The Turbo Levo Comp returns for 2019 with some notable changes over the previous version we tested, and loved, last year. These changes include a new frame design similar to their new Stumpjumper, 29-inch wheels, an improved battery charge and power output display on the top tube, and an updated motor system. Again, the Levo's more nimble trail manners and agility helped give it a feel that was "most like a mountain bike" of all the models in the test. At the same time, a slightly longer reach and wheelbase, compared to the previous version, along with a slack head tube plus 29-inch wheels give it excellent stability at speed. Specialized has continued with their trend of super clean integration of the battery and motor into the downtube to make the Levo look the least like an e-bike of all models tested. For the price, we don't think that the component specification is anything special, but it gets the job done and never left us wanting. While it's obvious we loved the total package and fun ride of the Turbo Levo we don't feel that it is without faults. That said, we do feel it is the most well-rounded and versatile performer in our test, read on to find out more about our Editor's Choice Award winner.
Specialized Turbo Levo Comp Review
Cons: no digital display, more abrupt power assist cutoff
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Our Analysis and Test Results
After awarding the previous version of the Turbo Levo our Editor's Choice Award last year, we made sure to get our hands on the 2019 model as soon as we could. Several changes were made to the new model, and one of the most obvious is the new frame which looks nearly identical to their new Stumpjumper. Also quite evident is the 29" wheels and tires which are a departure from their 650B+ model we previously tested. They've also redesigned their motor to be smaller and lighter weight, helping to reduce the overall weight of the bike by nearly 3 pounds while remaining one of the quietest in the test. Specialized also addressed one of our gripes from the last test and has repositioned the battery charge and output setting display in a more visible and user-friendly location on the top tube. We tested the new Turbo Levo for a couple of months this fall to see how it compares to the previous model and to the competition. Read on to find out more about our repeat Editor's Choice Award winner.
While Specialized has improved their e-bike controls since the last model we tested, especially the location of the LED display, it still loses a little ground to the competition in this metric. Of course, the controls work just fine and function as they are intended, but the lack of a digital display screen, like those found on all of the other models in this review, is a clear drawback to their system. The revised location of their LED battery charge and power output display on the top of the top tube, as opposed to the side of the downtube, is a huge step in the right direction and makes it much easier to view. Now, you can at least see what output setting you're using and how much battery life you have remaining while you're riding. Similar to the old display, the power button at the bottom turns the drive unit on or off by pressing and holding it. The new version shows the remaining battery charge with 10 LED bars above the power button. When the bike is turned on, the LED bars light up and stay lit, but turn off progressively as the charge of the battery is depleted. The power output mode is represented by 3 LED lights that ring the Specialized logo above the battery charge indicator lights.
In terms of the LED display, it seems that Specialized has listened to feedback and complaints on reviews and responded with an improved but similar system. The handlebar controls, however, have remained basically the same as before. The low profile handlebar mounted control unit is attached by the left grip and has buttons to shift up or down through the pedal assist settings, plus a button for the walk assist. These controls are intuitive and simple to use, although the ergonomics could be improved as you have to reach up with your thumb to press them. On the flip side, the size and shape of this handlebar control is that it still allows for a 1x style dropper post remote lever, which is a huge plus in our book. The HaiBike has a similar but much larger handlebar control unit that has far worse ergonomics than the Turbo Levo. Both the Trek and Bulls bikes have a control unit that is self contained with the controls and display in one, the Bulls is far superior with more information and better ergonomics. With an easy to read digital display and ergonomically friendly shifter style controls, the Commencal Meta Power Race couldn't be beaten from an e-bike controls standpoint.
The Turbo Levo has a seemingly identical charging port to the previous version. This charging port's location at the bottom of the down tube on the non-drive side of the frame leaves the charging port cover susceptible to impact, moisture, mud, and debris while riding. Like the old version, if we didn't have the cover perfectly closed all kinds of things would make their way in there. Even with it closed properly it seems to get quite dirty around the charging port regardless. The cord itself uses the same Rosenberger style magnetic head which seems to work relatively well, though it can be easily knocked off the charging port if you aren't careful. The Bulls E-Stream EVO AM 4 uses this same style of plug and charging port, but theirs is a little less user-friendly due to the way the port is recessed into the frame.
