SUBARU declared the new Impreza launched in December was the brand’s most important release in history, and backed it up by professing the launch of the 2018 XV small SUV crossover is even more significant.
The XV is the second model to adopt the new Subaru Global Platform that will be the basis of all new cars until at least 2025. Essentially all four models across the XV range are the same car, with just feature levels separating the 2.0i, 2.0i-L, 2.0i Premium and 2.0i-S offerings.
They all share the same bold styling, with strong Impreza influence, but with sharper lines. Despite its 220mm ground clearance and 1616mm height, the XV doesn’t look all that much larger than the passenger car it shares its origins with.
Even from the entry level 2.0i, there is plenty of value with everything you’d hope to see in a premium product. The cloth seats are comfortable and the interior is simple but still polished, with carbon fibre trim and 6.5-inch infotainment screen, while the other models get an 8.0-inch version.
The step up to the two middle shelf 2.0i-L and 2.0i Premium moves to premium cloth seats, and orange highlights through the cabin, along with silver trimmings, while the top of the range 2.0i-S gets heated leather seats in two colour options, and power to the driver’s seat.
The 2.0L Boxer engine produces 115kW at peak 6,000rpm and 196Nm at a broad 4,000-5,500rpm range. They’re not the most powerful figures, but it’s enough to handle the 1,400kg XV even on steep gradients.
At Exhaust Notes Australia, we’re not the biggest fans of CVT autos but the Subaru’s seven-stepped unit is certainly one of the more bearable on the market. At mid-full throttle, it behaves more like a conventional auto.
Although the steering initially felt on the lighter side, the XV provides a lively drive. It rides exceptionally well, even on rough country roads, or dirt and gravel roads. It loved to be thrown into corners and the torque vectoring made for a thoroughly enjoyable time behind the wheel.
With your foot down, the revs sit high and it makes the most noise it will over the entire driving experience, but once it finds its cruising speed it drops back down the rev range and chugs along almost silently, with the only noise coming from the 255/60/R17 Yokohamas or 255/55/R18 Bridgestones on the 2.0i-S.
Many will write the XV off as a soft roader, but it’s definitely capable of taking on some rough stuff. At 220mm, the XV has the most ground clearance in its class, and is just a few mil lower than the Toyota Landcruiser.
Subaru has even developed ‘X-Mode’ – an off-road system for even the most inexperienced of drivers. X-Mode ensures the right throttle control and counteracts wheel spin through brake applications and differential rotation.
Even doing all the wrong things; sudden throttle applications and sudden turns, the XV maintained a steady pace on the steep, sandy terrain with 15-degree inclines and descents. Hill decent control in the XV is also faultless.
Possibly the most amazing feature of the new XV is the reverse automatic braking. The technology works up to 15km/h in reverse and brings the car to a stop when it detects an obstacle.
In terms of fuel consumption, the two cars we drove in a spirited manner over the 200km drive program had reading of 8.8 and 8.1L/100km, which is not far off the 7L/100km combined figure Subaru claims.
With its new price points, which sees only the 2.0i-L go up in price while the others see savings, and three-year/unlimited km warranty, Subaru could well meet its 1,000 sales/month target.
The XV is fun to drive, and an SUV with serious credentials that doesn’t feel like an SUV. What it lacks in power, it makes up for in the enjoyment factor, which leaves us wondering what this chassis would be like with a turbocharged engine or sports version. Pretty please Subaru?
Our test vehicle was provided by Subaru Australia as part of its launch event. To find out more about the new 2018 XV, visit your Subaru dealer.