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Test Drive: 2015 Subaru Crosstrek

This week, we’re behind the wheel of the 2015 Subaru Crosstrek, one of the newer all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles that have helped make Subaru a household name. Introduced in 2013 and built to compete with the overabundance of small crossover utility vehicles that are popping up everywhere, XV Crosstrek is actually an alteration of the popular Impreza hatchback.  Built on the same platform, XV Crosstrek features a distinct body style, higher ground clearance and pricing that won’t scare away anyone that is shopping for a small Crossover/SUV.

 

With retail pricing that starts at just $21,595 and then graduates upward to a top line $29,295 for a fully loaded Hybrid, buyers can expect the usual refined four wheel drive technology and Subaru quality built in every Crossteck that comes of the assembly line. At dealerships nationwide, Crosstreks have enjoyed strong sales thanks to the its ability to attract interest from all consumer age groups, which is something every manufacturer strives for in this day of over-crowded markets.

 

Thanks to Crosstrek’s versatility as a family mover, weekend camping partner or snow covered road negotiator, drivers can expect roomy surroundings, the proven four-cylinder “Boxer engine” technology and the heralded Symmetrical 4x4 underpinnings.

Under the hood sits Subaru’s proven 2.0-liter horizontally opposed engine that sits low in the engine cradle allowing for better handling and outstanding traction dynamics. At just 148 horsepower and 145 lb. ft. of torque, the little Boxer four will sometimes have its work cut out for it when fully loaded or hauling cargo. However, thanks to a $1,000 optional Lineartronic Continuously Variable six-speed automatic transmission, the seemingly low horsepower output is distributed across the RPM power band very well resulting in acceptable performance and outstanding fuel mileage. Consumers can expect 34 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in the city with an average of 26.  

 

For 2015, three distinct Crosstrek trims are available, including Base, Limited and Premium. All feature the exact same mechanicals with a five-speed manual standard on the Base and Premium. The Limited comes standard with the CVT while the Crosstrek Hybrid comes standard with the CVT. (We hope to test drive one later this year). 

Inside, you’ll recognize some Impreza core values, but Subaru then complements the Crosstrek Crossover/SUV needs with some nice off-road type amenities. We especially like that a 6.2-inch touchscreen system with rear vision safety camera comes standard across the line. Our tester included a $1,295 Starlink 7.0 touchscreen Multimedia system that not only beefs up the stereo system substantially, it also adds an eye-sight driver assist safety system, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning and even pre-collision throttle management. This option is highly recommended as years ago it would probably have cost an additional $4,000 for all these features. (Well done Subaru!)

 

Crosstrek does have a few little negatives. On the highway you’ll notice a somewhat noisy interior and also some engine noise under full throttle. However, the advantages of the Crosstrek far outweigh any concerns, especially when comparing prices, past owner reliability ratings, economy and several consumer magazine recommendations. Overall, Crosstrek delivers in aces.

 

Notable, too, is cargo room. Thanks to the rear 60/40 seats folding down, owners won’t shy away from any visit to the home center. With the second row seats up, Crosstrek’s wide body design allows room for three passengers (with hopes the center passenger is a small build individual). Interior room receives high grades with good leg and head room.

Standard XV Crosstrek fare includes all the powers, the latest in air bag safety, four-wheel ABS discs, air, cruise, remote keyless entry, 17-inch tires on aluminum-alloy wheels and nearly nine inches of ground clearance to assist when you go off-road. Your dealer will explain all of the standard features when you visit a Subaru store.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.7 inches, 3,109 lb. curb weight, from 22.3 to 51.9 cu. ft. of cargo space, 1,500 lb. tow capacity, 8.7-inches of ground clearance and a 13.7 gallon regular grade fuel tank.

We’ve bestowed many a Subaru Test Drive recommendation since we first started reviewing cars back in 1994, and things are no different with the XV Crosstrek. Thus, we’re giving the 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek a top Test Drive recommendation and Best Buy in class.

 

 

Entry Price: $21,595

Price as tested; $25,440

Likes: Great design, excellent fuel mileage, off-road capabilities.

Dislikes: Engine loud under full throttle, interior a bit noisy, not much else.

 

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)

2014 Forester a mainstream move

 
Subaru appears to be at the crossroads. Among executives, one faction wants to drive the company into the mainstream, with a more conventional lineup. Another believes Subaru’s niche-player status works in its favor.
 
Subaru’s commitment to standard all-wheel-drive and to an unorthodox engine architecture does, indeed, give the company an outsider’s standing.
 
Not that that’s a bad thing. Subaru was one of three automakers whose U.S. sales grew during the recession. Since early 2012, its profits have tripled and its stock value has grown fivefold, says Bloomberg. 
 
In August, Subaru set a new U.S. sales record. Simultaneously, the redesigned, 2014 Forester crossover overtook the Outback wagon as the company’s sales leader, with year-to-date sales up an astonishing 46 percent. 
 
