First Impressions – The 2018 Subaru XV

Subaru launches the all-new XV

As the lights dimmed out and and the video played during the launch of the all-new Subaru XV in Taiwan, I was anticipating something different. Perhaps it was the fact that this was Subaru, a rock-anthem in the background would have been apt as we were shown visuals of the XV tackling muddy roads, much like its blue and gold-clad ancestor from the World Rally Championship of decades past. Instead, what we got was a bit of happy music, all while we saw a valet drive off with the XV, all to show how he has “unparked” his life. That’s something new.

There were no signs of anything STI either. Instead of having a rally or stunt driver to promote the XV, we got Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan to discuss how safe the crossover was. There were no cues to invoke the racing heritage of Subaru in sight. Instead, the place was peppered with lifestyle objects like a sandbox, beach balls, a rock-climbing wall, and posters of people that resemble something hip and peppy, much like the marketing of the iPod when it first came out. Clearly, Subaru is taking a new direction: one geared more towards your lifestyle.

This is an all new model, though it does look similar to the previous generation. There were subtle changes to make something that already felt good feel even better. Some of its changes include its taller 220mm ground height (which increases the approach angle), larger tires, a larger in the fuel tank by 13L, and a taller final ratio for the CVT. They made changes so subtle that they managed to keep the same width of the car when measured mirror-to-mirror, but were able to stretch the body of the XV by 20mm to generate more useful space.

Soon after the actual reveal, we got our hands on the vehicle to sample it on an obstacle course, a muddy track and slippery tarmac to show off the 3 cards under the sleeves of the XV such as the new Subaru Global Platform, the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, and X-Mode, a feature that is was previously only used in the Forester, but now available in Subaru’s smaller crossover.

Settling into the new little crossover, I was able to get a feel for the materiology of the XV. Everything was spot-on; uprated in quality and at the same time cohesive in design. There were no cheap plastics nor faux carbon-fiber panels that would leave faux impressions. The XV, just like the Impreza, gets a careful implementation of blacks, silvers, and grey to come up with a monochromatic color palette that is easy on the eye. In fact, it did get into the top 10 best interiors for 2017 somewhere. I wish I had more time to test the infotainment system, but all I can say is that its availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto opens a lot of possibilities.

The course was challenging. From the sidelines, the tarmac course is a place where body roll will take a toll on vehicle stability real quick. But with the XV, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The tarmac course had a few of metal panels lathered in cooking oil, a slalom, a tight hairpin, and S-turns to shake the car into submission. After going through the course multiple times, the XV did not disappoint. With all the twists and turns that we took, it was evident that the Subaru Global Platform’s rigidity paid off. The XV’s composure gave a lot or reliance to us that even when the road conditions and turns got bad; we were still in control, even at high speed.

When mud is involved on a track, all-wheel drive becomes king. This is where the XV shows off its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. We were given 2 laps around the course, so I decided to go as fast as I can during the 1st lap while keeping the car under control, while the 2nd lap was dedicated to pushing the car far enough to see where it starts to lose it. On the 1st lap, it was actually easy to go fast, yet the XV was encouraging because as long as you modulated the right amount of power required to get through where you wanted to go, the XV made sure that the wheels were distributing the right amount of power through torque vectoring. It was like playing in a band where as long as you gave the right beat, the XV gave a good rhythm.

On the 2nd lap, I purposely added a lot of throttle to see whether it would over-steer or under-steer. I also wanted to see how the XV would react the moment it happened. On the big roundabout, it introduced a little under-steer when I applied a lot of power, but it was surprisingly easy to catch and recover. Considering the track was muddy all throughout and that the turns were either abrupt, difficult, or tight: all to which the XV not only showed capability in a performance standpoint but also in safety.

The last test was the obstacle course, showing off the X-Mode. When activated, the XV ‘s X-Mode controls the engine, transmission, AWD system, brakes, and the Vehicle Dynamics Control System to help reduce potential wheel slip on slippery surfaces, climbing steep inclines, and navigating rough roads. Take note though, it only works below 29 km/h, making it a system that is ideal for off-road use.

Clearly, Subaru is been shifting its image from motorsport performance to something that caters more to the everyday driver. After all that driving, I couldn’t help but remember what Cesar Millan mentioned on why he and Subaru have this partnership: safety. He said that just like dogs, if we let the car control us, we are driven with fear and it is not only unsafe for us but also for the people around us. If we were in control of the car though, it means that we can assure safety for all. And if there is something Subaru proved to us in this series of tests, it is that even at the worst conditions, we feel in control and confident with the XV.

Deputy Editor