When a company sets out to conquer any given market, they often start out by showing the world just how unique their products are, by creating something that is way outside of what it expected within that market. While that creativity may provide rewards in the form of media exposure and consumer interest, it doesn’t necessarily result in sales that are strong enough to overthrow the traditional leaders.
In the automotive market, where mainstream consumers often look at vehicles as an appliance. Take the two most recent Hyundai Elantra models as an example: The company had already proven the quality of their cars, so they created a super sexy version that looked unlike anything available. They won a whole bunch of conquest sales, but when it came time for a redesign, they dialed the style back in favour of a more mature look. More like a Camry or Accord. Why? Because those two cars are the standard of the market. Gold star appliances that non-car people line up for and for good reason, they are really, really good cars. They just aren’t exactly cars that inspire passion and that is fine, because they sell and car companies are in the business of selling cars.
So why am I going on about the Elantra, Accord and Camry in a review of the Subaru Legacy? Well, I was visiting a friend’s garage one day during the week and as he glanced out of the bay door, he asked “is that an Accord or a Camry?” He wasn’t kidding, he was sure it was one or the other, but couldn’t quite figure it out.
So, what Subaru is offering with the Legacy is a mid to large sized sedan that has a pleasant, somewhat generic shape that can easily be mistaken for the two benchmark models in the segment. That is a good thing. Perhaps more importantly, for the brand loyalists at least, the Legacy drives more like a Subaru. Even with one of the quietest cabins that Subaru has ever offered, the thrum of the company’s signature flat-4 powerplant is always there. For fans, that is comforting. Those new to the brand likely won’t notice, because the cabin is so quiet.
Rather than go the traditional new car review route and prattle on about the driving experience, let me get straight to the reasons that I truly believe the Legacy is the best value in the segment.
Base Price: Canada U.S.A.
2017 Honda Accord $24,590 $22,455
2017 Subaru Legacy $23,495 $21,995
2017 Toyota Camry $25,170 $23,070
There is more to just having the cheapest entry fee though.
Even at its lowest trim level, the Subaru offers all wheel drive, where the other two entries are only available with front wheel drive.
The Canadian consumer, and those in much of the northern half of the States, has to drive in Winter. That means snow. That means that traction is important. The least expensive of these three choices in the segment includes one of the most important mobility features on the market. It isn’t available in the other two.
Given that most of the buyers in this segment might as well be shopping for a new refrigerator, it seems to me that the unit with the lowest price, yet has the most important extra feature is included, is the smartest decision.
Our tester was a mid-range Touring model with a few goodies that the base model does not include. Most importantly for this household, it was equipped with a manual transmission. The Touring package also includes sunroof, passive driver aids and an easy to use infotainment system with a bright 7″ touch display.
Cloth seats are cozy on a cold morning and the back seat is large enough to be comfortable for 3 teens. The trunk is suitably large for the day to day needs of most families, easily swallowing two hockey bags.
If you are in the market for a family sedan, by all means drive the Accord and Camry, you need to do that. Then, head over to your local Subaru dealer and take the Legacy for a spin. Take a look at the price. Then think about the climate you live in. If Winter weather involves white stuff, then you know what the smart thing to do is.
In a live reveal this morning at the fantastic John Basset Theatre in downtown Toronto, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada announced the Canadian Car/Utility Vehicle of the Year.
As I have for the past number of years, I had the honour of announcing the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, which for 2017 is the Subaru Forester. Program director David Taylor joined me in the announcement, by crowning the Volkswagen Alltrack the Canadian Car of the Year.
Since 1985, AJAC has named the Canadian Car of the Year as a tool to aid consumers who are researching a new vehicle purchase. As the program has evolved over the years, the Canadian Truck of the Year distinction was added and then morphed into the Utility title in a nod to the increasing presence of crossover vehicles into the light truck segment.
A full year of planning goes into the award each year, the highlight of which is the annual Testfest event, where Canada’s top automotive journalists spend the better part of a week evaluating vehicles. Of course the awards ceremony is the most visible and important aspect of the program, but while a week of testing cars is actually work, it is good fun too.
This was the program’s first year on the stage in the stunning John W.H. Basset theatre, having opened the show in past years, in a secondary hall in the South building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The announcements followed the global unveiling of Aston Martin’s stunning new AM-RB 001 concept vehicle. The combination of the two events kicked off the show in a fashion more in keeping with some of the more prominent shows on the global circuit. More on that in a story to follow.
The intention was to shoot for a win in the production class, but when it came time to perform, returning Canadian rally star “Crazy Leo” Urlichich pulled it all together in spectacular fashion to win the Canadian Rally Championship portion of the 2017 Rallye Perce Neige.
In the early morning stages, Subaru Canada Rally Team ace Antoine L’Estage, paired with returning co-driver Alan Ockwell, was fastest on the road, with Urlichich hanging out in the top five, just a handful of seconds behind L’Estage’s open class machine. Canadian rally legend Frank Sprongl assured me via Facebook that Antoine’s style was more suited to the fast and open forest stages which were to follow. Unfortunately for L’Estage, that was not to happen, as technical gremlins left him wrestling with a mostly rear wheel drive Subaru.
