The typical testing procedure when it comes to writing a comprehensive review on a vehicle involves a week of testing in various situations – including the boring old daily routine of sitting in rush hour traffic. But, when a short notice road trip appears on your calendar and you know the road ahead will be more pothole than road, it presents a unique opportunity to test out a vehicle outside of the daily routine. Subaru graciously made the face-lifted Subaru XV available for our weekend trip, but when the road gets rough, does the Subaru XV have the goods to back up the Hyper Blue bravado?
So what’s changed?
Well the Subaru XV wasn’t long in the tooth, but the subtle updates are designed to keep it fresh ahead of the curve. On the outside, the changes are subtle. The new Hyper Blue paint job is striking – particularly in the sunlight – and the new alloy wheel design, an evolution of the previous wheels, still looks good with two-tone black and silver housed in the black-clad wheel arches. Tweaked head- and tail-lights, as well as chrome fog surrounds are also new.
Inside, the biggest update to the Subaru XV is the new media system. It’s the same touch screen we’ve seen previously in the Outback and the Legacy – a system that works well, with swift Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming. But for the life of me I couldn’t get any of the MirrorLink connectivity systems to work, and when connected via USB cable, Samsung Galaxy smartphones are unusable because the system attempts to connect screen mirroring to no avail.
Other interior tweaks in the Subaru XV include a new steering wheel – also from the Outback and Legacy – and orange stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and trim. The stitching is a nice touch – but it would make so much more sense if it were colour coded to the Hyper Blue exterior. After all, orange was the hero colour of the pre-face lift Subaru XV, not the new one.
And what’s stayed the same?
The Subaru XV is still based on the same platform as the Impreza. It’s not so much an SUV as it is an Impreza hatchback on stilts. That’s not a bad thing – it means plenty interior space for the driver and passengers, and safety in abundance, with Subaru building in crumple zones for every scenario. Sadly though, essentially being a hatchback means storage space is severely compromised. The load sill is high, and the roof line low, meaning you’ll struggle to pack much in the boot of the Subaru XV.
The engine has also stayed the same – a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated direct injection petrol Boxer-motor, plating up outputs of 110kW, with torque just shy of the 200 mark at 196Nm. Power goes to all four corners on a permanent basis, in 2.0i-S Lineartronic guise via a revised CVT gearbox. The programming has been tweaked with the face lift for better in-gear acceleration – a big gripe of ours from the original model.
On the road:
The revised CVT gearbox has made a vast difference to the overtaking ability of the Subaru XV. On a 450km trip out to Christiana in the North West, cruise control and a speed limit varying between 100- and 120km/h and long-haul trucks frequently slowing things down, being able to overtake efficiently is a must. The revised transmission now offers better torque efficiency and feels less elastic when trying to overtake. It’s efficient on fuel too – as it should be – sipping 7.0l/100km on a combined, but predominantly extra-urban, road trip.
5 hours down the line on a long and dreary drive, I was still feeling fresh. Supportive seats, good all-round visibility, and high levels of comfort in the Subaru XV ensure that long distance trips don’t take their toll on the driver. Standard equipment includes climate control, electric driver seat adjustment, cruise control, and a sunroof to make the interior feel airy – and overall the comfort levels are high.
But what happens when the road ends?
There was a reason I requested a Subaru when I planned this trip. Subaru are known for making vehicles that can go anywhere – they’re famed for making hatchbacks conquer rally courses, so surely a crossover/SUV such as the Subaru XV would be more than up to the task of taking the path less travelled.
Just outside of Christiana, 30km away from the Callaho Warmblood Stud, the road takes a turn for the worse. The tarmac turns to potholes interspersed with bits of asphalt, and corrugated dirt stretches suddenly appear on the other side of blind crests.
The Subaru XV’s 220mm ground clearance and permanent AWD gave it a clear advantage, and despite the rapidly changing surfaces, loose sand and corrugations, the Subaru XV was unwavering in its ability to tackle the road less travelled. The XV’s suspension struck a fine balance between being supportive and accommodating, and maintaining control. Rebound damping in particular – how the suspension responds as the load is released from it – was superb, maintaining contact with the road surface and never once feeling disconnected, or overly harsh.
On a road that I’ve personally experienced many a so-called ‘off-roader’ failing on, the Subaru XV was incredibly composed – completely belying its humble commuter sedan/hatchback underpinnings.
3 days with the Subaru XV went by in a flash. Facing a combination of long highway cruises and daunting dirt tracks, the arduous journey was handled with complete composure and effortless ability on the part of the Subaru XV. On an auction weekend where the wealthy spent up to R750 000 on a single horse, the real star of my weekend cost only R419 000. When you’re not sure what the road ahead holds, the Subaru XV is exactly the tool you want to tackle the journey.
Words: Roger Biermann
Images: Subaru Media