Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited First Test


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There’s long been a warm honesty to Subaru vehicles. They’re not flashy and not always pretty, but they will nevertheless quietly and convincingly take you places few other crossovers can manage and will keep taking you there year after year. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is no exception.

Built on the global platform that also underpins the latest Impreza, Subaru claims 90 percent of the new Crosstrek is all-new, though much seems instantly familiar. Slide in behind the wheel, thumb the starter button—or twist the old-school key if you’re in one of the entry-level models—and the engine thrums into life, quickly setting down into that distinctive throbby idle. Yep, it’s a Subaru … Under the hood is, of course, a flat-four engine that, naturally, drives all four wheels all the time. The 2018 Crosstrek’s exterior has been totally redesigned but in a way that has kept the essential character of the previous model, albeit with a touch more flair and sophistication. Same with the revamped interior, which is remarkable for the amount of rear-seat legroom in a vehicle that has essentially the same footprint as a VW Golf or Ford Focus. The 2.0i Limited is the top of the Crosstrek line. Base price is $26,295, and for that you get a CVT transmission with a seven-speed manual mode and paddle shifters, leather trimmed seats, automatic climate control, a six-way power driver’s seat, 18-inch alloys with 225/55 all-season tires, and Subaru’s suite of Starlink multimedia and connected services, including Apple Carplay. Our tester was equipped with $3,445 worth of options, most notably Subaru’s Eyesight system, which bundles together adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and precollision braking and throttle control. Other options fitted included a moonroof, sat-nav, and a Harmon Kardon audio system.

For just $30,655, the fully loaded Crosstrek 2.0i Limited looks like a helluva value. Feels it, too, the moment you take it out of your driveway. It might have 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the off-road chops to embarrass all but Jeeps and Land Rovers and the occasional Toyota, but the little Subaru rolls down the road with the quiet comfort and dignified composure of a mini luxury car. The ride is exceptional for a vehicle this size, the long travel suspension calmly damping body motions while ably suppressing impact harshness where the rubber meets the road. More importantly, though, it doesn’t all turn to mush when you point the Crosstrek down a winding two lane, though the Falken Ziex tires on the 18-inch rims don’t deliver the same consistency of feel through the steering as the Yokohama Geolanders fitted to cars with 17-inch wheels. Understand that the tires will run out of grip before the chassis runs out of talent, and the Crosstrek can be hustled from A to B with surprising pace. Well, as long as you’re driving downhill …

The reason? A chronic lack of torque. The revamped naturally aspirated 2.0-liter boxer-four now features direct injection and makes 152 hp at 6,000 rpm. But peak torque is just 145 lb-ft, and it only arrives at a buzzy 4,000 rpm. Although a smooth and willing worker, the engine simply doesn’t deliver the grunt the Crosstrek needs. Although quicker to 60 mph than the previous model, the new Crosstrek’s performance in real world, everyday driving—up hills and while merging on to freeways in particular—is, frankly, marginal. What’s more, as our road test editor Chris Walton discovered during back-to-back track testing of both manual and CVT equipped Crosstreks, opting for the six-speed stick shift doesn’t really solve the problem. “The gaps between the ratios in the manual transmission do the Crosstrek no favors,” he says. “The only reason it’s quicker to 60 mph than the CVT is because I found 0.7 second in the launch, and that lead quickly diminishes to 0.2 second over the quarter mile.” Walton actually preferred the CVT for its ability to better distribute what precious power and torque was available and for its smoothness and responsiveness when used with the paddle shifters. As you’d expect of a Subaru, the Crosstrek feels right at home off the tarmac. It lopes along bumpy dirt roads, and all that ground clearance is useful when crawling across the rougher stuff. The X-mode feature, which sets the front/rear torque split to 50/50 and activates a screen that shows information such as steering angle and an inclinometer, delivers an intuitive hill-descent control mode that allows you to adjust downhill crawl speeds with the throttle. And the system automatically disengages above 25 mph.

Subaru’s twin-camera Eyesight system offers good functionality, especially at the price. With the adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist engaged, graphics on the upper center stack show you what the system. Two caveats: The lack of torque and the CVT transmission flummox the cruise control at times, even on uphill stretches, where overcompensating for engine speed and transmission response means the Crosstrek will exceed the set speed. And the lane keep assist isn’t as smooth as some systems. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited is capable and dependable, ready to go wherever you want to go, to enable you to do whatever you want to do—your BFF on wheels. It’s an endearing little crossover that’s just a few lb-ft away from greatness.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i (Limited)
DRIVETRAIN Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.0L/152-hp/145-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve flat-4
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,284 lb (59/41%)
WHEELBASE 104.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 175.8 x 71.0 x 62.6 in
0-60 MPH 9.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.9 sec @ 80.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 131 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 125/102 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.66 lb/mile

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