2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Crossover
Question: “What do you do if you are lost in an Icelandic forest?”
Answer: “Stand up.”
Subaru, the powerful little automaker that can, has taken long-legged strides in optimizing its long-standing all-wheel drive credo. Easily tackling the wagon-killing, SUV boom back in the day in style by taking its passenger car platforms and beefing them into desirable, SUV-esque yet non-engorged large crossovers, Subaru has developed a passionate customer base. That infamous Subaru fan base is growing every quarter, as demonstrated by sales numbers that reveal unrelenting and consistently growing sales for the last half of a decade, to date.
What does a success story like Subaru do when it surveys its almost a half of a century of sales in the United States and the accomplishments but wants to keep ahead of the curve?
Read on to find out Subaru's latest groundbreaker and where it took us.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid: The Opportunity to Make More Fans
Surrounded, and yet holding its own in the crossover trend, Subaru stood up and surveyed the forest. In this case, it started eying missed or coming opportunities in the AWD crossover market and asked its homegrown supporters what they wanted next. Turns out that 1 in 4 current Subaru owners said that they would like something hybrid-powered for their next vehicle. Not having a hybrid option, Subaru decided to pounce on its new upstart Legacy-based compact crossover, the XV Crosstrek, as the best platform for the engineers: remove the spare tire, add an electric motor, improve drivability, add a hybrid badge and set a new standard for “what is” Subaru. And, “what is” hybrid”.
We had a chance to take the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid on an expedition through some roads and impassable areas of Iceland recently. It wasn’t just to test the capability of the standard All-Weather package deliciously heated front seats in the new Subaru hybrid: we went to see how the driving performance has been enhanced since the next-to-the-youngest sibling, the gas-powered XV Crosstrek, debuted last year.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid: Its Competitors … or Not
All new in 2013, the Subaru XV Crosstrek is still a very new badge in the Subaru crossover lineup, given that the nameplates of the Outback began in 1995 and the Forester in 1998. Based on the Subaru Impreza – as is the sporty WRX – the XV Crosstrek is a crossover sport utility vehicle for those who want SUV capability, 5-passenger and cargo space with “5th door” hatch access so they don’t look like they are driving a truck. Now with a hybrid version, the 2014 XV Crosstrek puts the brand into a segment that can’t exactly be called competitive because for now, it is going to be lonely in a hybrid crossover category. As a hybrid, it has plenty of company: hybrid ownership is expected to reach 8% by 2015.
The closest competitor could be the Mazda CX-5, which does come in an all-wheel drive version. While prices are very similar, as is the ~.2” difference in ground clearance (Subaru wins that one) and the MPGs are pretty darn close (Subaru does win that one, too), it is only the Subaru that gets that special Hybrid badge. Not many car shoppers understand SkyActiv. Everyone knows what hybrid means.
ALso in the non-hybrid territory, similar shopping options could be the Nissan Juke, the Kia Sportage or even, going out on a limb: the Jeep Wrangler. But all of these options force the driver to give up something: off road ability, creature comforts, and especially MPGs when you consider a Wrangler Sport might be able to eke out 19 MPG on the highway.
Subaru is rightfully quite proud of saying that the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid has the best fuel economy of any all-wheel drive crossover. And they are going to get to keep saying that over and over again for awhile.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid: Lineup and Pricing
The 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid will have 2 trim levels arriving at dealerships in late November, 2013. Both trims have an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, 31 mpg combined. The basic Hybrid package comes pretty well-packaged for $26,820.00, including the destination fee, and has creature comforts like a standard All-Weather Package (heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer), Subaru’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, 8.7” of ground clearance, and recently announced IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation that means … it is built pretty darn well.
For the second trim level available at $30,120.00, including destination, the 2014 XV Crosstrek Hybrid Touring edition gets leather-trimmed seating, full navigation and a satellite radio capable system with a 6.1” touchscreen and a power moonroof (for observing the Northern Lights, don’t you know?).
