An objective of good marketing is to yield satisfaction in the face of apparent contradiction.
In that regard, the people at Subaru hope you will be satisfied with their 2013 XV Crosstrek wagon, which they’d rather call a “compact sport-utility vehicle.”
The SUV designation is a work of marketing and wishful thinking. But it isn’t all wrong or totally misleading.
The “all-new” Subaru XV Crosstrek sprang from the design and engineering platform of the 2012 Subaru Impreza hatchback, which, of course, means it isn’t “all-new.” It has the same 2-liter, horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine as the Impreza. That’s not bad, assuming you are more interested in fuel economy than you are in power. The little engine delivers a maximum 148 horsepower and 145 foot-pounds of torque.
That’s nothing to cheer about if you are fond of flexing motorized muscle. But the XV Crosstrek, equipped with the automatic continuously variable transmission used in this week’s subject XV Crosstrek Limited, gets 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on the highway using regular-grade gasoline.
That’s pretty good, considering that you can’t drive very fast through snow and ice anyway. Life snapshot: The XV Crosstrek Limited arrived late last week just as we were getting our first real snow (about an inch or so) in Northern Virginia. I had been driving the 2013 BMW X3 wagon/crossover (28i turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine — 240 horsepower, 260 foot-pounds of torque).
The X3 got nearly 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway, demanding premium gasoline. Its base price was $38,850, approaching twice the cost of the all-wheel-drive XV Crosstrek Limited, which starts at $24,495.
In terms of power and prestige, of course, the Subaru was no match for the BMW. Nor did it come close in the matter of interior refinement.
But a funny thing happened in the XV Crosstrek Limited on the snow-covered side streets of the Washington area. Equipped with the same excellent symmetrical all-wheel-drive system found in the Impreza hatchback, the XV Crosstrek Limited handled icy roads as well as, if not better than, the more expensive BMW X3.
That might raise the eyebrows and hackles of BMW lovers. But it is what it is. If you need proof, drive both vehicles under similar circumstances. If possible, set aside your notions of prestige and finery. If all you want to do is get through the snow safely, why are you paying $14,000 more to do it?
I agree that we are talking apples and oranges here. But an apple is a fruit. So is an orange. You eat both.
It’s just that, after tooling around in inclement weather in the XV Crosstrek Limited, I couldn’t stop thinking that we are all prisoners of marketing. In the case of the XV Crosstrek Limited, Subaru would have us believe that we are driving a high and mighty sport-utility vehicle — just one with a smaller size and better fuel economy than the four-wheel-drive behemoths of old.
Hmmm. Truth is the XV Crosstrek Limited will get you through most Mid-Atlantic snowfalls just fine. But you’d better keep your off-roading adventures to that kind of driving in this one. It has a ground clearance three inches higher than that of the Impreza. Components of its suspension and transmission have been toughened to take more punishment than an Impreza. But a few words to the wise: The XV Crosstrek limited is no rough-and-tumble vehicle. Don’t drive it where you wouldn’t drive an Impreza.
Frankly, you might want to cross-shop the XV Crosstrek with the very worthy, wagon-as-wagon, all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback Limited. My family actually owns one of those. We drive it all over the East Coast in all kinds of weather. It starts at $29,095. It works with a standard 2.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder boxer gasoline engine producing 173 horsepower and 174 foot-pounds of torque. The transmission is automatic, continuously variable. The Outback wagon consumes regular-grade fuel and gets 24 miles to the gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.
I might be jinxing myself and all other Subaru owners by writing this. But the truth is that I’ve been in multiple snowstorms in our Outback and I’ve never gotten stuck once. The Outback always made it through.
We’ve had to repair brakes several times on our Outback wagon, largely because certain people believe it is proper to maintain brake pressure while trying to drive down steep hills, such as Mine Hill Road near our New York home in Cornwall. But, other than that, there have been no real problems.
What is the difference between a Subaru Outback and an XV Crosstrek Limited? The Outback does not pretend to be a sport-utility vehicle.