2020 Subaru XV Hybrid
ON Wednesday, August 7, 2013, Holbrook, in New South Wales’ Southern Riverina, became the last town to be bypassed by the Hume Highway/Hume Freeway.
Until then it had been a 50 year project by the Federal, New South Wales and Victorian Governments to create a four-lane highway between the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Although some of the old highway was ‘refurbished’ in places, the majority of the dual carriageway was all new, and where once ‘Old 31’ wended its way into and out of villages, towns and cities, M31 as the road is now known (M for motorway – confused?), presents a clear, 840-kilometre run from Liverpool in the north to Campbellfield in the south.
In New South Wales, the carriageway is still known as the Hume Highway, whereas in Victoria that section from Albury-Wodonga to Melbourne is the Hume Freeway, which we prefer to call the entire length.
Major towns and cities the freeway bypasses are Liverpool, Goulburn, Yass, Gundagai, Albury-Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla, Euroa, and Seymour.
While it bypasses Wodonga, not so Albury, where it forms part of the Sydney-Melbourne rail corridor just to the east of the city centre.
East Albury, the industrial area of North Albury, Albury Airport, Albury Base Hospital, and the sprawling suburb of Thurgoona, are accessed via numerous rail/road bridges.
We are not fans of the freeway, finding the Albury-Wodonga to Melbourne section, which we drive every week, dull and boring, with little of interest to see along the way.
Except for hundreds of kilometres of wire barriers. And point-to-point speed cameras.
Thankfully, there are alternatives and we make use of them at every opportunity (read weekly).
But for this review of a Subaru XV hybrid, we decided on at least one freeway run, followed by our usual 153-kilometre loop which takes in most of the Ovens Goldfields District of North-East Victoria centred on the historic gold-mining towns of Beechworth and Yackandandah.
We had already driven a Subaru Forester hybrid, followed by an updated Impreza sedan, the host vehicle on which the XV is based, so there were no surprises.
The hybrid version of the XV, along with the hybrid Forester and the (slightly) new look Impreza were all launched in February.
All three use the same 2-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission and driving all four wheels courtesy of Subaru’s Active Torque Split symmetrical all-wheel-drive.
Being ‘mild’ hybrids, the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid utilise an electric motor to boost power and torque from 110kW and 196Nm respectively, to 122.3kW and 262Nm.
The non-hybrid Impreza boasts outputs of 115kW/196Nm.
So, the big question is, does the battery-electric XV provide enough benefits to justify the $3970 additional cost above the 2.0i-L petrol on which it is based?
The extra cash not only gets you the hybrid powertrain, but some additional active safety features as well, plus there are small gains in fuel economy to be had.
Signed out from its Melbourne suburb of Altona digs, we pointed our Lagoon Blue Pearl (love the colour) XV e-Boxer (there is only one XV hybrid variant) towards the Western Ring Road where we veered onto the M31 which would take us in a north-easterly direction towards our home base of Albury-Wodonga, a 305-kilometre journey that would take us 3.5 hours, including a brief rest stop at Euroa.
The XV - and Forester - system is like all hybrids, being powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which uses energy stored in a battery.
It cannot be plugged in to charge the battery, instead the battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine.
The hybrid’s 2-litre, four-cylinder, boxer petrol engine is linked via Motor Assist to a small, high voltage lithium ion battery and an electric motor which produces 12.3kW/66Nm.
Depending on driving conditions the e-Boxer adjusts the power split between petrol and electric, automatically changing between petrol only, electric power only, or petrol and electric.
From standstill or at low speed, the vehicle is powered by the electric motor only, for quiet, zero-emission driving.
Depending upon driving environment, vehicle, and battery condition, it can operate in fully electric mode up to 40 km/h.
According to Subaru, the XV hybrid offers most of its fuel economy benefits in congested city driving, which it does.
Lift the XV’s bonnet and there is nothing out of the ordinary to see as the battery, drive motor inverter and DC/DC converter are located in a sub cargo floor, meaning slightly more boot space but no spare wheel, just a can of goo and an electric pump if you get a flat tyre.
There is nothing unusual in how the hybrid drives and we achieved a respectable 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres after 305-kilometres and three-and-a-half-hours of driving.
The Subaru system is a lot more subtle than other full hybrid units, with the electric motor kicking in at low speeds, like driving out of the driveway.
The only time it is noticeable is when you come to a stop and the petrol engine cuts out (like an auto stop/start system), and when you are coasting.
The auto start function is (almost) instantaneous.
You can see what is driving what courtesy of a graphic in the second info screen located atop the dash if, of course, you have dialled up that particular selection.
Other than that, at standstill a green EV symbol lights up in the instrument cluster, extinguishing as soon as you accelerate away, and the petrol engine takes over.
Like the petrol XV, the drive is smooth and quiet at low to moderate speeds, but things do start to get busy under heavy acceleration, such as when overtaking or you are looking to zap into an opening ahead in heavy suburban traffic.
To run on the electric motor only one must be deft in how much pressure is placed on the accelerator.
The freeway being dull and boring gave us time to sit back and enjoy everything the XV hybrid had to offer, including a quiet and comfortable ride with more than enough glass with which to soak in the autumnal tones of the countryside.
Being a Subaru, the XV comes with plenty of up-to-the-minute tech and safety gear, including the third-generation EyeSight which uses two cameras mounted either side of the interior rear view mirror to keep an eye on everything going on ahead of the vehicle.
Its functions include forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and lead vehicle start alert, the latter alerting you that the vehicle in front has driven off, in case you were otherwise distracted.