By Special Stage 6, Urlichich had won his first stage and not long after was running in third position overall behind American Rally Association entries David Higgins and Travis Pastrana.
Always a fan favourite thanks to his flamboyant driving style, Urlichich commented through the day that the addition of studded tires, which are legal at Quebec events, made all the difference, offering a consistent level of grip at all times.
By the completion of the final stage, Higgins had won the overall event and the ARA portion, followed by teammate Pastrana. Urlichich took third spot in both, while claiming the overall win in the Canadian championship.
Teams now have until May to prepare their machines for the Rocky Mountain Rally in B.C.
Image credit: Maciej Janiak
There comes a time in a man’s life where one of his best friends bestows upon him the honour of being the best man at his wedding. Several months ago, one of my best friends, Andrew, asked if I was willing to be his best man. I, of course, happily accepted.
Betcha didn’t think you’d be reading about a wedding when you clicked on the link to this Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid review, did ya? Don’t worry, I’ll get to the car stuff shortly.
This trip was to be a bit of a trek (pun intended) as the wedding was not in the Greater Vancouver area where I reside, but in fact at a beautiful vineyard/orchard (named Kurtz Orchards) in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
As many of my readers know, much of the driving in my reviews is city-based. I figured this would be a unique opportunity to take a vehicle on a proper out-of-town road trip and give it a full road test.
“You’re driving us in what to the wedding”, asked my fellow groomsmen.
“A plasma green Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid”, I answered, “…but it’s cool!”, I added with some apprehensiveness.
“What the heck is a XV Crosstrek?” was the reply I got back.
To the uninitiated, the Subaru XV Crosstrek hybrid is a relatively new vehicle in the Subaru line-up and somewhat of a category buster. There really isn’t anything out there that is directly comparable, especially in hybrid form.
The XV Crosstrek is supposed to offer the benefits of a crossover (better visibility due to the raised seating position, ample cargo room, and increase ground clearance) and also the advantages of a hatchback (superior handling and better fuel economy).
When North American dealers first saw the XV, originally conceived as a way for Subaru to capitalize on the small-SUV trend in Europe, they convinced Subaru’s top brass that it would be a hit with young urban families. And so we have them to thank for bringing the vehicle to our shores.
After decades of successful “Outback” branding to separate the Subaru Outback from the standard Legacy wagon, the company hopes to repeat the success with the XV Crosstrek as well by separating it from the Impreza namesake. But the XV Crosstrek is still essentially an Impreza hatchback with a bit more crossover utility.
Compared to Subaru’s own Forester, the XV is 4.1” lower, 4.3” shorter, but shares the same width. Engineers have worked in additional ride height (versus the Impreza hatchback) for a total of 22 cm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance.
Tough and tumble plastic cladding helps the XV Crosstrek to further stand out from its donor platform and look more utilitarian.
Note that the Plasma Green paint job on my test vehicle is a colour unique to only the hybrid versions of the XV Crosstrek.
This includes all of your most wanted bits and bobs including a moonroof, HID headlights, LED taillights, iPod/USB audio integration with Bluetooth phone and streaming audio capabilities.
The interior is typical Subaru. Attractive enough, highly functional, well-equipped, but not exactly luxurious.
The cabin was surprisingly spacious for a compact vehicle and easily swallowed up our suitcases, camera gear, laptops, and more. The rear seatbacks still fold flat for larger cargo and because the battery capacity of the hybrid system is only 0.55 kWh, its packaging is virtually invisible.
As for the seats, the back seat room is more than sufficient in the outboard positions. Both front and rear seats were comfortable enough for the 2-3 hour trek between the airport and Niagara Falls. My rear passenger even had the chance to get comfortable and catch a few winks in between cities!
Flanking the typical no nonsense instrument cluster is what Subaru calls their MFD (Multi-Function display). The 4.3” screen can be configured to display a wide variety of information including fuel consumption, range to empty, torque distribution, and many other car settings. The screen, while small, is at least high resolution enough to be highly usable. It allows endless tweaking and a huge variety of adjustable features.
The rearview camera’s video feed also shows up on this display.
The downside of the MFD is that its menu interface seems to have been designed by the same people who design programmable thermostats. In short, it’s not exactly intuitive and the adjustments are done via steering wheel button controls and not a touchscreen. As such it can be quite awkward until you get the hang of it.
I found myself having to cycle through the menu a couple times to get to a the same function because I pressed the wrong button the first time around.
Despite being in the press fleet for some time now, my test vehicle’s settings were mostly unchanged from the factory defaults. I have a feeling that many of my fellow journalists never even came close to using the MFD’s full set of features or took the time to read the owner’s manual to figure out how to do so.
Few things are more important on a road trip than a decent sound system and the Crosstrek didn’t disappoint. Its 6 speaker system was much better than expected thanks to good frequency separation. Subaru even offers a number of speaker and tweeter upgrades as dealer-installed accessories for those wanting more.