It’s hard to know what to credit for the surge, but efficiency — both space and fuel — is probably the right place to start.  
 
For 2014, wheelbase and overall length grow modestly — 0.9 inches and 1.4 inches, respectably — but rear-seat legroom is up a massive 3.7 inches and cargo room grows as well.
 
Forester’s base engine is a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four that, when paired with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), yields EPA numbers of 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27 mpg combined. 
 
Equipped with the six-speed manual that’s standard on 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims, Forester is rated at 22/29/24.
 
An available, 250-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four powers up-level trims and earns ratings of 23/28/25.
 
For Subaru, which has always struggled with fuel efficiency, these gains are huge.
 
Forester’s content-list grows this year, as well. All but the base 2.5i trim now include a standard rearview camera and color multifunction display. New options include keyless access and ignition, a power liftgate and the EyeSight driver assist system.
 
EyeSight was previously introduced on the Legacy and Outback and was key to their Superior ranking in the new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Front Crash Prevention (FCP) test. EyeSight integrates adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking. When danger is detected ahead, it can bring the Forester to a complete stop, without driver intervention, from speeds of up to 25 mph.
 
X-Mode, an enhancement to Forester’s AWD system available on upper trims, tweaks engine response, transmission shift points, stability control system intervention and the AWD system to improve traction in slippery conditions. 
 
Hill descent control is broadly available and, at 8.7 inches, ground clearance is exemplary.
 
The new Forester receives mild sheet metal and cabin updates. Cabin materials are improved but the design remains dated. Cartoonish graphics and impaired ease of use relegate Subaru’s navigation and infotainment systems to second-tier status.
 
Aside from noticeable lean in the corners, the Forester handles as well as can be expected from an affordable people-and-cargo hauler. Its sophisticate AWD system and higher-than-average ground clearance provide better-than-average off-road chops.
 
CVT-equipped models incorporate an continuously variable transfer clutch that distributes power to the wheels with traction.
 
A fair distance separates Subaru from the mainstream. The new Forester helps bridge that gulf while underscoring the company’s strengths. With more successes like this, Subaru will escape its niche role without breaking a sweat.
 
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5 Si Touring
Vehicle base price: $21,995
Trim level base price: $29,995
As tested: $33,220
Optional equipment included keyless entry and ignition; EyeSight; high-intensity discharge low-beam headlights.
EPA ratings: 24 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

Subaru Viziv concept redefines tradition

Subaru is built on all-wheel drive, boxer engines and a Northwest popularity that could probably get a Forrester elected to public office.  Subie lovers should find it concerning the Japanese automaker has yet to dabble in the wave of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles making their way to market.  Until now, that is.  The Viziv concept, revealed at the 2013 Geneva Auto show, is a definite sign the Japanese automaker is preparing to shake up their DNA. 

2014 Forester nabs turbo BRZ engine

Subaru fans that lean towards the hippie end of the spectrum should get ready to flip their hemp wigs in the wind.  I'm talking about Forester folk, the Northwesterny sort who admire the off road sport wagon charm of the first generation Outback.

People, Subaru is putting a turbocharged version of the 2.0L FA BRZ engine in the 2014 Forester. She’ll be good for 250hp, up from 224hp from the 2.5L inline four-cylinder of last year.  The 2014 Forester Turbo will only be offered with a CVT transmission with six and eight-speed manual modes.  Each will feature hill descent control.  A new manual six-speed will be available with the 2.5L.  

Although Subarau is now or soon will be offering the turbo FA engine in the WRX and BRZ, Forester does not appear to be moving away from its rugged heritage.  Ground clearance is only down a smidge at 8.7 inches from 8.9 inches on the tallest 2013 Foresters. 

Overall the 2014 Forester is getting bigger.  It’s now up to 180.9 inches long, 68.2 inches tall, 70.7 inches wide and has a wheelbase of 103.9 inches.  Thanks to the stretched dimensions rear passenger space and cargo space will be increased to make even more room for shaggy dogs, ironic sweaters and bags upon bags of granola.

Subaru describes exterior changes as contributing to a “bolder profile” that draws influence from the 2013 Impreza.  Considering Subaru’s recent design history blemishes the picture of the 2014 Forrester they’ve released so far should be counted as a step in the right direction by subie fans. The 2014 Forrester will be officially released at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show at the end of November.

But wait, there’s a sub subie story here.  Car nerds should be well aware that rumors of the turbocharged 2.0L BRZ engine soon to be available in the 2014 Forrester still hasn’t appeared in the BRZ itself.  Seems a little backwards doesn't it?

Read more about Subaru’s plans for a turbocharged BRZ and possible STI package here.

Turbo Lust - Subaru BRZ

Few new cars have made more people swoon this year than the $26,000 Subaru BRZ. By most everyone’s standards that’s had a chance to drive one it’s close to perfect for what it set out to be:  A purist’s rear-wheel drive sports car, the kind we just don’t make enough of.  

