2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek - On Stilts - Review

As siblings go there are clear advantages to being taller. It's about being mom's favorite when it comes time to reach the top shelf of the cupboard. And the satisfaction of denying the others at the net in a game of one-on-one.

Reason enough for the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek compact crossover. Even if it is an embellished rendition of the conservatively creased Impreza Sport compact wagon on stilts.

On Stilts:

The last Subie Impreza Sport  "Drive...He Said" laid eyes on cleared the Earth at a terrestrial 6"-inches.  The Crosstrek is propped up another 2.7"-inches". Rock climbers take note that  8.7"-inches of clearance comes awfully close to the Jeep Compass Trail Rated 4x4. Lacking a meaningful ultra-low gear creep mode, though, the Crosstrek isn't quite ready for Rubicon Trail prime-time.

Geo-Climber:

Those are some grippy all-terrain Yokohama Geolandar tires on Hot Wheels painted 17" wheels. Their silence highlights meager cabin sound insulation, responsible for plenty of wind and engine racket. In Subaru's Lineartronic version of continuously variable transmission, a chain, instead of metal bands, latches onto the drive pulleys. So optioned the mechanical limited slip differential is swapped for an electro-hydraulic multi-plate clutch unit.

Active torque split "symmetrical" all-wheel drive defaults to a 60/40% front/rear torque split. Wheel slip, throttle and braking sensors can lock out either axle, and vehicle dynamic control can effectively sending 100% of twist to just one wheel. Translation into plain English: Crosstrek had no problems climbing or descending packed snow berms.

Boxers Watch Their Carbs:

No matter the percussive sounds, 148-horsepower of normally aspirated 2.0-liter twin-cam flat-four gas engine is barely up to the task of agitating 3200-pounds worth of Crosstrek. The CVT,with its relatively tall final drive, is lackadaisical about 148lb-feet of torque. Steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, notwithstanding. For a greater semblance of shift action we cite the Nissan unit in the Rogue.  Fitting  for trotting around-town.  Attempts at abrupt overtaking in the Crosstrek are a real test of fortitude. In the context of the Impreza's impressive efficiency, 24 miles per gallon of combined fuel consumption delivered by the larger-tired Crosstrek was a let-down.

Jacking up a compact hatchback necessitates greater suspension travel.  In the Crosstrek, a front strut / dual wishbone setup is abetted by stiffer damper valving. Body movement resists becoming busy until thrown into a tight apex or slamming onto the S'mores of four wheel disc brakes. Traipsing over concrete freeway slabs faster than 75 mph? Watch that dash-mounted Hawaiian Hula doll go. As the Crosstrek is prone to wind buffeting, notice how the electric assist steering rack requires less strong-arming than many other compact CUVs.

Adult Austere & Kid Proof:

"Drive...He Said" already beat up on the 2012 Impreza Sport cabin instrumentation and finish materials, which hearken to a time past. Improvements are incremental inside the Crosstrek. Plastics are less shiny. Soft touch materials are more abundant. Our cabin was trimmed in optional pebble grained leather. White on black gauges suffer less from sunlight reflections. The white LED clock /temp/ trip readout atop the dash still resembles a dorm room clock radio. Teenie-tiny icons on the center stack's 6.1"-inch touch screen media / communications interface were designed for whom? Otherwise interface menus are arranged logically. The USB media software ultimately read our Ipod Nano 2... in the amount of time needed to mix a cake.

Front buckets feature good cushion for all body parts but the thighs. Standard tilt and telescoping steering are complemented by a sliding center armrest. Slide it forward and just try to locate the front seat heater switches. Unchanged from the Impreza Sport is a usable rear bench with 35"+  for legs and nearly 38"-inches for heads.  Do mind the non-flush center safety belt latches.

The Crosstrek has hatchback versatility and then some. Like a spill-proof rubber mat that sits under 22 cubic-feet of personalty. The kind that prevents pet accidents from permanently permeating the upholstery. Capacity doubles by folding rear seat backs, which aren't quite "spill-proof."

$1000 Per Inch?:

All for the extra 2.6"-inches of clearance. The 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek costs $2500 more than a comparably outfitted Impreza Sport 5-door. Without any greater space or comfort, and certainly down on performance and fuel economy. Our Ice Silver Metallic tester in Limited trim ran $27,290, including navigation and moonroof. For similar money, the Crosstrek's painted wheels will attract more stares [or glares] than the Jeep Compass. The shorter wheelbase makes for an easier getaway.  If you have to ask, clearly you haven't traversed a snow-laden Chicago alley lately.

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