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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Subaru XV CrossTrek

Subaru submitted two vehicles for Mudfest 2013. The XV CrossTrek is its first, and also the least-adorned vehicle in the compact class. Starting out with a fourth-generation Impreza, the XV CrossTrek receives a mild suspension lift and a dirt-appropriate suit and tie for more rugged looks. Otherwise, it’s still an Impreza at heart, sporting the same 2.0-liter H4 motor. Unlike the other Mudfest 2013 contestants, our XV came with a manual row-your-own five-speed gearbox.

Infotainment features on the XV are frankly pretty sparse, including a standard CD player with USB connectivity. Subaru does include Bluetooth for hands-free calling and audio streaming in the XV, though that's as advanced as our test sample gets. We didn't have enough time to figure out the Bluetooth pairing procedure, and the car didn't like our fourth-gen iPad, refusing to play music stored on the tablet.

The XV's all-wheel drive system is quite fantastic, powering four wheels full-time with 50:50 torque split capabilities. It handled the road and dirt courses well, though I got a little squirrely in the mud and slid the rear-end out a bit. Fortunately, I recovered and was on my merry way.

Power comes from an economical 2.0-liter H4 motor shared with the Impreza. It has enough muscle for daily commuting, though it's a little underpowered for pushing the 3000+ lb XV through a road course.

I personally love vehicles with manual transmissions. But the XV's gearing and sloppy shifts make the experience dull. Granted, the XV isn't a sports car, so I didn't expect it to have a nice, short throw. However, we are left with the question of why use it at all when Subaru’s CVT gets better gas mileage and is more convenient for a daily commute.

The Impreza's plain styling is pretty bland, and it doesn't speak to us like some of the other vehicles in our story. Strangely, by lifting the same ride with a more aggressive front fascia, flared fenders, and black wheels, the XV becomes quite a bit more attractive.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Subaru XV CrossTrek
Trim level2.0i Premium
Engine2.0 L H4
TransmissionFive-speed manual
DrivetrainSymmetrical AWD
InfotainmentSingle CD, USB port, Bluetooth
Notable featuresN/A
Fuel economy23 city, 30 highway, 26 combined MPG
MSRP$22,790
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply