June 25, 2019

2018 Subaru XV Launch Review

Safe, on-road, and off.

High in Australia’s alpine region, SUV cars are the norm rather than the exception. Lake Crackenback’s carparks are full of them, so it seemed the perfect place for the 2018 Subaru XV to break cover.

As the temperature dipped below -8c, Subaru revealed the XV SUV, the second car on its new Global Platform.

Check out our video HERE.

Sales have been kind to Subaru, and although the market is slightly down on last year, Subaru’s share of it continues to rise. So, they must be doing something right. They were the first mainstream brand to have disc brakes on all models.

As the models are refreshed or replaced, the look of the exterior is taking on a more modern look. There is no doubt a family resemblance developing.

95% of the 2018 XV is new.

OZ MD, Collin Christie, says XV should have 1,000 orders by the end of June, and will sell 1,000 cars a month. There are 4 Subaru models with that level of interest.

All XVs get a 115kw/196Nm, flat 4, boxer engine coupled to a CVT transmission. Subaru dropped the manual option because only a small percentage of buyers want one.

We’d describe the power as adequate.

A 6.5” touch screen with CarPlay/Android auto, and a drive line with torque vectoring is also standard across the range.

Stepping up from the entry level 2.0i, the 2.0i-L gets and larger 8” touch screen, nicer cloth on the seats, dual zone air, electric folding mirrors with indicator repeaters, Eyesight driver assist with lane keep assist,  and a partial leather steering wheel.

The 2.0i Premium adds an electric glass sunroof and TomTom Satnav (with 3 years of free map upgrades).

The top-of-the-range 2.0i-S gets: auto headlights and wipers, heated front seats, heated mirrors, High Beam Assist, partial leather seats, electric driver’s seat, LED headlights that move with the steering wheel, and Daytime Running Lights. It also gets Vision Assist features of: Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Reverse Auto Braking. The wheels increase in size from 17” to 18”.

X-Mode works under 40kph and along with Hill Descent Control keep the XV stable on bad roads. Our video shows an XV tackling a very steep off-road track. You do not need to use brakes because the Subaru will do it for you.

Models fitted with Autonomous Emergency Braking (compulsory on the base models from next year for 5 star safety ratings) will sense low speed crashes and apply braking to avoid it. This works both forwards and backwards.

Repeated applications of this system will cause it to switch off, meaning the car needs to be re-started for reset. It is not a toy, nor should it be relied on. Nothing takes the place of good driving, and Subaru stresses, that at all times, the driver must remain aware and in control.

Lane keep assist will help keep the car in the centre of the lane, and will warn the driver if it thinks the driver is not providing enough input.


The look is far less chunky than the outgoing car.

At the front end, there is a now-familiar Subaru corporate look. Attractive sculptured headlights and a hexagonal grille look neat, yet distinctive. Headlights are halogen, except the LEDs on the 2.0i-S.

There is a character line running the length of the doors, which Subaru calls the “dynamic blade”.

The top model has an electric rear tailgate, and 18” wheels with split spokes, which have a premium look to them.


Even the base model has a quality feel. There are cubby holes for you to keep your bits and bobs, and all controls are laid out in a logical and thoughtful manner.

There is an LCD mounted high on the dash to display vehicle status. Below that is the infotainment system. When plugged in to the front USB port an Apple (Carplay) or Android (Android Auto) phone will display some phone apps on the screen. It is easy to flick between the XV screens, and the phone’s apps, such as music, maps and messages.

Using Siri means fully handsfree operation via “Hey Siri”. Current IOS allows uses to say what you want do, and provided the phone has reception, the internet is your oyster.

You can make/receive calls, accept/compose/send texts, and ask Siri for all manner of help, by simply using normal conversational speech. This avoids the inevitable zombie-effect of drivers staring down at their screens.

By saying “Hey Siri” and waiting for the “bongs”, you can ask it to take you home, and it will bring up Maps to your place.

If you don’t have decent reception, you can use the TomTom Satnav where fitted.

The cabin is very comfortable. It’s easy to get exactly the right driving position. There is plenty space for you and your things. Plugging your phone cannot be done on the move unless you have a friend to do it for you.