In our review of the previous version of the Turbo Levo we likened its downhill performance to a point guard on a basketball team for its versatility which includes agility and quick handling but with the ability to charge hard when needed. The new Turbo Levo feels much the same, so we'll stick with that analogy for now. Specialized has once again managed to make a bike that is more playful and nimble on the descents than the competition, yet its plenty stable at speed or when the going gets rough. One of the best ways to describe how it handles on descents is, "like a regular mountain bike". Don't get us wrong, it's still a heavyweight, but at 48.3 lbs for the size medium we tested it is the lightest of the bunch and you can feel the difference in weight.
Specialized's years of experience making electric mountain bikes shows in their clean and thoughtful integration of the motor and battery into the frame. Not only does it look good, it helps to get the center of gravity as low as possible which we feel is a benefit to the Turbo Levo's handling and agility. The measured wheelbase of 1200mm is the shortest in the test, though it is 10mm longer than last year's, which also may play a role in its more nimble feel. Of course, a shorter wheelbase may also equate to less stability at speed, but we couldn't find any reason to complain. The heavy weight of electric mountain bikes certainly aids in their stability, the 29" wheels and modern geometry numbers don't hurt either. Cornering on the Turbo Levo feels great, that low center of gravity helps the 2.6" Butcher Grid tires, front and rear, bite evenly and predictably.
The new Turbo Levo Comp has Specialized's 29 Trail geometry. This seems to be borrowed from new their 29" Stumpjumper models and features modern, but not over the top, measurements. Our measurements showed a relatively slack 65.3-degree head tube and a moderately steep 74.5-degree seat tube, both relatively standard given the intentions of this bike. The reach on the Turbo Levo has been extended a bit and is now 435mm on the size medium, bringing it more in line with the competition. As mentioned above the wheelbase has been extended just slightly to 1200mm, and the chainstays are a respectable, for an e-bike, 457mm.
The 150mm of front and rear suspension are handled by a RockShox Revelation Charger RC fork and a RockShox Deluxe RT rear shock. Specialized has clearly done their homework to make a quality suspension design and the Turbo Levo feels nicely balanced with good support in the mid-stroke. Testers also appreciated the additional 10-15mm, front and rear respectively, of suspension travel over the previous version which help it handle big hits a little better. Testers were also happy to see an improved cockpit setup with a proper 780mm wide handlebar and a 150mm travel dropper seat post with a 1x style remote lever. Touches like these improve handling and confidence on descents.
The new Turbo Levo climbs slightly better than its predecessor. The 29-inch wheels certainly help it just roll over obstacles a little more easily, but the new motor system is also an improvement. The previous version had a very abrupt and noticeable cut-off of power when the cranks stopped turning, a trait that really affected its forward momentum when shuffling your pedals in a technical section of climbing. All of the other models we've tested have a slight extension of the power band, some more than others, after pedaling stops that helps keep you from bogging down under the weight of the bike in some climbing situations. Specialized has put their new 2.1 motor system in the 2019 Levo, and this motor doesn't cut-off quite as abruptly as the previous. It is an improvement, but the other drive systems still provide a little more push after you stop pedaling than the Specialized. Perhaps Specialized does this for safety reasons, but generally speaking we like the little extra push that the other models provide.
Beyond that, the Turbo Levo climbs pretty well. As long as you keep pedaling the power output feels smooth and consistent and shifting between the modes feels good. Overall, the geometry feels good and puts the rider in a comfortable seated climbing position, and the extended reach is a welcome change. Climbing is the other place where the Turbo Levo feels more like a mountain bike than the competition. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the differences are, but the handling just feels lighter and more maneuverable than most of its competitors. Despite the slack 65.3 degree head angle, it never feels like it wants to wander, nor did we find ourselves prone to wheelieing out on super steep climbs. The 2.6" Butcher tires both front and rear provide lots of grip while climbing, especially in the rear, and help this bike claw its way up just about anything.
