Crosstrek XV is gaining popularity among mountain bikers as illustrated by this photo yesterday at a trail head in Belmont, CA.
Update: March 20, 2014 – Long Term Update
Our Crosstrek XV is about a year old now with more than 13,000 miles. It has performed flawlessly on several road trips, off-road adventures and daily errands around town. There have been zero issues with it and the only maintenance trips so far are for oil changes.
The motor has a bit of a rough idle when cold as it seems to shift between 1000 and 800 rpm a bit. It also has more knocking during acceleration when cold. So it’s best to warm it up and wait for the ‘blue’ icon on the dash to go away before pressing hard on the accelerator. And this car is really best when one cruises at a relaxed pace around town or on the freeway. It gets up to speed with little noise and effort. Mash the accelerator hard and the car makes all kinds of groaning noises with its engine and transmission.
The car really displayed its core strength during a three-day test ride in Soquel Demo Forest in Santa Cruz, CA. We gained access to some steep fire roads and the Crosstrek felt right at home on the rutted and loose fire roads. It seemed to pivot and dance around corners with control. With four bikes and five adults loaded, it tackled a 1000 foot climb and 10% grades with no problem. Descending the steep fire road too was fully controlled and actually fun.
So there is the continuing saga of the Crosstrek XV. At the trail head yesterday, there were two other Crosstreks parked beside us. We chatted with the owners and they were almost as excited talking about their cars as they were with their bikes.
Update: October 8, 2013 – Long Term Update
I have 5000 miles on the Crosstrek now and I’ve fielded many questions at the trailhead from folks asking about the car. So this seems like a good time to update this review.
Bike Hauling Abilities
Bottom line, this is what the car is for and it has performed the task admirably. I either use a Yakima HoldUp rack or a 1UpUSA hitch rack and the car works well with either one. Since the Crosstrek is high off the ground, the rack is elevated too and has no issues bottoming out whatsover on steep parking lots or rough dirt roads.
Currently, I actually prefer the Yakima HoldUp since it is so compact and it is easier to use. The Yakima pretty much folds to 3/4 its normal size with the collapsing wheel tray. It is smooth with no sharp edges and it’s very easy to fold up, down or tilt to open the hatch. Plus it’s got a bolt through the 1 1/4 hitch mount for a more secure connection with the car.
The 1UpUSA delivers a cleaner, stealth look and the license plate is actually visible even with two trays. It is easier to install/remove from the vehicle since there’s no bolt to thread through the hitch. It works with a ball cam system that tightens with a special wrench. However, this kind of system is not as secure and the cam can loosen over a period of time or when driving on very rough roads. And this will cause the hitch and the bikes to fall from the vehicle.
I opted for a 1 1/4 instead of a 2 inch receiver hitch to make it less visible under the car. The trade-off here is the hitch racks can only take a max of two bike instead of four. Also, the bikes will have more movement when in rough roads with the 1 1/4 hitch.
When transporting four bikes, I opted for the Thule roof mounting system which has strong rubber straps that latch on to the factory rails. These seem to work very well but getting bikes up there is always a bit of a struggle as the vehicle is high and there’s no perfect place to place your feet when climbing up.
Four adults, four bikes and all their gear fit perfectly in this vehicle as long as no one is a pack rat. A road trip with this many folks will be a struggle.
What About the Power?
Or lack of it? I’m happy to report that Crosstrek with 146 horses has enough power for me with the CVT transmission. The Crosstrek has a great tranny and it seems like the power is always there the second you step on the gas. We thought the car was quick around town and it really is as 0-30 acceleration is very lively. Midrange power is no good under heavy load getting up to around 70 mph. After that, it settles in and drops in to a high gear as it seems to cruise with ease.
So it’s quick and easy to drive around town. But if you mash the pedal and look at the 0-60 times of 9.8 seconds, you will be disappointed. But we’ve taken the car, fully loaded up the Grapevine I-5 and I-80 to Tahoe and it had no problems cruising up at 70 mph. The CVT transmission can get loud under load but the car just finds the right gearing and climbs away. But if you live in the high mountains or have to do a lot of passing on two-lane roads, this may not be the car for you. There’s enough power at sea level to get this car around. But if you’re looking for thrills or a fun car then the Subaru Crosstrek cannot deliver. And since there are no engine options, buyers may need to look somewhere else.
The mileage claim of 33 mpg is legitimate. You can do better than that or worse than that depending on conditons but that is pretty much spot on in our opinion. 27-28 on the city is confirmed as well. And since this is not a fast accelerating car, that’s pretty much what you’ll experience in terms of real-world mileage. See, the Crosstrek is fun and capable when you just cruise around without mashing the throttle. And that’s when you’ll see the best economy. The big variable on the highway is speed. When you get close to 80mph and beyond, the mileage dives pretty severely. The RPMs of the motor climb quite a bit and the bad aerodynamics and height of the car get the best of it. On several runs on I5 averaging 82 mph, our highway mileage dropped to 27 mpg.
Off Road Ability and Handling
With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and the Subaru drivetrain, the Crosstrek has had no issues so far with the terrain we’ve thrown at it. It’s had no issues at all with dirt roads and rough, dirt lots we’ve taken it to.
Handling is surprisingly good for a car of this height. There’s a little body roll at the limit and the tires will let their presence known under hard cornering. At freeway speeds, the car can be a little fidgety and the driver has to focus a bit more than other cars to keep it centered in the lane.
We love this car and it will stay in the family until the next generation.