I’m often asked if I would like to take a long road trip to form a media vehicle evaluation.
That was the case when I eagerly accepted an opportunity to drive the new Subaru Impreza XV back to Auckland after last week’s media launch in Napier.
I’m so pleased I did, for it was a fabulous drive and one which really proved how capable the XV is on the highway. I can also report it is a competent vehicle off the seal – the launch provided the opportunity to tackle some shingle roads – and on the long haul back to Auckland I stopped at a friend’s home south of Hamilton who has a driveway that is steep and muddy, the XV was in its element with 220mm of ground clearance and four-wheel-drive.
The new XV was a long time coming, it’s roughly been a five-year life cycle and that’s about as long as you would expect a manufacturer to produce a variant in today’s market. Nevertheless, the newcomer was worth the wait, it arrives here in two levels – Sport and Premium – both are keenly priced at $34,990 and $39,990 respectively, which by my reckoning are the bargains of the mid-size crossover/sport utility vehicle market.
The XV is a compact SUV, it’s not a big car but there is adequate room for five, and given increased underhatch proportions there’s enough room to pack the tent and camping gear for the high-country fishing trip.
The XV certainly hasn’t lost any of its X-factor, it is a stunning looker with chunky, bold and almost aggressive styling. It has an in-your-face wheel design which promotes a can-do look, and it has a wilful driving feel.
Under the bonnet sits a 2-litre, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engine, both models drive through a continuously variable automatic transmission with a seven-step, paddle-shift function.
The XV’s engine is rated with 115kW of power (6000rpm) and 196Nm of torque available at 4000rpm. The way the engine works through CVT is uninhibited, and it is dynamic in the respect that it pulls happily no matter what point the engine revolutions are operating at.
Response to throttle request is decisive. I kept at a steady pace which meant several highway overtakes, and the power comes in freely without strain nor much sound in total.
If you listen hard you can detect the harmonics which accompany the boxer engine design, but it is well isolated and far from intrusive.
The engine is free-revving and responsive, but the beauty of the flat-four engine is its ability to work low down, and with the inclusion of CVT it quickly settles into a low revving pattern.
Against the stopwatch the XV will launch to 100km/h from a standstill in 9.6sec and will make 120km/h from 80km/h in 5.8sec. These are satisfactory figures which will give peace of mind.
Subaru claims a seven-litre per 100km (40mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average, development work on the boxer engine to keep it fuel-friendly has been ongoing and that certainly showed during my long highway haul. At 100km/h it sips fuel at the rate of just 5l/100km (56mpg) with the engine turning over slowly at just 1550rpm. My entire Napier to Auckland average was 7.7l/100km (37mpg) which I thought was most impressive.
Through lack of familiarity and the threat of ice, I didn’t push the XV too hard into the tight and twisty sections of the Central Plateau, but I can report that it steers with precision and has accuracy and balance which seems quite unnatural for a vehicle which is over 1.6m tall. Even though it sits high, the centre of gravity is still low, that’s a by-product of the flat-four engine, the weight sits low in the engine bay and that has a beneficial affect against the force of gravity.
Subaru has upspecced the new generation model. There’s a raft of new gear including Eyesight – a computer-guided safety technology – Apple Car Play and Android Auto are fitted, along with the clever X-mode drive system which improves driver control on rough roads, steep terrain and slippery surfaces through integrated control of the engine. On the downhill slope at my friend’s home, hill descent control kept the XV at slow, steady speed.
All of these inclusions sit over and above the normal features you would expect in today’s modern car and, of course, the XV gets a five-star Australasian New Car Assessment Program safety rating.
The new model will be in showroom floors later this month which is just in time for the winter ski season. I know it’s been a popular car on the skifield access roads since its inception, and with Subaru sales buoyant in the South Island I can see its value and capability tempting to a large cross-section of buyers.
Price – Subaru Impreza XV, $34,990
Dimensions – Length, 4465mm; width, 1800mm; height, 1615mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1995cc, 115kW, 196Nm, continuously variable automatic
Fuel usage – 7l/100km