The rear shock does have a compression dampening switch for use when climbing, but like all of the other e-bikes in this test, our testers preferred to ride with it wide open on the trail. Like the previous version, Specialized has again spec'd shorter 165mm cranks on the Turbo Levo to minimize the chances of rock strikes. Normally, on a trail bike cranks this short would reduce pedaling efficiency due to a reduction of leverage, but with the pedal assistance available it goes virtually unnoticed.
The new Specialized 2.1 motor is said to produce a relatively standard nominal power output of 250 watts. We couldn't find a clear number on the torque it puts out but it feels quite similar, though maybe a bit less torque-y, than the other models we tested. It offers three pedal assist support settings, Eco, Trail, and Turbo, and shifting between them feels smooth and seamless. The preset support settings are 25% in Eco, 50% in Trail, and 100% in Turbo. On the Turbo setting it is no problem to the bike rolling up to its top speed of 20mph. These support settings, as well as a host of other features, are customizable in Specialized's Mission Control App. We didn't fiddle with the settings during testing, as the preset pedal assist modes feel quite good to begin with. Additionally, there is a walk-assist mode that allows you to push the bike along at up to 3.7 mph should you find yourself in a hike-a-bike situation.
Specialized claims instant engagement of their new and improved motor system, but we'll respectfully disagree. There is still almost a quarter of a turn of the pedals before you feel the assistance really kick in. This is especially noticeable when directly compared to the jumpy engagement of the HaiBike or the truly instantaneous and ultra-smooth engagement of the Bulls. Once the drive unit does engage, the power comes on quickly and smoothly and its pretty easy to get it up to cruising speed. The Specialized again loses a little ground in this metric due to its somewhat more abrupt cutoff of pedal assistance. The new motor does this less egregiously than the previous version, but it's noticeable when compared to the slight extension of the powerband provided by the other models in this test.
Most of the bikes in this test have similar battery storage capacity, at or around 500Wh, with the exception of the Bulls which has a 650Wh battery. Generally speaking, the more battery storage capacity a bike has the longer its distance range should be. A number of factors play into a bike's distance range, including pedal assist setting, rider weight, pedaling input, terrain, conditions, etc. We know this is going to sound obvious, but the more power you use, the faster your battery gets depleted.
Among the models with the 500 and 504Wh batteries, the Turbo Levo seems to use its power most efficiently, taking the top spot in our distance range testing. During that test, we were able to ride the Turbo Levo 20.6 miles and 3,455 feet, beating out the other comparable bikes. The Trek Powerfly, HaiBike Xduro, and Commencal Meta Power came in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively. The Bulls E-stream EVO AM 4, and its 650Wh battery, has approximately 30% more storage capacity than these other competitors. It comes as no surprise that we were able to ride that bike significantly farther than the bikes with smaller batteries. That said, there are a number of brands making e-mtbs with larger batteries, including Specialized which makes some of their new Turbo Levo models with a 700Wh battery.
The Specialized Mission Control App has lots of features, one of which allows you to control your power output levels depending on the distance you intend to ride to ensure you don't run out of battery on a ride. The app also allows you to monitor your power usage, customize your output settings, record rides, and more.
Specialized bikes are known for coming at a premium price and the Turbo Levo lives up to that reputation. This is the most expensive model in our test and the build is less impressive than some of its lower-priced competitors. While nothing about its build is especially noteworthy, it comes together well on the trail with a performance that earns it our Editor's Choice Award.
Some of the components are exactly the same, while several are an upgrade over the version we previously tested. The 150mm of front wheel travel is controlled by a RockShox Revelation Charger RC. We prefer the more burly performance of a Lyrik on bikes this heavy, but the Revelation performed surprisingly well during testing. The 150mm of rear suspension is absorbed by a RockShox Deluxe RT which performs its duties admirably and without complaint.
