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Subaru is the sort of manufacturer that's always marched to the beat of a different drum.
When the sport-utility vehicle boom hit the automotive marketplace, the company responded with fortified versions of its signature wagons - the so-called Outback models. The formula added larger tires, a rugged body kit and increased the ride height of the basic wagon. While wagons never really appealed to mid-sized SUV buyers, the Outback succeeded in part because other manufacturers were fleeing the segment.
This fall, Subaru will launch the XV Crosstrek. The new model replaces the previous Outback Sport and is designed to appeal to buyers in the growing compact crossover segment.
While it shares the Subaru Impreza's platform, the automaker gave the Crosstrek a clearly defined off-road mission. The ground clearance (221 millimetres) matches the Outback wagon's and is roughly 70 mm higher than the regular Impreza's. Subaru says this is best in class and marginally more than a Jeep Grand Cherokee's ground clearance.
Bulky black cladding has been placed around the wheel arches and along the rocker panels. The front fascia has been revised with a new grille and blacked-out lower section. Unique black 17-inch alloy wheels with sport-utility tires and roof rails round out the Crosstrek's bulked-up appearance.
Mechanically, the Crosstrek is quite similar to the 2.0-litre Impreza. The 148-horsepower 2.0L horizontally opposed (boxer) engine is coupled to Subaru's signature Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Two transmissions will be offered -- a five-speed manual and the second-generation Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It offers a six-step manual mode with paddle shifters. Both transmissions have a hill-holding feature. As with Subaru's other models, the all-wheel-drive system differs according to the transmission. The manual model gets a viscous centre coupling that splits power 50/50 front to rear and can lock should wheelspin surface. The CVT transmission uses an Active Torque Split unit, which automatically splits the torque according to need. Of the two, it is by far the better choice ë the torque transfer is seamless, which adds to the level of stability.
The Crosstrek is 80 to 100 kilograms heavier than an Impreza, depending on the trim level. The other penalty is the busier external styling and raised stance, which increases the drag co-efficient from the Impreza's 0.31 to 0.35. A larger (by 5.5 lotres) 60-litre fuel tank maintains the driving range. Subaru claims the lowest fuel consumption among compact all-wheel-drive CUVs, with fuel-economy ratings of 7.1 in the city and 6.0 L/100 km on the highway with the CVT. The manual-transmission model is rated at 8.9 and 6.7 L/100 km, respectively. In fact, the fuel ratings surpass those of most front-wheel-drive competitors.
While the Crosstrek is pretty good in an off-road environment, the reality is few prospective owners are going to be fjording rivers or tackling muddy trails on weekends. The longer suspension travel and chassis strengthening yielded a surprisingly comfortable ride during the off-road portions of the test.
Subaru says the run from rest to 100 kilometres an hour takes the Crosstrek 9.8 seconds for the manual and 10.7 seconds for the CVT. Actual acceleration feels peppier because of the fast throttle response and low-end torque. On paved roads, the compact crossover exhibited car-like handling with a comfortable and quiet ride. The taller ride height does mean slightly more body roll in tight, fast corners, however.
The Crosstrek will be offered in three different trim levels. The XV Crosstrek Touring comes with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cloth interior, a 4.1-inch multi-function display, body-coloured mirrors and door handles along with Bluetooth with voice activation. The Sport adds HID headlights, a rear roof-mounted spoiler, a power sunnroof and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The range-topping Limited loads on a leather interior, rear-view camera, a voice-activated navigation system with 6.1-inch touchscreen, a Bluetooth streaming audio and text messaging feature along with USB/auxiliary inputs, LED turn signal repeaters in the door mirrors and chromed door handles.
The Crosstrek's cargo area is Swiss Army knife-like and the model of utility. A retractable cargo cover comes standard as does a removable plastic cargo tray with area tie-downs and grocery bag hooks. With the rear seats up, it will accommodate 22.3 cubic feet of cargo. Dropping both sides of the 60/40-split/folding rear seats expands the storage capacity to 51.9 cu. ft. Bonus marks for the flat floor when the seats are lowered.
While Canadian pricing has yet to be finalized, based on the American example the XV Crosstrek should command a $2,000 to $3,000 premium over a similarly equipped Impreza five-door.
There is no doubt the Crosstrek represents fine weekend cottage or ski transportation wrapped up in a stylish package. The vehicle compares well with CUVs from other manufacturers. Perhaps the greatest lift for Subaru with the Crosstrek could be the light it shines on the Impreza, which offers as much storage, tighter handling, better fuel economy and sharper pricing.
-- Postmedia News