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If Subaru Customers Get This One Thing, It Will Radically Change The Brand

Subaru customers want one thing from the Japanese automaker, and if they get it, it will radically change the brand.


Subaru hasn’t always been a conservative brand, just look at the sporty Subaru XT two-door coupe produced from 1985 to 1991. The XT was replaced by the Alcyone SVX two-door grand tourer coupe produced from 1991 to 1996 and was Subaru’s first attempt to enter the luxury/performance car market. The XVT eventually failed and Subaru went ultra-conservative with their styling. But things are changing at Subaru.


Subaru is learning that customers want an all-wheel-drive vehicle with utility, but add in styling to the car and sales will take off. In a recent interview with WardsAuto, Subaru of America President and COO Tom Doll told them the Japanese automaker is beginning to understand they need to bring more exciting exterior designs to their all-wheel-drive SUVs.

Doll says, the second-generation Crosstrek small SUV is the hot model in the lineup because its style, as well as its utility, are its big selling points. “People buy that car (Crosstrek) for the style and the message that it sends to them, it’s something we’ve got to keep in the back of our minds as we continue to develop products going forward. You can’t underestimate the importance of styling.”

Crosstrek has opened the eyes of company execs

The Crosstrek was the only model in 2018, with a full year of sales, in the lineup with an increase over the previous year. Crosstrek sales rose 31.1 percent in 2018 to 144,384, placing the nameplate second in sales, after the Jeep Compass (171,167), in the small CUV segment, and Subaru execs are taking notice.

Matt Wherry, manager-product planning and design department at Subaru Research and Development in Tustin, CA, told WardsAuto during a discussion of the Impreza compact car, which Crosstrek shares its styling cues, “We’ve made great cars, but not necessarily the most beautiful. Now they’re really going to be emotionally appealing, to a level they haven’t been before.”

That’s good news for Subaru customers because boring styling has been a complaint from loyal Subaru fans. Wherry says it has taken a while for Subaru leaders to embrace more dramatic shapes and patterns. “We’ve done everything as well as we can, (but design) just wasn’t a priority before.”

The hot-selling 2019 Subaru Crosstrek has opened the Japanese automaker’s eyes to what their younger customers want. Subaru’s younger, more sophisticated customers want well-designed products and are buying the Crosstrek in record numbers. A more emotional, less utilitarian philosophy is taking hold within the automaker’s design studios and is reflected in the new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek CUV. Subaru is learning that if you build it, they will come. Look for new design language in Subaru’s next-generation all-wheel-drive vehicles. It could radically change the brand.

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Photo credit: Subaru


Glenn (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 1:44PM

My 2018 XV is very nice but there are some annoying issues and omissions. If Subaru put some extra effort into improving it one step further they would see massive gains. I guess it comes down to cost.

Mongo (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 2:34PM

I have a 2018 Forester with a manual transmission This will be my last Subaru if all Ican get is a rubber belt transmission

Dana james (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 10:23AM

In reply to by Greg Hilliard (not verified)

The redesigned Crosstrek has a different engine than the previous first gen Crosstrek they have actually brought it from 2.5 to 2 l it is getting smaller and slower but this engine does have high capabilities 4 different applications in the future many of their engines are similar but not all are the same for instance the BRZ uses an FA motor as well as the WRX using the fa motor but if you've driven both you know that the BRZ is very slow in the WRX has the capability to haul very fast. WRX is a 5 30 weight oil with a turbo application and the BRZ is a zero 20 weight oil with a naturally-aspirated application. the BRZ has high amount of issues the WRX does have some issues but is a much more reliable car the BRZ has multiple port injection wow the WRX is only direct injection the BRZ is in my opinion a misled attempt at a sports car and the WRX is a true race car. The stick shift issue though is definitely in my mind as well cvt do
have more problems than a manual transmission. Subaru warranty is very good though definitely get the extended gold plan they will cover anything on the drivetrain for a hundred thousand miles.

Terry Kan (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 1:52PM

In reply to by Greg Hilliard (not verified)

From a company's stand point, they will put profit first. Manual car is not that popular anymore. Manual community is a tiny group of their customers. Manual is going away, sadly. BTW, I'm driving manual WRX. However, I accept the fact. I only hope they will keep the manual option at least on WRX and STI

Dorkus (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 9:30PM

In reply to by Mongo (not verified)

Eh, the CVT has come a long way. If you don't want an automatic then you won't like the CVT, obviously. But if you are open to an auto, the new CVTs are smoother, more responsive and get better mpg than a geared auto. My wife's 14 Forester is pretty rubber-bandy, though. The new Toyota CVT I drove recently was quite good.

Rich Cooke (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 11:39PM

In reply to by Mongo (not verified)

I agree! My dad had a2014 Forester, stick, it was radically better to drive than my wife's 2015 w/CVT!!! The redeeming feature on my wife's Forester is 250hp/250ft-lbs of her turbo 2.0. Oh s#@t, neither is available in 2019. Come on Subaru; we want AWD, we want practicality, AND we want driveibilty. Please bring back the manual transmission and a motor with some gonads!

