Indeed, while the Tokyo-based automaker has refrained from letting go of its rally-derived all-wheel traction system, it has changed its focus from being the brand that put names like McRae and Solberg on the map, to producing a range of models likely to attract buyers looking for a mainstream alternative.
Previously carrying the Impreza prefix before becoming a model of its own right the XV has been somewhat of a success for Subaru locally despite its limited model range, archaic normally aspirated petrol engine and Lineartronic CVT gearbox.
Having come away with mixed feelings after driving the new Impreza, it really was a case of would history repeat itself when the keys to the flagship XV S-ES landed in my hands recently. The second model after the Impreza to feature the brand’s Dynamic x Solid styling language, the XV now adopts a more sleek look with the rather angry sweptback headlights making way for the slimmer hawk-eye arrangement.
Incorporating daytime running LEDs for the first time, additional aesthetic tweaks includes a new honeycomb hexagonal grille and redesigned taillights, with the rugged off-road factor being provided by black plastic cladding at the base of the doors, on the bumper and around the wheel arches.
In addition to the sporty looking 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Dueler H/P rubber, our tester came finished in a new hue called Cool Grey Khaki, which certainly lends a stylish and classy touch.
As with the Impreza, the XV’s interior represents a giant leap over Subaru models of old, with a neat and ergonomically sound layout, high quality plastics, leather trim with orange stitching and a good helping of faux aluminium and piano key black detailing.
Aside from the somewhat cheap looking imitation carbon fibre trim around the door handles, the cabin generally feels airy and looks modern, the former being boosted by the addition of a tilt/adjustable sliding sunroof.
Taking pride of place on the centre console, the eight-inch StarLink touchscreen infotainment system arguably rates as one of the easiest and user-friendly setups on sale today, and comes equipped with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes and TomTom satellite navigation.
Being the top spec model in the XV range, creature comforts in the S-ES include; keyless entry/go, rain sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker sound system with dual USB ports, folding electric mirrors, auto/off lights and Hill Descent Control as part of the off-road-focused X-Mode system.
It is however in the space department where matters start to unravel. Despite boasting good levels of rear passenger head and leg room, boot space is decidedly lacking with only 310-litres on offer with the rear seats up.
The biggest highlight of the XV however is the EyeSight range of driver assistance system, which includes Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Sport Monitoring, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, Reverse Automatic Braking and Lead Vehicle Start Alert.
In short, the system really sets the XV from its immediate rivals, with the various functions, especially the Adaptive Cruise Control, proving its worth on the highway by autonomously applying the brakes and then speeding up depending on the speed of the vehicle in front.
Unfortunately, the drivetrain, like that in the Impreza, remains the biggest let down despite the 2.0-litre FB flat-four mill weighing 12kg less than before. Producing 115kW and 196Nm, the engine initially pulls well, again helped by the traction provided by Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, yet runs of steam when the revs climb.
As before, the CVT shows its worth in everyday conditions, but punch the accelerator, and the now infamous drone becomes apparent. Opting for the steering-mounted shift paddles either in automatic or manual modes didn’t solve the problem either, with a noticeable jerk accompanying each shift. Surprisingly, fuel consumption came to 9.0-litres/100m km, well off the claimed 7.3-litres/100 km, but 0.7-litres/100 km better in the same conditions than the Impreza.
It’s new looks may not have the same angular appearance as its predecessor, yet the somewhat softer lines suit the updated Subaru XV better than anticipated. Factor in the leap in quality and that list of standard creature and safety equipment, and you have a really well packaged crossover that does its R439 900 sticker price justice; that is if you can live with the less than perfect engine and gearbox combination.