By Chris Van Hoven
Representing the first full model change since its introduction in 2012, the Subaru XV becomes the second model in Subaru’s stable designed on the new Subaru Global Platform. The change in platform introduces some subtle, but significant improvements in ride comfort, performance and interior room, allowing it to go toe-to-toe with the best models in its segment; but does it have what it takes to be a segment leader? Subaru’s regional launch in Taiwan set out to prove just that, allowing us to test drive the XV through rigorous courses which involved high-speed off-roading, on-road slalom courses, and a low-speed course designed to simulate tougher off-road terrain.
Improvements inside and out
While the exterior design of the XV remains largely unchanged, Subaru has incorporated additional body cladding and wider tracks to fit larger aluminum wheels, and a new hexagonal grille with C-shaped headlights, contributing to a tougher, more dynamic silhouette.
This isn’t your average soccer mom crossover. It’s fully designed to support active lifestyles, and the XV’s design and engineering team went out of their way to make that point clear. They also put a lot of work into one of the previous model’s weaker points: the interior. Where this XV’s predecessor suffered from a lackluster choice of materials, the 2018 model’s interior design lifts much from its Impreza brother, with a heavy emphasis on a more premium cabin experience. You’ll see touches of chrome, carbon fiber and brushed aluminum details that enhance the cabin’s character, and orange stitching found on everything from the seat covers to the dash, and even the gear selector contributes to the XV’s fun and outgoing vibe. Head, shoulder and leg room have been greatly improved from the previous model, with the cargo area seeing a boost in space as well. Putting it all together is the XV’s 8-inch touch display which features Apple CarPlay support, which handles infotainment and communications. The cabin impression is one of freedom and space, with improved refinement all around.
Capable drive on and off-road
Subaru wasted no time in letting us put the XV through its paces, showcasing what the crossover can do in varying degrees. First on the list was a hosed-down dirt course that featured how the XV’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (SAWD) minimizes understeer during high-speed cornering with almost zero available traction. The XV performed admirably, with brake-assisted Torque Vectoring Control pointing the nose at your chosen direction with little drama.
The second course, while on-road this time, featured oil spills in key cornering areas. The course ultimately displayed the beauty of the Subaru Global Platform, gifting the XV with impressive body rigidity and composure through high speed chicanes. The XV’s performance through the course can only be summarized as confidence-inspiring, with the crossover showcasing its ability to course-correct itself when either front or rear wheels lose grip. Despite being a crossover with a longer wheelbase than most compact sedans, it can be said that its cornering and handling characteristics, (particularly on slippery road conditions) are just as good, if not better, than smaller sedans faced with the same road situations.
The third course simulated off-road conditions that most XV owners probably won’t even face. The low speed course consisting of steel ramps and rollers were meant to put the XV’s X-Mode to the test, with steep side inclines and portions with absolutely zero grip on the wheels at a time. The Subaru XV’s 18-degree approach and 30-degree departure angles combined with 220mm of ground clearance makes it capable enough to handle anything but the most demanding off-road situations — an impressive feat for an urban crossover.
Powering the XV is a 2.0-liter Boxer engine which is now 12-kg lighter, outputting 156-hp and 196-Nm of torque. While the course restricted any kind of highway testing, the XV’s engine paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT was responsive enough for quick bursts around the track, and should prove to be adequate for city driving. We’re still hoping for a turbocharged variant however, though there are no plans just yet.
Big on safety
Subaru’s intention of focusing more on safety and comfort than all out performance is starting to reap its rewards. As a Grand Prix Award winner at the Japan New Car Assessment Program (JNCAP), the Subaru XV showcases a comprehensive safety suite. Not only does the XV’s new platform improve energy absorption during a collision by 40 percent, but additional safety features such as Steering Responsive Headlights, High Beam Assist Technology, Blind-Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert make the XV one of the safest in its class.
The 2018 Subaru XV represents a logical evolution for the model, retaining what its fans love, and improving on what they don’t. We’ll find out soon enough if the Subaru XV has what it takes to win the crossover crown on Philippine shores, as both the XV 2.0i and 2.0i-S will be available for booking by early September at all 12 Subaru showrooms.