Subaru XV SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The Subaru XV lacks some punch, but its agility and four-wheel drive impress
Both of the 2.0-litre petrol engines we’ve driven felt agile, but lack the low-down punch of turbocharged engines. With stronger underpinnings than before, the XV is fun to drive and its standard four-wheel drive provides plenty of traction in slippery conditions. It feels agile and maneuverable for an SUV, and its steering is sharp – if rather artificially heavy in feel.
The XV's X-MODE system should make off-road excursions easier, because it can control the engine and brakes to improve traction or slipping, even if you head down a steep slope.
The backbone of the XV range is Subaru’s 2.0-litre ‘boxer’ petrol engine, which gets its name from the fact it’s pistons move horizontally like arms hitting a punching bag. This design helps the engine to sit lower in the car for a better centre of gravity, and it rose to fame in rally-bred Imprezas. Here, there’s no turbocharger, but Subaru has changed almost every component to liberate around 5bhp and increase power to 154bhp.
It’s a smooth and responsive engine and gets the XV from 0-62mph in 10.4 seconds, but it lacks the punch of turbocharged petrol engines at low revs and needs to work quite hard to deliver its goods.
In e-Boxer mild-hybrid specification, the XV gains a small electric motor which assists a 2.0-litre petrol engine during acceleration, giving it the ability to run on pure-electric power at speeds of up to 25mph for around a mile - perfect for low-speed emissions-free driving in traffic or cities. Above this speed, the engine charges the boot-mounted battery pack.
Unlike rival mild-hybrid systems, it’s a simple task to keep the e-Boxer running on electric power with careful acceleration. The petrol engine and electric motor combine to produce 148bhp, giving it a sharper throttle response than the conventionally powered models, but straight-line performance is still relatively sedate, with acceleration from 0-62mph taking 10.7 seconds.
All versions of the XV send their power to a Lineartronic CVT automatic gearbox, which don’t have actual gears, Subaru has programmed a driving mode with seven ‘virtual’ gears for owners who prefer the feel of a traditional gearbox. It's still not as responsive as a conventional automatic, though, and can be noisy.