More features included in both the base XV Crosstrek Hybrid and Hybrid Touring:
- LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) uniform child restraint anchorage system2.0-liter Subaru BOXER engine optimized for efficiency
- Brake regeneration system
- Integrated starter/generator provides Automatic Start-Stop function
- 12v power outlets in dash, center console and cargo area
- Active grille shutter system
- Automatic climate control system
- Audible Vehicle Approach Pedestrian Warning System
- Subaru Advanced Airbag System, front seat head / chest side impact air bags, side curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag
- Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) with traction control system (TCS) and rollover sensor
- 13.4 hp 48 lb.-ft. electric motor integrated into Lineartronic® Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
- Color Multi-Function Display shows the hybrid system’s energy flow according to driving conditions
- Rear vision camera
Photo by Ian D. Merritt
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid: On the Road (And Off)
Now that we have most of the nuts and bolts of the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid outlined, I can talk about how the compact crossover hybrid performed during the Subaru-sponsored 4-day expedition through Iceland.
Day 1 was mainly on paved roads with some off road through glass-sharp lava covered trails to water crossings. Almost immediately after leaving the paved roads, we did a lead-follow cross-country and downhill towards a river. The nearly silent and almost seamless continuously variable transmission (CVT) was good on this first off road excusrion, but out of curiosity I put it into the optional manual mode and used the paddles to navigate between 1st and 2nd gear heading down a gravel covered incline. It was a little more interesting to play with shifting than relying on the Active Torque Split AWD, but it wasn't necessarily any more fun – or safe. Sliding down and around the hills also gave me a great opportunity to experience the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) with traction control system (TCS) and the quick steering. They performed very well, although there was an audible tone from the front right side when the VDC and TCS engaged that sounded like a squeaky cellar door opening. The steering allowed me to place my tires exactly where I wanted them, and fast.
Day 2 was less on paved roads and more heading into the wilderness for a remote "camp" with tracks being laid by modified off road Land Rover Defenders that belonged to our guides. We drove around the area's signs that read Slysasvæði (accident risk area), Blindhæð (blind hill) and Ófært (impassable) the further we drove off road. When a early season snowstorm began whipping drifts and blowing snow around the cars with 90-mile an hour winds, the cars held their own with their low centers of gravity. The 163 ft.-lbs. of torque that combines the gas engine with the hybrid system were perfect for pulling up and out of drifts and massive ruts left by the 44" balloon tires of our guides' trucks. I heard the cellar door, aka, the traction control, engage a lot during this part of the expedition, but it was a welcome sound. On the final descent into the camp for the night, it was deeply dark and the XV Crosstrek foraged across a 3-plus-foot deep river, water rising over the hood of the car, like it was a duckling.
Day 3 started off as a fresh new day with no impending storms looming. As our convoy headed out of the treeless wilderness, we got to see the stunning landscape we hadn't been able to see during the previous day's storm. Did I mention that there is great visibility in the car with no obstructed views? Iceland is breathtaking. The XV Crosstrek Hybrids sailed easily across more fields of snow and lava, and we slipped back around the signs that had warned us away the day before. After lunch, my co-driver and I set off on our own towards the city of Reykjavík, not expecting the snowstorm we met as I drove up a mountain pass. After 2 days of being confident, even in the extreme off road conditions, I admit: I panicked a bit. My co-driver, Jason Fogelson (an SUV expert), calmly said, "You know this vehicle is capable. Just relax. Let the car do its job." I loosened my white-knuckled grip on the wheel and the snow packed road and 18-wheel trucks I was sharing it with were no longer a threat. I could feel the car responding to me switching lanes to avoid ice and wind from the tractor-trailers. In what was probably the first real world experience that most Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid owners will ever encounter, the car did its job very well.
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid Crossover: Final Thoughts
While we didn't truly get an opportunity to test the real world MPGs of the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid due to the extreme cold and wild terrain, we definitely got to put its strengths, added safety and driving performance through a lot of pop quizzes. Just like the gas-powered XV Crosstrek, the Hybrid gets the same Subaru-expected features: 8.7" of ground clearance, standard roof rails, flat load cargo floor that can hold a lot of stuff. What the Hybrid gets that the gas-only one doesn't have is an enhanced road feel, more horsepower and torque (both to play with for fun and to use in extreme conditions), improved suspension and a quicker steering ratio. For those who just want the added benefit of the Hybrid badge stuck on a Subaru on an already adventure driven, safety oriented, versatile vehicle that can last a long time, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid makes total sense. For people who like to drive, it's like getting fun driving fringe benefits from having a Subaru hybrid badge.
In a forest of SUVs, the Hybrid badge may start carrying some different weight if they are all this versatile and fun.
Subaru graciously provided the flight, accomodations and car for this expedition and review. All photos by Michelle Naranjo, unless otherwise noted.