The next logical question in everyone’s mind was when Subaru would hurry up and turbocharge it. Currently the BRZ runs Subaru’s 2.0L FA engine, good for about 200hp.  It’s a great little engine but only good for 0-60mph in the low 7’s.  A healthy cheetah can reach 60mph faster than that if a tasty gazelle catches its eye.  

Seriously.  Google that. 

As if to bait the hook spy photos of a BRZ testing at the Nurburgring outfitted with STI trim surfaced October 31st last month on MotorAuthority. The car isn’t wearing camouflage, implying Subaru might want your lusty eyes ogle it. 

Proof a turbocharged version of the FA BRZ engine will soon exist in the U.S. came last month when Subaru announced a version of it good for 250hp would be offered in the 2014 Forrester.  Another version of the engine good for about 280hp and 250lb-ft toque will power the WRX – and yes, eventually find its way to the BRZ.   

Bust out the party horns.  It sure looks like a turbocharged STI BRZ is on the way.  It’s so nice when things go right in the world.  

Lexus CT 200h F Sport

Wearing the F Sport badge while rocking the same powertrain as a Prius gives the Lexus CT 200h a mixed bag of credentials to say the least. The concept of a “performance hybrid” is still regarded as more of an oxymoron than anything else, and for good reason.


But is the CT 200h really trying to posture itself as a sporty hybrid hatchback?

Consider the raw numbers. As mentioned above the 200h uses the same 134hp hybrid system found in the Prius. Each car reaches 60mph in 9.8 seconds. Those aren’t the sort of numbers that will throw Doc Brown back in his seat and leave a set of flaming tire marks on the ground.

Without digging much deeper it’s safe to say Lexus wasn’t very concerned with blowing the doors off a Volkswagen GTI or Subaru Impreza hatchback. In fact those cars aren’t even on the 200h’s radar. At its core Lexus is a luxury brand.

Starting at just under $30,000 the CT 200h is aimed at the burgeoning entry-level luxury market. With 43mpg city, 40mpg highway (only 8mpg less combined than the Prius) it boasts the best fuel economy in the segment.

Impressive as those numbers are they run the risk of losing their luster when compared to the 200h’s real competition: Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Volvo C30. None of these cars come close to matching the 200h’s fuel economy but all will run circles around it any day of the week.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a healthy degree of fun to be had in the 200h. Using the same double A-arms found in the HS 250h, the suspension was retuned for sportier driving with a Yamaha front and rear damping system that firms up ride quality and reduces body vibration. 

An optional F Sport package includes a tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels, mesh grill, larger rear spoiler, aluminum sport pedals and F Sport badging that insists sporty hybrids are sports cars too.

The first time I sat behind the wheel of the 200h, before pushing the start button to hear the soft hum of hybrid power, it gave every impression of being a car that was destined to have 300hp at the front wheels and an aggressive suspension to do battle with an Impreza STI – gas mileage be-damned.

In the driver’s seat the cabin fits like a glove. The steering wheel has the feel of a meaty performance car, the well-bolstered seats hold you snug in place. Switching to Sport mode cranks up the RPM’s, tightens steering response and increases battery thrust from 500 to 600 volts. The stability and traction control back off to allow for a bit more reckless abandon here and there.

When kept in Sport mode the car’s unimpressive power is far less noticeable, especially around town where there’s not enough room to wait for the Prius-esque acceleration to rear its eco-friendly head on a long freeway onramp. 

That said, even when mashing the accelerator to the floor like a burning bag left on a front porch it’s hard to manage much less than 35mpg.

Handling is a mixture of what you should expect from a Lexus combined with hints of Toyota. It gets the job done in style and lives up to luxury segment standards but isn’t set up to handle any more fun than the synergy drive can muster.

By hybrid standards the 200h is by all means near the top the fun factor list. The closest comparable rival could be the 2012 Honda CR-Z hybrid. Then again, nether car is going to completely satisfy an enthusiast who doesn’t want to compromise performance for fuel efficiency.

Those who are willing to spend a bit more time at the pump in exchange for more jollies behind the wheel should look to the Audi A3 TDI, another fuel-efficient entry level luxury car starting at close to $30,000. The A3 bests the Lexus with 140hp and 236 ft-lb of torque. 

On the comparative downside the A3 only manages 30mpg city, 42mpg highway for a combined estimate of 34mpg, or about the worst you can expect to get out of the 200h.

There lies the rub. In the entry-level luxury market buyers who want performance versus outstanding gas mileage would be better suited to look towards the cars mentioned above to quench their sports car needs.

Drawing on Lexus F-Sport and Prius DNA, the CT 200h deserves a serious look for anyone who wants best in class fuel economy and just enough thrills to keep themselves entertained during a week’s commute.

In the end, regardless of how much sport the F-Sport badge can exude from the 200h, most people still buy a hybrid to save gas and the planet, not because their supposed to be fun to drive.

Looking at it that way the 200h goes above and beyond the call of duty. That’s what a luxury car is supposed to do.

Lexus CT 200h slideshow: http://tinyurl.com/6wq6oea