The cockpit setup on the 2019 Turbo Levo is an improvement. A short and stout stem holds a proper 780mm width handlebar with Specialized lock-on grips for precise steering. Our test model came equipped with an internally routed 150mm X-Fusion Manic dropper seatpost with a 1x style remote lever. The X-Fusion dropper is nothing special, but testers found it to work smoothly and trouble-free during testing. Specialized also makes some of the most comfortable saddles on the market and the Turbo Levo comes with a 143mm wide Phenom Comp.
Specialized has spec'd a set of SRAM Guide RE 4-piston hydraulic disc brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear to stop and slow the Turbo Levo. These brakes felt powerful and provided adequate stopping power in all situations. The drivetrain consists of an 11-speed SRAM GX rear derailleur and SRAM S700 shifters paired with a 165mm Praxis crankset with a 32-tooth chainring and a SRAM 11-42 cassette. This drivetrain setup provided adequate range, especially considering the pedal assistance offered by the drive unit.
The Turbo Levo Comp rolls on 29" Roval Traverse wheels with a 30mm internal rim width. A pair of 2.6" wide Specialized Butcher tires with the Grid casing are mounted on the front and rear of the bike. Due to the integration of the battery and motor into their frame design, the Specialized is one of the few e-bikes models on the market that can fit a bottle cage inside the front triangle on the down tube, a side-pull Specialized bottle cage with a SWAT tool attached is also included.
The 2019 Turbo Levo Comp is best suited to the rider looking for the most versatile electric mountain bike. The performance of the Turbo Levo was more well-rounded than all of the other competitors in our test with a playfulness and agility that the others can't match. If you want the e-bike that rides the most like a mountain bike, then this is the bike for you.
The price of the Turbo Levo Comp has gone up a little since last year, and now it retails for $5,950. This is the most expensive model in our test, and by a fair margin, but considering the fact that we feel it is the best overall electric mountain bike we still believe that it represents a good value. If a versatile and well-rounded performance with a good design and sleekest style are high on your list, then the Turbo Levo has got you covered.
We've said it before but we'll say it again, if you're looking for an e-bike that handles like a regular mountain bike, look no further than the 2019 Turbo Levo Comp. Much like its predecessor, the new version impressed our testers with its trail manners and impressive versatility. While many heavyweight e-bikes feel very one-dimensional, the Turbo Levo offers a more well-rounded performance with a lighter feel and handling at low speeds and in tight terrain, yet it manages to maintain stability at speed. Specialized's new 2.1 motor is lighter than ever and the bike weighs even less as a result, plus it's cleanly integrated along with the battery into the design of the frame. The Turbo Levo remains the least e-bike looking model on the market with one of the quietest motors out there. If you're looking for an e-bike that looks and feels like a regular bike, yet provides the power and pedal assistance you want from an e-bike, the Turbo Levo Comp could the one for you.
Other Versions and Accessories
Specialized makes several version of their popular Turbo Levo e-mtbs ranging in retail price from $12,050 for the fully decked out S-Works model down the $4,950 base model.
-The S-Works Turbo Levo ($12,050) comes with all the bells and whistles including a carbon frame, carbon wheels, Fox Factory suspension, a SRAM XO1 drivetrain, and a 700Wh battery.
-The Turbo Levo Expert ($8,250) comes with a carbon frame, RockShox Pike fork and Deluxe RT3 rear shock, SRAM X1 drivetrain, Code brakes, and a 700Wh battery.
-The Turbo Levo Comp Carbon ($6,950) is the carbon fiber framed version of the model we tested. The primary differences are the carbon frame and Fox suspension front and rear.
-The Women's Turbo Levo Comp ($5,950) has an identical build to the model we tested but comes with slightly different geometry and in a different colorway.
-The base model Turbo Levo ($4,950) has an alloy frame, and the notable downgrades compared to the model we tested include an NX drivetrain, RockShox Sector RL fork, and SRAM Level T brakes.
It is also worth noting that the new batteries for the Turbo Levo models are the same size regardless of storage capacity. That means you can swap a 500Wh battery with a 700Wh battery, and vice versa, depending on your needs. The larger the battery storage, the heavier the battery, so this may be of interest to some users.
— Jeremy Benson, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal, Chris McNamara