Inspection of Subaru's new SVX at the auto
shows ought to have convinced us that this is the car to finally
break completely with the Fuji subsidiary's utilitarian style. But
it was a 3250-mile trip from Oregon to Ann Arbor that really demonstrated
how climactic the shift in market focus has been.
In fact, Subaru of America is so perplexed by the position its
new model occupies on the crowded U.S. sales chart that it has been
accepting pitches from various advertising agencies in its search
for a way to market the car. Early direct-mail probes have revealed
poor response from the usual Subaru strongholds in the Northeast
and Rockies states, and warm response from former Subaru dead zones
like Southern California.
And why not? The SVX is a car more in the vein of the Dodge Stealth
and the Nissan 300ZX than it is like any Loyale or Legacy. And its
Giugiaro styling is so original and quirky that it is likely to
attract sharply individualistic supporters. But let's face it, with
a great new flat-six powerplant and electronically controlled four-speed
automatic, a full-time four-wheel driveline with computer-controlled
torque-split function, four-channel ABS, and an interior lined in
cool faux suede, this is an identity problem many carmakers wish
Obviously, the most contentious aspect of the car is its window-within-a-window
glasshouse, with the strange black seals that bisect its panes.
After driving the car, however, the matter recedes into utter insignificance,
and the black lines begin to look as normal as the frames of sunglasses.
advantages of the huge sweeps of glass (which meet outside
the body pillars) far outweigh the slightly unusual appearance.
Besides, you can drive with the windows down with little turbulence,
and the car's drag coefficient is a class-leading 0.29.
But it's not only in the window area that the SVX is unusual. Consider
the engine. It's a flat-six with a displacement of 3.3 liters and
four-valve combustion chambers controlled by two cams per bank.
The exhaust cams are belt driven, and the inlet cams are driven
off them via "scissors" gears--gears split to handle lash.
The cylinders are fed in appropriate sequence by dual-nozzle injectors
and fired by direct-ignition modules. Air induction is manipulated
by a twin-throttle, dual-volume plenum that separates or connects
two spaces to suit the engine's optimal intake resonances, and this
bumps the torque curve abundantly both in the midrange and in the
The result is 230 bhp at 5400 rpm and 224 pounds-feet of torque
at 4400 rpm. If you think that sounds pretty good, you ought to
hear the exhaust note. It's so silky smooth that it makes the Porsche
911 (another flat-six, remember) sound utterly ragged. There's no
wobble or waver in the solid sweet note from the twin tailpipes
as it changes from a low, muted hum to the urgent--but still quiet--hornlike
Step on the pedal at a stop sign, and the SVX takes off on a generous
surge of torque, with the kind of response many people will equate
with a big V-8. Because the opposed engine has no primary or secondary
vibration characteristics and the four-wheel-drive transmission
is so well integrated, the SVX leaves with smooth, almost hydraulic
thrust. And with considerable poise, too, thanks to well-subdued
squat and dive motions.