EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 1, 2012

Subaru XV Crosstrek breaks new ground

Motor Mouth
Jeffrey Zygmont

---- — You can think of the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek as a Lance Armstrong of the automotive world. Armstrong is a great cyclist who, well, got a little boost. The Crosstrek is a Subaru Impreza that gets a boost.

The Crosstrek is raised about 4 inches higher than a standard Impreza, giving it greater clearance over road hazards (think snow), and over minor off-road obstacles like ruts and rocks and sloppy puddles. The new model rides on some meatier support to handle rougher driving than the Impreza, including a stouter suspension, and larger wheels, tires and brakes. It wears some distinguishing body armor, especially at its nose and tail. Features like a gaping intake below the front bumper, and big, blocky rear corners, give the Crosstrek a rough, tough attitude you don’t see in the more finely chiseled Impreza.

“It’s an Impreza on steroids,” quipped Aaron Singer, owner of Singer Subaru in Plaistow, N.H.

Of course, the steroids line is only an expression. The boosts Subaru provides to the Crosstrek all are legitimate additions and enlargements that raise Impreza into a different vehicle category altogether.

At the same time, the Crosstrek keeps all the impressive fundamentals of the Impreza. Those include the basic body shape of the Impreza wagon, with its cargo hold under the hatch in back (Subaru also sells a sedan variation of Impreza). They include the same, capable and economical four-cylinder engine, the comfortable, smart and sensible interior, and the high-traction, all-wheel-drive system that makes Impreza a favorite around here in winter.

But the extra height and stouter under-carriage components elevate the Crosstrek officially into the sport-utility-vehicle class. Sport-utilities are trucks, officially, according to U.S. government classifications. Accordingly, the U.S. government counts them differently when it figures a company’s fuel-economy performance.

But because it is built on a car platform, rather than a pickup truck platform, the new Subaru is a crossover SUV – crossing the barrier between car and truck. Its compact size places it in the popular category of compact crossovers. That’s the class of wagons containing the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, two of best-selling models in America today. (And, yes, the government also classifies those little runners as trucks. Officially.)

The compact crossover status makes a lot of difference, says Singer, because it is bringing new people into the showroom.

Subaru already enjoys strong loyalty from owners who return to its models for their rock-solid durability and dependability and, especially in New England and the Rocky Mountain states, for the sure-footed traction of Subaru’s innovative all-wheel-drive systems. But traditionally those fans have remained concentrated among independent-minded people, who can even border on the quirky. (By the way, my wife Donna owns a Subaru Impreza.) Subaru cars have sterling reputations, but the brand hasn’t yet made deep incursions into the mainstream auto market, where top-tier names like Toyota, Honda and Ford rack up a lot of sales.

Now the Subaru XV Crosstrek is bringing them in, said Singer. The bolder look created by the model’s embellishments grabs car shoppers first, he explained. It alerts them that the model is a crossover alternative worth looking at. Closer examination can convince them it has superior qualities, Singer said.

“This opens up the floodgates to people we’ve been trying to get in the showrooms,” he stated. “The first big attraction is the appearance. Then people take a harder look at it and say, wow, there’s a lot to this car.”

At a starting list price of $22,790, the Crosstrek includes an ample supply of safety features, including sophisticated antilock brakes, dynamic stability control and extra airbags for the driver’s knees and lower bodies. The car’s occupant electronics – a popular feature, said Singer – include steering-wheel controls for the entertainment system and for activating the Bluetooth hands-free phone system that comes built into the vehicle.

Fuel economy is a primary advantage of the new model, Singer pointed out. At its base price, with a five-speed manual transmission, the Crosstrek earns a fuel-economy rating of 23 miles per gallon in city driving, and 30 mpg on the highway. Models upgraded with a continuously variable automatic transmission, a $1,000 addition, jump to 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Subaru advertises that those ratings make Crosstrek the most fuel-efficient compact crossover you can buy.

Subaru introduced the new model in the summer. It is still stocking dealers with inventory. Add to that the instant popularity and strong consumer demand for the vehicle, and the result is a tight supply of Crosstreks at the moment.

“It’s so hot that it’s hard to get,” said Singer. “Dealers are just screaming for them.”

Thus, with a hit on its hands, the company’s current big hurdle is to catch up with demand for the model.

“Their challenge is going to be keeping up the production over the next couple of years,” Singer said. “I wish I had 100 of them in stock.”

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek Vehicle type: 4-door, 5- passenger, all-wheel-drive compact crossover utility vehicle Price range: $22,790 to $25,290 (plus options) Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles rust warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance Engine: 2.0-liter horizontal 4 Power: 148 horsepower at 6,200 rpm; 145 lb.-ft. torque at 4,200 rpm Base transmission: 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 23 mpg city; 30 mpg highway (with automatic) Wheelbase: 104 inches Length: 175 inches Width: 70 inches Height: 64 inches Weight: 3,087 pounds Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons Turning circle: 34.8 ft.