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Subaru XV: Xtra & Versatile

BY RORY DALEY
Observer writer

Friday, September 29, 2017

SUBARU has always been that quirky Japanese automaker following their own path. However, when they do dip their toes into the mainstream they tend to bring their brand of magic to the table. So it should be no surprise that the Subaru XV is that vehicle for the rest of us, and for 2018 they've improved on it.

Who is us, you may ask. Subaru isn't ashamed to call the Subaru XV a crossover, that is, a hybrid between a car and traditional sport utility vehicle. It's the best of both worlds, offering the advantages of either category. It's a sport utility without the bulk and horrible fuel consumption. It's a car with the space, ground clearance and traction systems to handle the rough terrain, expected and unexpected.

And it looks the part.

More cynical buyers may quickly right it off as a jacked up station wagon, but for the more informed who may know of the Levorg, the actual wagon version of the Subaru Impreza, then the XV is its own thing. The nose may share the current corporate front, like many manufacturers. From the a-pillars back, the XV wears its rough and ready body armour proud, such as its protective fender flares. Equipped with the roof rails, it looks like it's been to the gym and taken a couple of steroids.

That's because it has. The XV has been ingrained with the task of bearing Subaru's new global platform, it being the first built on it. As such it promises lower weight, more rigidity, all in the aim of better protecting its occupants, increasing performance and refinement. They didn't stop under the skin. Drop in the XV's interior and the benefits of the new design philosophy are easy to see. With three trim grades, there's no missing out; just layering of the stuff a buyer might want in each step up in price. Cloth, leather plus cloth, full leather, sunroof — all there. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped infotainment system, convenience features such as an electronic handbrake, X-mode for the four-wheel drive, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and seven airbags are just a few of niceties which can be found across the board on all XVs. Premium features like Auto high beams, headlights that turn with the steering wheel, and a raft of safety systems designed to keep occupants safe can also be added.

Once inside, you won't feel a thing is missing. Ergonomics are good and the soft touch materials feel high quality. Space isn't an issue and like a good SUV, there are storage areas of all sizes shapes and textures littered liberally all over. Don't like your phone sliding about? Then store it in the rubber grip-lined space under the centre consoles, for example.

Whatever method used to fire up the XV, whether the standard key or the keyless access push button start on the highest trim level, the cabin's refinement can be felt in its serenity. The smooth two-litre boxer engine never gets intrusive, barely heard at idle, even when prodded. On the road in traffic, exterior noise disappears leaving the occupants to fiddle about with the three screens: the main eight-inch touchscreen on the two higher trims, the small TFT screen between the instruments, and the third at the top of the dashboard. They can all show the same thing — controlled by the steering wheel buttons — or offer information overload with different information.

The refinement continues to the driving experience. Left to its own devices, the engine and CVT transmission work their best to mix fuel optimisation with performance. It takes a few extra centimetres of accelerator travel to get to the speed the engine has to offer. Once there, the CVT works its wonders keeping the engine in the meat of its powerband, offering torque so strong one would think of its turbocharged heritage. In manual mode things get more aggressive. The transmission's infinite gearing disappears, dishing out six virtual gears that give the feeling of a racehorse chomping at the bit. Those accelerator centimetres become millimetres in terms of forward thrust.

Despite the extra ride height, the Subaru XV isn't falling over itself as Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive design keeps the drivetrain weight low and as close to centre as possible, and endows all four tyres with constant grip. The suspension is firm, dare say sporty, but never allows impacts to upset the car's trajectory at most speeds. Ground clearance is on par with rivals and even some full SUVs, so off-roading — something the Subaru brand has made its name on in motorsports — is on-par with its on-road performance. So if you're looking for the SUV that's not an SUV, but offers the good side of the SUV coin, then the 2018 Subaru XV starts at $4.795 million.