The USB is behind the gear lever in a small cubby hole. I’ve had the same problem in other brands. It isn’t a deal breaker, but you do have to be aware of it. It’s best to put a cable in, and leave it there.

The drive:

The ride is excellent over all road surfaces, even rough unsealed ones. Potholed back-tracks are a doddle.

Subaru took us on open roads with varying surfaces, and the overall impression is that the XV is incredibly capable. We did a short stint on a closed private road inside a disused quarry.

On smooth tarmac, the steering tends to be a bit too light for my taste. Electric assistance robs a certain amount of “road feel” from almost all modern cars. However, you quickly get used to it.

Now to the drivetrain.

The feel of CVTs is different to a manual gearbox, or conventional automatic transmission.

There are no gears as such. CVT transmissions continually vary the drive ratios, so the engine is always in the right rev band for the situation.

At cruise, the revs are low to decrease fuel consumption, but under extreme loads, such as taking off from lights, the revs are high. This keeps the torque and power where it can be easily accessed.

Some don’t like the sound of an engine revving at top spin while the car slowly catches up to that sound. Subaru have gotten around that by stepping the ratios when under load. The CVT then imitates traditional gearboxes. While it isn’t quite the same, the sound is quite so frightening.

The minimum RON fuel rating is 90, meaning the XV will run on juice from any pump except diesel and E85. No longer will you have to hunt, and pay for, the expensive tipple.

At 8.8L/100k around town, you should get 715k out of a 63L tank of petrol. On the highway, you can expect 6L/100k which should get you from Sydney to Melbourne, or Brisbane, on a single tank with fuel to spare. That was previously only something you’d get from a diesel engine.

Low speed maneuvering is easy with reversing cameras standard across the range.

Eyesight not only allows the XV to have a suite of safety features, but a convenience that can’t be underestimated.

Active Cruise Control will slow the car to a stop if the traffic in front slows to a stop. It will then wait until the traffic moves again, and will let you know if you don’t then follow suit. You have the option of continuing cruise control by blipping the accelerator or flicking the “resume” button.

Eyesight uses windscreen mounted cameras rather than radar mounted behind the grille. This reduces the repair costs of minor dingles by keeping the infrastructure safely out of harm’s way. If you’ve mangled your windscreen, you’ve got bigger problems than a scratched bumper.

Subaru should eventually roll out Eyesight to all models.

XV will appeal to the person who wants to cart lots of things in the back. A sport type has plenty of room for scuba gear, or rock climbing ropes, and doggy types have space for their pooches without getting hair on the seats.

I expected all of the above, but I did not expect off-roading to be as competent as it was. Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive is standard on all Subarus, except the delicious BRZ. An impressive 220mm ground clearance allows XV to scamper up steep dirt tracks. It opens up camping spots not normally accessible and a hatchback, especially one costing a touch over 35 grand.


Subaru’s 2018 XV is a pearler. The attractive exterior is matched by a classy cabin, and capable drivetrain. It drives like a car, and can go almost anywhere a proper 4WD can.

There is a ton of space in a car on a new platform at the beginning of its life. It is packed full of features that are both useful and convenient, but above all is safe.

Subaru has an excellent reputation for longevity and toughness.

I’d call it understated rather than brash or showy, and will appeal to the buyer who likes to stay connected. Subaru is shamelessly going after a younger, hip, modern, buyer, and they’ve hit the bullseye.

I have no doubt some will say it is underpowered, but power is not the aim. Of course, a range topper with a tiny little turbo would be great, and maybe one such concept can be coaxed from the Japanese car maker in the future.

First mainstream brand to have 5 star ratings across the range.

For now, you can go anywhere you like, without needing a massive garage to house your car when you get home.

Would I buy one?: Yes. It is great value and a pleasure to drive.


2.0i                     $27,990

2.0i-L                  $30,340

2.0i Premium     $32,140

2.0i-S                  $35,240

Engine:               2.0L, petrol, 4cyl flat 4 “boxer”, direct injection

Economy:           7.0L/100k combined city/highway cycle

CO2:                   159g/km

Transmission:    CVT (no manual available in Australia)

Warranty:          5yrs if delivered before end of June, 3 yrs unlimited k’s thereafter

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