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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