In addition to the typical USB hook-up in the centre console, Bluetooth audio streaming was relatively easy to setup even on the standard non-touchscreen head unit.
If there is one other minor interior item I have to gripe about, it’s that the centre console armrest slides fore and aft a bit too easily (at least in my test vehicle) making it more annoying than useful.
SO HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Ah the beauty of All-Wheel Drive. Like other Subarus, the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is equipped with Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Although there isn’t the same level of adjustability that one would find in the Subaru WRX or STI, the XV’s sure-footed nature was still confidence inspiring.
While plowing along the mud or puddle-filled dirt tracks in the vineyard where the wedding was taking place, not once did the car falter on the slippery surfaces.
The XV Crosstrek’s raised ride height also paid dividends as it breezed through these surfaces without jostling the bridesmaids’ carefully quaffed hairdos out of place.
Powering the hybrid Crosstrek is more or less the same 2.0 litre horizontally opposed boxer 4-cylinder engine that is found on non-hybrid models. However the engineers have bumped up the compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 10.8:1 and have fitted it with a thin electric drive motor to supplement the gas engine.
Although the small electric motor only makes 13 hp, it boosts the vehicle’s torque figures by a useful 48 ft-lbs from a low 0 to 1,500 rpms. Subsequently the hybrid Crosstrek ends up with 161 hp and 193 ft-lbs of torque versus 148 hp and 145 ft-lbs of torque in the standard gas-only car.
The electric drive’s effect is most noticeable when moving out across an intersection after a stop light, accelerating or climbing hills, or even when executing passing manoeuvres.
It quickly became a game for me to try to keep the vehicle in EV-only mode for as long as possible.
Transport Canada rates the hybrid at 6.9L/100 kms in the city and 6.0L/100 kms on the highway. In contrast the non-hybrid version is rated at 8.2L/100 kms in the city but the same 6.0L/1000kms on the highway.
My real world road test resulted in an average of 8.5L/100 kms in a mix of highway and city driving with the vehicle loaded with 3 passengers and luggage for much of the time.
After 5 days of driving between Mississauga, Niagara Falls, and Niagara-on-the-Lake, we were still left with ¼ tank of fuel when we pulled into the gas station by Subaru press office. I have to say that I was impressed even though the XV is not as efficient of a hybrid as others out there on the market.
Little did I know how big a part the Crosstrek would play in making the wedding the glorious success that it was. Not only did it function as reliable transport for three groomsmen to their friend’s wedding, but also as the wedding gift repository and more!
It lived up to expectation as a go-anywhere vehicle for the urban off-road enthusiast that is unlikely to see anything more challenging than logging roads, dirt paths leading to camp grounds, or snow covered ski slopes.
I have to credit Subaru for taking a good crack at their very first hybrid vehicle. It would’ve been easier for them to develop a mild-hybrid (one that never goes into pure EV mode) and then slap a hybrid badge on for mostly marketing purposes, but they didn’t.
Sure, the XV Crosstrek hybrid isn’t perfect. Given the $3,000 price delta between the hybrid and the non-hybrid Sport Package vehicle, one could wish for better fuel economy and more power from the electric motor.
However, the car is sure to find its fans amongst those who are looking for all-wheel-drive safety and security to get through Canadian winters, but unwilling to compromise for front-wheel-drive hybrid such as the Toyota Prius.
For the recent launch of the new 2015 WRX STI, Subaru Canada took a bunch of Canuck auto journos to Buttonwillow Raceway, where they were introduced to a driver worthy of showing them what the STI is capable of. Tommi Mäkinen. We all get to go on some pretty cool events, but still I can’t help but feel jealous that I was not part of this trip. I mean come on, this is Tommi freakin Mäkinen, a real rally superstar. Watching him catch air in this bone stock, Canadian spec STI is most excellent, but it would have been better in person.
Just a note for some of you young bucks who might think that Mäkinen was solely a Mitsu pilot. Sure, his fame came from his performance in Subaru’s main rival’s machines, but the final two seasons of his career were spent in a Subaru. It is actually kind of frightening to think that the Finn retired fully 11 years ago! It seems like yesterday.
On stage A7 at Tall Pines a couple of months ago, I met an interesting camera crew. They were working on a multi camera experiment with Pat Richard’s Subaru. The plan was to mount 4 separate cameras and then allow viewers to choose which one they want to watch. Cool stuff.
Even cooler, they have now shared a video from stage A4.
A couple of weeks ago, the Canadian rally community celebrated 50 years with a Celebration in Toronto. Past Canadian Rally Champion Randy Black tells us about the event.
A FIFTIETH CELEBRATION OF CANADIAN RALLYING
For those who couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make the Celebration, I offer this synopsis. Enter the foyer of the Double Tree Hotel on Dixon Road near Pearson Airport and there were five rally cars representing five decades of rallying. A MK II Cortina, a 510, TaistoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬â„¢82 Celica painted as it was campaigned that year, SpronglÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Audi Quattro and a Subaru Canada WRX grabbed the eye of all who walked through the foyer.