We drove the Subaru XV e-Boxer facelift 2121: electrified on all roads…

Subaru is deservedly famous for its excellent engineering. It embraces 4WD and boxer engine technology, and sticks to it with an uncanny sense of tradition. Rightly so.

Comes of course the EV age, and Subaru makes with the e-Boxer range it first steps into this world. The e-Boxer drivetrain can best be described as a self-charging hybrid. It does the job, whilst retaining its unique Subaru character: the willing boxer engine, the excellent off-road capabilities, the well balanced and inspiring handling on tarmac, it is all still there.

We tested already the 2020 XV e-Boxer, just read our previous test report on these columns. We find our positive findings confirmed, and focus here also on the main topics of the facelift…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bolder looks

The compact crossover has now a modified front, with an even tougher look. The front bumper was redesigned with a larger black plastic part, a new skid plate and L-shaped silver-grey inserts. The fog lamps received a new frame and the grille was tightened with a new mesh. The crossbar in the grille itself is now slightly wider, making the Subaru logo larger and more prominently visible. Finally, the design of the 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels has been revised.

The drivetrain becomes even more sophisticated

Let’s first look at the drivetrain, which it has of course in common with the other e-Boxer models in the Subaru range. The redesigned 2 litre boxer engine is coupled to a 12.3kW electric motor sitting on the CVT transmission and small 13.5kWh battery, and as we said, Subaru calls it a self-charging hybrid. Modest beginnings, but on the other hand this adds only some 167 kilo to the scale.

Does it work? Yes, it certainly does, that is if you hone your driving style, so the hybrid can function optimally. We indicated this already in our previous test report, and we can only repeat it here.

It will run on the electric motor at lower speeds, for shorter distances. The trick is to accelerate slowly and keep constant speeds in urban traffic. These driving conditions which will not prompt the boxer engine to set in, but let the 17 HP electric motor do its work as much as possible.

The CVT transmission will also choose higher ratio’s when you keep the throttle openings small. The result is lower revs, which will keep consumption very reasonable. Subaru did some very good detail work in setting up the CVT transmission, added an “Intelligent” setting which is ideal for constant speed boulevard drives and keeps revs close to 1000 rpm or so when touring in 30 km limit areas.

All this lets consumption drop to between 7 and 6.5 l/100 km even in tight urban driving conditions. All this also happens with uncanny smoothness, and this Subaru is a very refined automobile indeed.

As said, Subaru added with the facelift the so-called “I-Drive” as standard. The system has two settings, Sport (S) and Intelligent (I), each with their own character: thanks to the smooth power delivery, Intelligent mode is ideal for city driving, for long distances and for driving as efficiently as possible. Indeed, this setting keeps the revs down as much as possible. The Sport mode is a highly responsive mode and is well suited to all-round conditions thanks to its instant acceleration.

Of course in this Sport mode you cannot bend the laws of physics, and when the willing boxer engine delivers its 150 HP pulling power, the fuel consumption goes invariably up.

The manufacturer quotes 6,5 l/100 km as average consumption and mentions CO2 emissions of some 149 g/km. Performance is everything you could ever wish for: 0 to 100 km in 10,7 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h.

Precise and inviting handling, on and off-road…

The Subaru XV runs on its new Global Platform, which delivers more safety and stiffness, as we said before, resulting in very good handling, and this XV is a pleasure to drive on winding stretches. Suspension comfort is also very good, both on tarmac as on (very) rough terrain. When it comes to safety, it is good to know that the XV has been awarded the maximum 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Subaru’s Permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive constantly shifts power to the wheels with the most traction, and the XV has not less than 220 mm ground clearance.

With X-MODE with Hill Descent Control, you negotiate steep inclines and descents as an expert. At the push of a button, it takes command of the engine, transmission, Symmetrical AWD, brakes and other components to help you navigate challenging terrain. Here the facelift has made things even better. Subaru also optimized this X-MODE. It is now equipped with a dual function that allows the driver to choose between “Snow / Dirt” and “Deep Snow / Mud”. X-MODE takes advantage of the high torque and fast response of the motor to prevent stalling in extremely poor surfaces

Living with the XV

The seating position is also very good, with fine, supportive seats.

We liked already in the previous test the dashboard layout and clear, the fine chrome finished round dials, which evoke a bit of pur-sang atmosphere which we like so much. Connectivity and driving aids are up to scratch, not to mention Subaru’s unique EyeSight.

This keeps you on a safe distance to cars in front of you, avoids front end collisions with cars and detects pedestrians in front of you. Of course infotainment is also top notch, with Android Auto and Google CarPlay provided for ideal connectivity.

Conclusion

Every bit a Subaru, this e-Boxer. But, if you drive it with intelligence, it will reward you with very interesting consumption figures. Subaru will soon have a full electric vehicle, so they also go up that path. In the meantime, in the remote outback, this is your ideal car to hit all the country roads in an electrified and environmentally conscious manner…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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