Getting down and dirty with the 2023 Subaru XV - Dealer Motion Beyond reminds us why an AWD SUV still matters
Arvind · Apr 15, 2023 04:00 PM
There was a not-too-distant past when buying an SUV meant getting a vehicle that could do more and go further than a humdrum family sedan.
Those days are long gone, the vast majority of SUVs today are simply high-riding counterparts of sedan/hatchback models that offer not much more than a taller boot and some ‘rugged’ plastic cladding. Many of which are only driven by the front wheels.
But the2023 Subaru XVbegs to differ - it is the only vehicle in its segment that offers an AWD powertrain as standard, and in taking on a brutal offroad course, can the Subaru XV remind us why AWD still matters? Let’s get down and dirty.
As a refresher, the second-generation Subaru XV was launched in Malaysia in 2018. Featuring the company’s all-new Subaru Global Platform, the XV offered greater body rigidity and introduced a sleeker overall profile.
Power was derived from the 156 PS / 196 Nm 2.0L flat-four was retained, sending power to Lineartronic CVT-type automatic, and then all four wheels via Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system.
The 2023 Subaru XV is offered in 2 variants at the following prices:
2.0i-P EyeSight: RM 149,788
2.0i-P GT Edition EyeSight : RM 156,788
Here's a snapshot of the range-topping 2023 Subaru XV:
2023 Subaru XV GT Edition EyeSight specifications:
2.0L NA flat-four
156 PS @ 6,000 rpm
196 PS @ 4,000 rpm
11.6 seconds (as tested)
7-airbags, ABS, Traction Control, AEB, VDC, Lane Departure Warning, ACC with and Stop & Go
As we’ve said, no other crossover or SUV in the XV’s segment offers AWD as standard across its range. With that said, buyers can also opt for the Proton X70 1.5 TGDi Executive AWD at RM 117k which is the only other sub-RM 150k SUV with AWD capability.
Sat in front of me is a gaggle of Subaru XVs, which courtesy of premier Subaru dealer Motion Beyondwill be driven through a treacherous, purpose-built course that normally tests hardened 4x4s and pickup trucks, much less urban SUVs that are great for the school-run.
Motion Beyond regularly conduct these offroad experiential programs to further educate their current and future customers on just what their Subarus can do.
Our offroad blast would include uneven terrain, water wading, and a steep descent and ascent, to really put the 2023 XV through its paces. At first glance of the course, I personally believed there was no way the 2023 XV would make it through.
But, with the Dual-Function X-Mode engaged, the XV will modulate engine output, transmission, AWD torque split and braking to provide the best traction, in hopes of progressing through the course.
The first obstacle was a trail with undulating mounds. Here the XV exhibits superb throttle modulation as it requires the driver to transition between power and braking smoothly. Too little and the XV won't climb, too much and risk bottoming out once over the crest. Another point to note is how the XV delivers adequate and responsive torque low in the rev range, to start climbing.
Moving forward, there's an even more intense slope, climbing up the steep end, we have to call on immediate traction and power from the XV. Cresting the top of the hill, my XV titter-totters, dangling a wheel in the air. Besides the thrills, the XV displays sublime body rigidity, as the entire weight of the car is mostly supported diagonally across two wheels - which places extreme stresses on the body to resist flexing.
Next up, with both hands on the wheel, I guide my Sunshine Orange XV down into a swampy track, water strikes the top of the bonnet as the vehicle descends into approximately 300 mm of water. Courtesy of a 220 mm ground clearance and short overhangs both front and back my XV doesn't get stuck and levels out nicely.
The body squirms and yaws as the Symmetrical AWD system searches for traction on the soft base but the XV never puts a foot wrong. Clearing the muddy trail with relative ease.
The next two challenges were perhaps the most challenging (and scary) - and where I believed the XV would have met more than a match. An approximately 40-degree dirt slope with minimal traction. Not to doubt the XV entirely, but without offroad tyres, perhaps this is a bit of a stretch.
Lining up with X Mode engaged, the instructor tells me to push the gear lever into the manual mode to force the XV to hold gear. Things are fine so far until he tells me to let off the brakes and just let the Hill Descent Control (HDC) do its thing.
Having previously completed five Borneo Safari expeditions, I perhaps know enough to surmise this is not something to try with road tyres, this hill would challenge even bonafide off-roaders... this is just a family SUV! But with a deep breath, I ease over the crest and let off the brakes.
For a second it feels like falling over a cliff, until almost immediately, the HDC catches the tyres and swoosh... things start to slow down. The tyres are squirming and squealing for grip, but the XV continues steadily - dare I say it, the 2023 XV provided similar traction and control to a pickup truck and it even felt comfortable riding down the dirt path. Put simply, the HDC is simply brilliant and within seconds I'm at the bottom of the hill, safe and sound.
But what goes down, must come up again. So for the final challenge, we ascend two hills, the last being a solid 30-degree slope with a short run-up. So here, we first align the XV, being careful to thread a line away from the deep ridge.
Again, with X Mode and 1st gear, I firmly roll on the throttle. Our instructions are to keep our foot steady, and at all costs, don't let off the throttle and lose momentum, as we could roll backwards. I build up some revs and release XV - and almost instantly, with adequate power the AWD system sending power to the wheels with the most grip, the XV makes it up the hill rather quickly.
Having completed the course and feeling slightly heroic - I noticed that my particular XV already had over 90,000 km on the odometer, and was still running flawlessly.
Now, of course, most drivers these days are not buying SUVs to go mud-plugging. Most buyers would be happy if their SUVs could simply handle ankle-high water and at 2023 XV's price bracket of RM 150k to RM 160k, those choices are aplenty.
With that said, the added sense of security and ability provided by the XV's Symmetrical AWD system is something intangible that only takes one sketchy road condition or flash flood experience to make it all worthwhile.
It's like insurance, you purchase it not with the intention of using it, but for the peace of mind of knowing it's there. Likewise, should the situation present itself, trust that the Subaru XV will pull you out of the worst driving conditions, and look good doing it.
Additionally, I believe the XV delivers so much more. For those who live the adventure lifestyle, it offers a sublime midpoint between a modern and stylish urban SUV and most of the offroad ability of a much larger, lumbering pickup truck.
Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.