Subaru XV the car for the spring skier

SUBARU XV: Highly-regarded four-wheel-drive system.

I opened a recent email from Subaru New Zealand, it was directed mostly to Subaru owners who were travelling to the Turoa skifield in the North Island.

As a gesture of thanks for buying into the brand, the company had secured a VIP parking area for Subaru vehicles.

I’ve often written about the value Subarus are on a skifield access road and my latest evaluation is no different. The weekend I had the new Impreza XV for evaluation, the weather was foul – howling wind, freezing rain and snow down to low levels.

On the day I was testing, snow drifts had lined the roadside and conditions were marginal. It’s not the first time that I’ve evaluated a Subaru under these conditions, a few years back I had conquered the Lindis Pass on a drive programme in near white-out conditions with snow settling on the road several centimetres deep.

As a group we were allowed past the point where the road was closing simply because Subaru’s symmetrical four-wheel-drive system is highly regarded.

The point I’m making in both these scenarios is that when you need grip at its most critical point, Subaru delivers.

The new XV is exactly that – brand new. It arrives here in two value-packed models, the Sport and Premium. The Sport lists at $34,990, the Premium adds $39,990.

Alongside its Impreza stablemate at $29,000, the series – Impreza and XV – are the bargains of the 2-litre market in New Zealand. That needs to be reinforced, especially if you add into the equation the drive system, 2-litre engine and the level of specification, there’s little else on the market which comes close.

The test car was the top-grade Premium, although it gets all the cool stuff like leather trim, heated seats, sat nav and sunroof, I’d far prefer the entry level model. I’ve driven it for a long distance and it stacks up as the most desirable, it is just as competent as the Premium and it doesn’t miss out on much, it even gets Subaru’s clever Eyesight safety technology

The XV is described by Subaru as a crossover vehicle. It’s not your traditional sport utility vehicle but more of a station wagon on steroids, simply because it is Impreza hatchback-based.

Its cross-country potential is thanks to ground clearance raised to 220mm; that being the case, it challenges the orthodox SUV, and with technology such as X-mode built into the vehicle it is a definite off-road vehicle. X-mode is a complex array of management programs which enhance control and stability on loose surfaces, it also works in conjunction with hill descent control.

I used X-mode when exiting a slippery downhill driveway at a friend’s farm and it certainly puts the driver at ease, the entire four-wheel-drive system is there to provide grip in the trickiest of situations.

That is the essence of the symmetrical drive system in the first instance, grip on all surfaces is enhanced and even in dry conditions you can feel the benefit of power to all corners. The Impreza as a series has confident dry road handling manners, it can be pushed hard into a corner and it will respond with much composure.

Even though its sits tall to provide the ground clearance I mentioned earlier, the XV’s spring and damper rates, and suspension engineering in the first instance, clamp down on body movement, the XV’s handling is quite unrealistic, it’s no exaggeration to say it is athletic and nimble.

Under the bonnet sits a horizontally-opposed engine of 1995cc, it drives through a smooth continuously variable automatic transmission. The engine is a quad-camshaft unit, and even though it has been Subaru’s hallmark for many years it is very much state-of-the-art thanks to continual development and refinement, particularly in the area of fuel economy.

The important figures go something like this: It is rated with a 115kW power output with 196Nm of torque – both healthy figures. From a standstill it will race to 100km/h in 9.6sec, and in terms of economy, Subaru list it with a seven-litre per 100km (40mpg) combined cycle average.

At the media launch of the XV I had a solitary drive from Napier to Auckland, on that journey the trip computer was constantly listing a 7.7l/100km (37mpg) average and a instantaneous figure of 5l/100km (56mpg) at a steady 100km/h (engine speed 1550rpm).

During my latest drive I didn’t quite match that average, nor Subaru’s, but at 8.2l/100km (35mpg) it was quite close and reinforces Subaru’s resolve to be competitive in the fuel usage stakes.

I’m greatly taken with the Impreza XV, well actually, the entire series as a whole. It is quality product and one which will look after those inside when conditions are at their worst. The XV looks bold and aggressive with its chunky wheels and masculine styling. Make mine orange.

Price – Subaru Impreza XV, $39,990

Dimensions – Length, 4465mm; width, 1800mm; height, 1615mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1995cc, 115kW, 196Nm, continuously variable automatic

Performance –
0-100km/h, 9.6.sec

Fuel usage – 7l/100km