the drive. After a quick stop at one of the many road side stops it seemed like only a blink and we were in Canberra for our overnight stay. With the music playing softly in the background, good conversation and a quiet drive the Levorg made for relaxed cruising.
Overnight stop was the Vibe Hotel next to the airport in Canberra., chosen because we had an early start the next morning and had to meet more people flying in before the convoy set off for Perisher.
The Vibe Hotel design is unusual in that it is circular with a void in the centre. Very cool! The rooms were actually exceptionally quiet, given its location and comfortable. I had a one room suite with separate bathroom and small kitchenette and lounge. To be honest it seems overkill as most occupants would probably be overnight stays, but then again if you needed to conduct a meeting there it is ideal.
The bar and dining area is open and accommodating and staff friendly. There is a relaxed atmosphere and for someone who hates hotel bars as they mostly seem claustrophobic, the openness is appealing.
As we had a time frame to get to Perisher we set off about 8am and skirted the Canberra traffic. It has grown over the years, but still nothing like Sydney or Melbourne. They shouldn’t grumble.
It was 1 degree when we left, so on went the seat warmers and this time I was in the Subaru Levorg 1.6L GT Premium. Apart from the burgundy seats, there was little difference inside. You did notice the difference initially in power as the 1.6L is obviously has slightly less power and torque, however after driving for a little while you quickly forgot that and settled in to the style needed for a different engine.
The major differences between the GT and STI Sport are obviously the engine, some cosmetic features, a slightly different AWD system (Active Torque Split vs Variable Torque Distribution) and Bilstein suspension on the STi. The STi has lower profile tyres and the Sport Sharp# selection in SI drive. All aimed at the more sporty nature of the STI vs the relaxed cruising of the GT Premium.
The Levorg GT Premium settles in for composed cruising and before we knew it we were stopping for coffee at Cooma and a car swap. Unfortunately the countryside is still very dry, but still beautiful in the Australian way. I noticed the fuel economy on this section and it was around 6.8L/100K which was excellent. The GT Premium is designed for this style of driving where the torque delivery allows the driver to keep the engine humming along smoothly.
We set off again for our lunch appointment which was at Wild Brumby Distillery and Café on the Thredbo Jindabyne road. This place never fails to provide an enjoyable dining experience with a shared Distillers plate of small goods and King Island cheese, that is large enough by itself. Being cold and windy the Austrian Gulasch and Kassler were popular choices.
For those of us not driving we were able to indulge in a selection of the famous Schnapps in taste sizes. The variety of flavours, all distilled on the premises, is stunning and the flavours a delight. Each has its own unique character and taste. It was impossible to pick a favourite.
A quick drive followed to the Perisher Valley Hotel for our stay. On the way there were signs everywhere reminding drivers of the need for snow chains and the penalty if you didn’t carry them. Now most vehicles that don’t need them are SUVs and 4WDs. Normal sedans and hatchbacks need to carry chains and fit if required but the advantage that the Subaru’s have is the brilliant symmetrical AWD system.
This means you can drive a normal car and still have the adventurous lifestyle without extra burdens.
Following on Part 1 of our trip to Perisher we arrived at the Perisher Hotel. They have a dedicated parking spot for visitors and an overland transport to take you to the hotel. It’s a little unusual but fun nevertheless.
Jackpot I scored a room overlooking the slopes. To be able to sit and look directly at the ski slopes is part of the magic of going to the snow. This is something I don’t take for granted. Unfortunately my knees don’t allow me to indulge in skiing any more so the Apres experience is it for me. However I make sure to indulge in that. The evening was spent firstly around the fire sipping warm cider, very nice, then to a pleasant meal in the restaurant
Morning saw a little snow overnight and a temperature of minus 3 degrees. I wanted to go for a drive and explore Guthega and head down to Jindabyne. Following my own Snow Driving Tips for Winter article I started the car and let it idle for a while, letting the demister clear the windscreen.
While waiting there was a Commodore parked two cars down from me. It was parked in ice and snow, in the designated spot. The driver was having a lot of difficulty in reversing it out while the patient manager of the Hotel was providing advice. Three things here, they should have parked facing down the slope, the driver had poor skills for snow driving and if the car was a Subaru it would have driven out without fuss as I did while they were still slipping away.
Now being minus 3 degrees the seat warmers immediately went on, the heater as well and I headed off down the mountain. There was a fair bit of snow and black ice on the road but the Subaru handled it without fuss.
Jindabyne is a central hub for the NSW ski fields of Thredbo, Perisher Blue Cow, Guthega and Charlottes Pass. It has a range of accommodation options that are much cheaper than staying on the slopes, however the drive daily is like Sydney in morning peak hour.
It’s also home to the Kosciuszko Brewery, an ale I sampled many times over the week I was in the snow, as well as the Jindabyne brewery. Coffee shops, restaurants and other shops to stock up on provisions or last minute equipment if you have forgotten anything. It’s a perfect trip when the skiing gets too much or when you need a break.
Speaking of equipment, from Cooma down there are any number of hire and sale outlets. You have the choice of hiring on the fields and if anything goes wrong you can get it fixed immediately, or hire your gear at one of the places along the way, usually much cheaper and avoid the queues.
All too soon the week in the snow was over and we loaded up the Levorg STI Sport again for the trip home. This time we drove straight through to Sydney with a few stops. Six and a half hours in the STI Sport seemed a breeze. What is noticeable about the STi is that the extra torque allows the driver to cruise within the low torque delivery. While not an outright sports car, it is a sport wagon, providing just enough pace and handling for a truly engaging drive.
So what are my thoughts on the Impreza and Levorg wagons for a ski trip
- The benefit of AWD in a hatchback or wagon are obvious,
- If you have AWD you don’t need the bigger SUV or 4WD
- Being a hatchback and wagon, adding rails for storing skis is easy as is a larger boot area
- Both vehicles provide a luxurious comfortable form of transport
- The new Impreza is a much improved vehicle on the global platform.