Can you have excellent off-road capabilities or great fuel mileage or can you have the best of both? Subaru has launched their first hybrid model and it goes right along with their niche market of multi-use recreation vehicles that come with a “go-anywhere” attitude. This week we’re test driving a top of the line 2014 XV Crosstrek Touring Hybrid model ($29,295). We’ll see how it performs at the high altitudes in the mountains of Colorado.
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid is the Japanese automakers first gasoline/electric hybrid model. The electric drive motor augments the 2.0-liter Boxer engine that generates 160 hp and 163 lb. ft of torque. That’s an increase of 12 hp and 18 lb. ft of torque. XV Crosstreks also comes with smartphone integration (featuring Aha Internet radio) for models equipped with the navigation system.
Before we take this new Subaru Hybrid out on the road we’ll take a look inside. Subaru isn’t known for luxurious interiors, but those who buy this multi-use vehicle will transport kids, dogs and recreation equipment and don’t need it and don’t want it. The cabin is clean and uncluttered and the controls are simple to operate. The dash and door panels are wrapped in soft-touch trim.
Touring gets extra features
This range-topping Touring model is more luxurious and comes loaded with extras like leather seats, power moonroof, and touch-screen navigation with a 6.1-inch LCD screen voice controls, satellite radio and Aha smartphone integration. It came standard with the All-Weather Package with heated front seats, heated outside mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers. The Touring model is ideal for those living in cold weather climates.
The XV Crosstrek is designed for utility and is very functional for hauling the family and for recreation. Cargo carrying ability is plentiful with 22 cubic feet of volume behind the back seat and 50.2 with it folded down. A flat load floor allows for maximized us of that space. The Hybrid rates only slightly less cargo room than the standard XV with the battery pack being located beneath the cargo floor. It also comes with standard raised roof rails that are ideal for carrying mountain bikes or a kayak.
Inside there's plenty of room for 6-foot-tall drivers and even tall passengers in the rear. I took two 6-foot, 2-inch friends to lunch who sat in the back without touching the roof, and the headroom in the back seats does not diminish with the moonroof. And back doors open wide for easy entry and exit or securing larger cargo.
What’s are the benefits of the hybrid system
XV Crosstrek Hybrid comes with full hybrid technology and can propel itself at low speeds purely under electric power, which optimizes fuel economy and works well in the stop-and-go city traffic we encountered this week. The electric motor can also provide motor assist for acceleration in parallel with the gasoline engine, and an EV mode will operate the vehicle in certain low-speed situations. The Hybrid gets an EPA estimated 29/33 mpg city/highway fuel mileage. That’s the same highway mileage as the standard XV with a CVT, but 4 mpg better in the city. But there’s a $4000 premium for the Hybrid model.
Why look at XV Crosstrek Hybrid?
With the extra bump in price, you need to do the math to see if the hybrid is worth it over the standard XV. But here’s where we see a reason to put out the extra money. A torque-rich 13.4-horsepower electric motor is mated to the XV Crosstrek Hybrid’s 2.0-liter boxer engine. The hybrid gets an extra 12 horsepower and 18 lb. ft of torque. Even with the extra 300 lbs for the battery, the Hybrid’s power is impressive. And the max torque from the electric side is available at 2,000 rpm compared to the gas-only VX’s 4,200 rpm.
Think of the XV Crosstrek as a sportier version of the gas-only model. The suspension and steering have been retuned for sportier driving dynamics, so the hybrid is more fun to chuck into corners. We tested the hybrid in the mountains west of Denver and this crossover with the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) with a simulated manual-shift mode and steering wheel paddle shifters offered plenty of spirited driving fun.
But unlike most CVT automatics, Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is integrated into the electric drive motor and provides smooth power that lifts engine and road speed similarly. Unlike others that puts engine revs high while vehicle speed catches up. The extra hp and torque enabled us to pull up the mountain interstate with plenty of extra power for passing. The CVT has six settings to imitate a 6-speed automatic's gears, and we kept the paddle shifters on the wheel busy on the twisty mountain roads west of Denver.
What sets it apart from the crowd?
XV Crosstrek Hybrid comes with 8.7 inches of ground clearance that gives the crossover a “go-anywhere” attitude. It’s based on the Impreza platform but comes with larger front brakes, a larger fuel tank, 17-inch alloy wheels and special black wheel arch and rocker panel cladding. XV has the ability to be a daily commuter during the week, and an off-road trail runner on the weekends. This is what sets it apart from other crossovers.
The XV Crosstrek Hybrid also comes with Subaru’s excellent Symmetrical AWD system that makes it a true off-roader for recreation enthusiasts. Another driving dynamic of the XV Hybrid is the lower center of gravity due to the boxer engine that sits lower in the chassis than the typical small SUV. This contributes to it handling better than almost anything else, and it still has close to nine inches of clearance underneath.
This is the reason Subaru developed their own in-house hybrid system and didn’t rely on existing technology from another automaker like Toyota, who owns 16.5 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru. They wanted the excellent low center of gravity driving dynamics that the Subaru Boxer engine technology provides. It made a difference this week as we powered through the twisty curves near Evergreen. The VX Hybrid had minimal body lean and roll even on some tight S curves.
Like other Subarus, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid will leave you feeling confident on loose gravel roads, wet slippery pavement and with its Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, it can navigate some of the worst weather conditions you can throw at it. With its extra ground clearance, its an ideal crossover that you can take off-road and get away from civilization. The Hybrid definitely has a sportier attitude to it and will appeal top those who want a sporty driving dynamic and a little more power to get up the mountain pass. The hybrid model will be easier on your fuel budget and makes sense for those who live in snowy climates but don't want to drive an expensive fuel-thirsty SUV. It’s a multi-purpose all-weather vehicle that is ideal for recreation enthusiasts.