The vehicle’s other safety and technical features would be put to the test later.
We also got to enjoy such niceties as an electric emergency brake, auto climate control, a great sounding audio system which included a CD player, push button start, remote one-touch entry, auto headlights and wipers, a digital speedometer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrasting orange stitching, a rear view camera, a self-dipping interior rear view mirror, tyre pressure monitoring, and paddle shifters for the artificially-stepped CVT.
Outside, there were front fog lamps, rear parking sensors, black roof rails, body protection mouldings, and a nice-looking set of five-spoke alloy wheels shod with quiet riding, yet grippy 225/60R17 Yokohama BluEarth tyres.
If you want all the XV goodies you would have to forgo the hybrid powertrain and step up to the all-bells-and-whistle 2.0i-S petrol.
For an extra $950 you get all the safety gear, plus extra creature comforts including power-adjustable and heated front seats, leather trim, sat-nav, an 8-inch touchscreen, a temporary spare wheel, and more towing capacity – 1400kg braked as against the hybrid’s 1270kg braked.
Albury-Wodonga being the hub of Australia’s greatest inland playground meant we had plenty of options as to where to take the XV for a proper drive in the country but, with travel restrictions still in place both sides of the border, we decided to stick to our usual 153-kilometre loop of the Ovens Goldfields District, with a small deviation into the Stanley Pine Plantation to check the hybrid’s limited off-road ability.
The plantation is located to the east of the former gold-mining village of Stanley, 10-kilometres from historic Beechworth, once the ‘capital’ of the Ovens Goldfields.
Myriad tracks criss-cross the plantation, with one of the better ones taking you to Mount Stanley.
The e-Boxer’s electric motor is used to help bolster the XV’s impressive off-road ability, delivering extra low-down torque when ‘X-Mode’ is selected via a button on the centre console.
Combined with Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive system, the system makes short work of steep inclines and descents, shuffling power between the driven wheels on the way up to the summit and preventing a loss of control on the way down.
The XV’s short overhangs, tight turning circle and 220mm of ground clearance allows a certain amount of off-road freedom and is ideal for those outdoors types who love fishing, camping, or even heading to the nearby Victorian and New South Wales snowfields (chains must be carried).
Even at higher speeds across the many gravel and sandy tracks we encountered the XV felt secure and planted.
The run over the rest of the test loop showed why the XV's dynamics are arguably best in class, even with a high-riding body.
It handled the twisty, hilly bits with ease, sitting flat and with no discernible body roll.
The XV felt safe, secure, and comfortable, the well-weighted steering felt light and precise, the brakes did a great job of hauling the scenery down quickly, and the suspension was remarkably supple yet composed, soaking up most of the bumps and thumps both on and off-road without the vehicle getting out of shape.
The petrol/electric powertrain worked well with the XV’s CVT transmission which Subaru has engineered in steps to make it feel more ‘normal’.
Large throttle inputs are still accompanied by a flare in revs and it still drones, but there is more torque and throttle response than you will find in petrol XVs.
The Ovens Goldfields District drive takes in the farming communities of Wooragee, Mudgegonga and Bruarong, and the historic gold mining towns of Beechworth, Stanley and Yackandandah, with Beechworth and Yackandandah offering a pleasant stopover for a meal break, with the towns’ cafes and bakeries offering take-away service.
Like the rest of Australia, they, too, are doing it tough and appreciate the patronage.
The XV dished up plenty of comfort for rear seat passengers, again with plenty of head and leg room, and there were ISOFIX anchorage points for child car seats.
Under the rear hatch was a shallow luggage area which could be expanded from 310 litres to 765 litres by laying the rear seat backs down, but the temporary spare wheel is not much chop if you are an habitual weekend go-anywhere sort of person.
The shallow boot, and no rear passenger air vents, were the XV's only shortfalls.
Of course, the big question is, what about fuel economy?
The XV Hybrid has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km compared to the XV 2.0i-L's 7L/100km.
After a week’s driving, which included two long hauls along the Hume Freeway, we returned 6.7L/100km.
Whichever variant, petrol, or hybrid, the XV is a comfortable, safe, refined, and compact family wagon to go find any alternate route at every opportunity.
Oh. And that extra $4000 for the hybrid?
For the small fuel saving we would opt for a 2.0i-Premium and still come out ahead by $2160.
Or you could pay an extra grand and step into the flagship 2.0i-S.
Review vehicle courtesy: Subaru Australia
Price: Subaru XV Hybrid AWD, $35,580 plus on-road costs
Engine: 2-litre, four-cylinder boxer, naturally-aspirated petrol
Power: 110kW at 6000rpm (plus 12.3kW electric motor)
Torque: 196Nm at 4000rpm (plus 66Nm electric motor)
Transmission: CVT automatic. All-wheel-drive
Fuel consumption: 6.7L/100km 91RON
Fuel tank capacity: 48 litres
Towing capacity: 1270kg braked
Warranty: 5 years/unlimited kilometres
NORTH-EAST VICTORIA/SOUTHERN RIVERINA SUBARU DEALERSHIPS
Albury-Wodonga - Baker Subaru, 490 Young Street, Albury Phone: (02) 6041 8400
Mansfield – Martins Garage, 52 Chenery Street, Phone: (03) 5733 1000
Shepparton – Ken Muston Subaru, 215 Benalla Road, Phone: (03) 5821 6688
Wagga – Jupiter Motors, 221 Urana Street, Phone: (02) 6933 0800
Wangaratta - Wangaratta Subaru, 45 Tone Road, Wangaratta Phone: (03) 5722 2000