Rich Cooke (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 11:40PM

In reply to by Mongo (not verified)

I agree! My dad had a2014 Forester, stick, it was radically better to drive than my wife's 2015 w/CVT!!! The redeeming feature on my wife's Forester is 250hp/250ft-lbs of her turbo 2.0. Oh s#@t, neither is available in 2019. Come on Subaru; we want AWD, we want practicality, AND we want driveibilty. Please bring back the manual transmission and a motor with some gonads!

Steve wilson (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 3:03PM

On my 2018 crosstrek very annoying things, such as you cannot turn the radio off. The engine takes a few seconds to slow down when you let up on the accelerator,it is called over run, making smooth gear changes next to tmpossible on a manual trans. This is not all the quirks, Subaru should do better much better.

Jesse Johnston (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 6:14PM

In reply to by Steve wilson (not verified)

That's not overrun, that is rev hang. It's common in most modern cars.
It's there for emissions reasons. It can be tuned out on the WRX (dunno if there is a tuning solution for the motor in the crosstrek)

It's there so when you lift off to shift, instead of burning the excess fuel that would end up in the exhaust and burn off there, it does it in the cylinders where it will be combusted more completely.

The solution for a smooth shift for you (if there is no tuning solution) is to slow down your shifting and only clutch out once the RPMs subside.

In my car (a 2017 wrx) that annoying "feature" was tuned out when I replaced the exauhst system from the turbo back, and adjusted my mapping for the improved flow. Now... instead of rev hang, I get gurgles and pops and the occasional fireball from the tailpipes when I upshift aggressively. Which makes me giggle like a 12 year old.

Kazoo86 (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 6:27PM

In reply to by Steve wilson (not verified)

My 2018 Crosstrek is the BEST vehicle I have ever owned. I am 60, and have own about a dozen vehicles. The radio does turn off. The on/off button may need to be pressed firmly. Or, simply turn the volume down to “0”, zero. Easy-peazy, lemon squeezy. I think you need to go back to the dealer, with your car and ask for a lesson on it’s quirks. Read that thick book in the glove box, “owners manual”. At 152 hp, it is NOT a performance vehicle! But great in the 8 inches of snow out the front door. Love from, Kalamazoo, MI.

BenROhio (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 10:23AM

In reply to by Kazoo86 (not verified)

Exactly! If I had known about the radio before I bought it I would not have bought it. Add to that the cheap paint job that has already started to flake off after 6 months and the very high rev startup that makes it echo in your garage. It only has one USB port. The seat warmer buttons are too close together to push with gloves on and the door controls are very hard to differentiate by touch. 2018 Crosstrek is a piece of junk compared to my 2007 Legacy.

Barry Young (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 8:12AM

In reply to by Steve wilson (not verified)

I have a cvt so can't comment on your manual transmission issue. The radio can be turned off by pushing and holding in the volume button till the radio goes off. It took me a while to figure this out as well. Cheers

Doug (not verified)    January 27, 2019 - 9:19AM

In reply to by Steve wilson (not verified)

There is a "Drive ability Recall" for malfunctioning Starlink displays which can lock up and not respond. Subaru will update the display's software but many owners are reporting that it doesn't help. Subaru has tried to keep this quiet bot it is affecting thousands of 2018 vehicles.

Jake (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 3:10PM

Are you kidding? Styling? Drop a WRX engine in a Crosstrek and actually give the people what they want.

Paul Cahill (not verified)    January 28, 2019 - 10:33AM

In reply to by Jake (not verified)

This is 100% the reason I went with the 2015 WRX limited I currently drive. I couldn't stand how slow the Crosstek felt when I drove it. Had it had the drivetrain from the WRX,it would be in my driveway.

George Gillespie (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 4:40PM

Have a 2018 Crosstrek Limited. Love it. Bought to replace a Prius since I could get Android Auto in the Crosstrek. It has adequate performance but could use more passing power. Love the Eyesight tech ology and I am 77!

Eric (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 4:54PM

Give it a real engine, ditch the silly cvt transmission, give it a sportier suspension and most importantly give it a drivers seat that doesn't SUCK.

Michael (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 7:09PM

Sounds like they are finally listening. I own a 2017 3.6R legacy , it has gotten a little sexier though they have a ways to go. Prototypes have been amazing but never come to fruition. I will continue to buy if they get sexier and faster ect... build it subaru and they will come. You have great potential.

RjW (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 8:25PM

So... I loved my cross trek! ... until the cvt started emitting a high fluid temp alarm. My 2013 CT has 135k mikes. and I’ll probznly be on the hook for a new tranny. Suffice it to say I’m not happy about this. I’m a carefull driver, 66 years old, and never blown an engine, clutch, of transmission.
This will be my last SUBARU, unless , in the unlikely event, SUBARU will make good.

Kara (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 8:40PM

The Crosstrek is the only model with some of the Subie personality, so no wonder people are drawn to it...kind of reminds me of the older style Outback. Since pre 2010, Subaru style has lacked severely, very boring and look like everything else. And with no manual transmission, I'll be looking at other manufacturers when the time comes to replace my 2009 Legacy GT. Fortunately for Subaru, I keep my vehicles forever so they have time to redeem themselves.

Larry I Krainson (not verified)    January 26, 2019 - 9:35PM

My wife didn't buy the Crosstrek she was taking about for months and bought a Honda HRV instead. She HATED that every interior was solid and depressing black. Even gray would have been better. She does love her HRV AND reliability has been stellar.