IAIN ROBERTSON

Subaru XVe

Subaru XVe

A long-standing fan of the Subaru brand, Iain Robertson becomes highly passionate, when discussing its latest developments and considers that, if you must invest in an SUV, especially one with hybrid technology, a Subaru becomes a shortlist of one!

Ever quirky, Subaru is a brand that deserves a broader appeal, perhaps of an order it attains in North America, or some parts of northern Europe, for its specific safety and dynamic features. While almost everybody knows about Volvo and its long-standing reputation in either of those areas, not enough people, even potential customers, understand that Subaru is even more safety focused, as the following test story should elucidate.

Core to each Subaru model (we shall come to the XV’s details momentarily) is its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Most manufacturers of 4×4 vehicles will highlight the ‘go-anywhere’ capabilities of their relevant models, yet they will fail to point out the weaknesses of their systems, those factors that no amount of ‘electrickery’ will serve to support. Thanks to its ingenious and essentially ‘simple’ hardware, a Subaru will not slither uncontrollably on the public highway and, where many of its purported rivals will struggle on grassy banks, there are zero issues for the Subaru driver to confront. However, a Subaru is the acknowledged ‘king’ in extreme weather conditions.

Subaru XVe

Subaru XVe

If this sounds like a soupcon of journalistic buffoonery, when I tested back-to-back a Honda CR-V and a Subaru Forester, the best-selling Honda floundered and behaved like a beached whale on a steeply graded (1 in 3) Scottish meadow, while the Forester bounded away with scarcely a whiff of wheelspin. Put simply, there is no finer, more effective, or more practical example of 4×4 technology available today. As a result of placing a flat-four configured engine (also known as ‘Boxer’) on Subaru’s nose, which drives its transmission in-line and not transversely, as most of the rest do, the car’s overall stability is faultless. Perfect balance is supported by total traction and absolutely zero slip.

An identical 4×4 system is fitted to the XV model. Apart from the typical round of trim titivations, the XV is largely the same car, based on an increased ride height version of the Impreza, that was introduced in 2012, although some platform and panel improvements have been made since. It has a chunky on-road presence arising from its signature wheel-arch trims and higher-profile, multi-surface tyres, which complies with the ‘rule-book’ for the archetypal SUV. While it is hardly a raving beauty, it does provide a sense of handsome purpose.

Subaru XVe

Subaru XVe

The XV matured most successfully a couple of years ago, at the last round of interior primping, when it gained a ‘soft-touch’ dashboard and significantly higher quality trim detailing, which included double contrast stitching on the seat upholstery. At £30,995 (on the road), the XV is not a bargain basement contender but, then, neither it should be. It cannot boast bespoke manufacturing standards but it is undeniably in the upper echelons of the compact SUV segment. A large, legible instrument display ahead of the driver, is matched by a ‘systems’ screen (for the multi-surface X-Mode) in the upper section of the dash centre and a touchscreen for in-car entertainment, sat-nav and other aspects of connectivity at the top of the centre stack.

If the area adjacent to the rear-view mirror housing looks a little busy, it is because the twin-camera (stereo) forward visualisation hardware that engages with the distance cruise and autonomous braking facilities wraps around it. While forward ‘vision’ detectors are not so unusual these days, the Subaru system, known as Subaru Eyesight Assist, monitors for hazards up to 110 metres ahead and includes: Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, Lane Sway and Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. As a primary safety aid, it deserves the industry accolades that have already been heaped upon it. However, rear-end protection is also provided via blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, in a most comprehensive driver, occupant and vehicle safety package.

Subaru XVe

Subaru XVe

Despite the addenda, the XV remains a satisfyingly occupant-orientated motorcar. There is enough space fore and aft, as well as in the accommodating boot, for most business, or family needs. The driver’s seat adjusts through a big range, supported by the rake and reach adjustable steering wheel. Once comfortably ensconced, indulging in the XV’s inherently sound handling and roadholding envelope reveals how compromised its rivals can be.

Ideally weighted power assistance for the steering, is matched by glitch-free responsiveness. There is no torque steer in evidence and the return to straight-ahead is measured appropriately. Both throttle and brake pedals are well-weighted and the XV stops rapidly and without tugging at the helm. Its ride quality is equally well resolved, combining firm but compliant damping with linear springing and a useful ride height of around 220mm.

Subaru XVe

Subaru XVe

Subaru’s trusted, four horizontally-opposed cylinders, Boxer engine displaces 2.0-litres, develops a modest 147bhp, 143lbs ft of torque, emits CO2 at an immodest rate of 149g/km and sips petrol at up to 43.0mpg. It has a top speed of 120mph and can clock the 0-60mph dash in around 10.4s. However, it can run on its lithium-ion battery power alone, over a limited distance (around a mile), at speeds below 25mph. Its eco-credentials are supported using start:stop technology and an electric motor positioned at the car’s centre of gravity to maintain the ideal chassis balance. The XV’s towing capacity is an excellent 1,270kgs.

As suggested at the start of this feature, Subaru is a brand that should have a higher level of recognition in this country than it does. It is a ‘cognoscenti car’…you have to know it to buy into its benefits, which is why examples proliferate in Wales, Scotland and the English Lakes District. Highly regarded for reliability, with the added hybrid aspect, perhaps the broader appeal may result soon.

Conclusion:      Subaru ownership/operation should not be an acquired taste; the brand deserves better. The XV e-Boxer is not a high-performance machine but it is an unremitting high-performer.