Test Drive: Subaru XV 2.0 i-S e-BOXER: against all odds

The Subaru XV was launched back in 2017 and is nothing more than an lifted up Impreza featuring outdoor overalls. However, unlike many of its competitors who are just offroad pretenders, this Japanese car is perfectly capable to get in the wild thanks to its 4-wheel drive. It was slightly refreshed two years ago and now features an electrified engine to keep up with the times.

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The powertrain of this Subaru XV e-BOXER is made up of the ubiquitous Subaru boxer 2-litre direct injection 4-cylinder engine coupled to an electric motor installed in the Lineartronic gearbox. This combination is said to provide smoother, 30% more linear acceleration, as well as sharper acceleration and enhanced torque values. At standstill or low speeds, the electric motor powers the vehicle on its own for quiet, zero-emission driving. Depending on the battery charge level, the e-Boxer can operate in full EV mode for distances of up to about 16 km, at speeds up to 40 km/h. The e-BOXER unit reduces fuel consumption in urban traffic. Depending on the driving style, fuel consumption should be about 11% lower than with the non-electrically assisted 2-litre petrol version.

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I like it

The Subaru XV is as comfortable as ever and has lost none of its trademark qualities. The perfect elevated driving position allows the driver to take it to the road with a serene and full confidence. Okay, technology fans will smile disdainfully at the generous windows size but, given Subaru’s sales figures both on the North American and Japanese market, the car’s appeal in some parts of the world is still a reality. Its symmetrical 4-wheel drive chassis turns it into a real contender for the Swiss and Italian mountain dwellers.

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Quite clever

Subaru’s sporty character has now taken a back seat and safety has now come forward thanks to the famous EyeSight. This driving assistance system uses a pair of stereo cameras to capture colour images with a really high accuracy level. When it detects a hazard (such as vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians), it warns the driver and applies the brakes if and when necessary. Fortunately, it is still possible to disable some of its features if an enthusiastic driver feels these are too intrusive for his liking.

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I don’t like it

The engine/CVT combination means the car is imbued with a tamed driving style  in all circumstances. There’s no need to press the accelerator wildly, it makes an unpleasant sound and the 150 hp output won’t turn the XV into a sportscar. Weighing in at 1,553 kg, the XV 2.0 i-S is a good hundred kilos heavier than the 114 hp 1.6i. The tiny hybrid system has a hard time and is only really briefly relevant when starting or parking the car. Which is never enough to  really lower fuel consumption figures. These remain high in most cases, unfortunately.

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Why I buy it

The Subaru XV is a car with numerous built-in assets : it’s safe, comfortable, well-equipped and gets the job done, i.e. getting from A to B, whatever you throw at it. Its legendary reliability is not to be forgotten, either. Our test car featured a long list of standard equipment : Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as light and rain sensors, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights, digital radio and heated seats. It starts from € 34.985, which is quite competitive. However, it’s worth mentioning that the Forester fitted with the same engine starts from € 35.995 but features a, much bigger boot.

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Why I don’t buy it

Due to its architecture, a boxer engine will always use more fuel. The tiny Belgian market is completely at odds with the use of such an engine combined with a CVT type automatic gearbox and permanent all-wheel drive.  Fortunately, there are still a few die-hard Subaru fans who would never buy anything else. However, it is clear that it is not really Belgium, nor Europe for that matter, that ensures the profitability of the brand. Its electric future relies heavily on Toyota technology. Many automotive journalists have a soft spot for Subaru as it does everything in its own, different way. Whatever it takes… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

1Road test: Subaru Forester 2.0i-S e-Boxer

We were also able to test the Forester fitted with the same engine, in a pompously named “Sport” version. Just like in the XV, the dashboard design is dated. Even though the standard equipment list is generous, the exterior design could do with a serious facelift. The numerous coloured touches featured by this “Sport” version can hardly hide the truth for a long time : it’s not sporty at all. Last month, Subaru introduced a slightly modernised Forester.
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However,  just like its XV little brother, the engine is badly lacking torque, there are just 194 Nm available. Turboless, the electric motor is really too small to improve the situation. When it is activated, the CVT noise is quite annoying and makes sure your driving style is lazy and relaxed in all circumstances. This is how the Subaru Forester is most enjoyable. And like the XV, it can count on its symmetrical 4-wheel drive system to get out of the slightest slip-up, or use certain roads that would embarrass fake 4x4s called SUVs...2

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