Subaru expands powerplant possibilities with hybrid

Subaru's Crosstrek hybrid model unites a 2-liter, boxer four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to produce 161 horsepower.  A continuously variable transmission is standard.
Subaru's Crosstrek hybrid model unites a 2-liter, boxer four-cylinder engine with an electric motor to produce 161 horsepower.  A continuously variable transmission is standard.

Subaru added a hybrid model to the Crosstrek for 2014. It is an option to the 2-liter gasoline-only powerplant, which is in two trim levels, the $21,995 base and $24,495 Limited.

The hybrid is $25,995 in its base format and $29,295 in Touring trim (sunroof, leather, 6.1-inch touch screen, navigation with voice controls, smartphone hookup, high definition and satellite radio).

In national advertising, Subaru touts the hybrid “as the most fuel-efficient, all-wheel-drive hybrid crossover in America.”

This is slightly deceptive advertising as hybrid sedans or crossovers, as a rule, are front-wheel-drive vehicles. Subaru is exclusively AWD on its vehicular products.

Crossovers are sedans with a raised suspension (8.7-inch ground clearance), maybe a tow hook or two and a rear liftgate that opens to a load floor, which can approximate 35 to 50 cubic feet of storage space or more when rear seats are folded flat. The Crosstrek qualifies as a crossover on those counts.

A Crosstrek crossover that was tested recently averaged 29.7 miles per gallon of unleaded regular gasoline. This is honest and good fuel usage for a vehicle that weighs 3,451 pounds, constantly drives four wheels and, during the test week, carried two adults (350 combined pounds) who mercilessly drove the 2-liter engine hard on mostly interstates and county roads.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Crosstrek’s combined city and highway fuel usage at 31 mpg.

The Crosstrek does well in city, crowded environments as the battery does most of the work at speeds of less than 25 mph. The non-hybrid Crossstrek has a combined city and highway fuel usage of 28 mpg.

There is a $1,500 premium to be paid for a hybrid Crosstrek. Shoppers might want to keep this in mind as the fuel usage is not all that great between hybrid and non-hybrid Crosstreks.

The 2-liter, four-cylinder engine in the Crosstrek hybrid combines with an electric motor which gives the vehicle an additional 13 horsepower for a total of 161. Otherwise, the Crosstrek is a 148-horsepower crossover. Tested media acceleration with the hybrid is 0 to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds with one adult aboard. That acceleration is similar to a Mitsubishi Outlander and MINI Cooper Countryman in basic engine dress, if that power comparison of crossovers means anything to anybody.

A continuously variable transmission is mated to the powerplant, which includes stop and start technology. This technology is great for stop and go city traffic and is accommodating in other situations as well.

Let’s say a wife tells her husband to stop at a grocery store to pick up a few extra groceries for lunch and dinner. He does just that and parks in the store lot but leaves the engine “running” and in park while his wife does the shopping.

Except that the engine is not running. The battery pack has taken over and runs the accessories, such as the air conditioning, if it is 85 degrees outside, and the radio, which is tuned to a Chicago Cubs or White Sox baseball game. When the spouse returns with the groceries, the husband shifts into gear (reverse or forward) and the Crosstrek begins to move. No need to play with the ignition at all since the power has not been turned off.

The battery pack is stored underneath the rear floor, which reduces the cargo area from 22.3 to 20.6 cubic feet behind the upright split and fold rear seats. When the seats are folded flat, the storage area expands to 50.2 cubic feet, which is more than the 41.3 in the Countryman but less than the 63.3 in the Outlander. The Outlander, though, is a longer three-row, seven-passenger, not a two-row, five-passenger crossover. So when its two rear seats are folded flat, more cargo area can be expected.

This is Subaru’s first go-round with a full hybrid. The Crosstrek is based on the Impreza sedan, but its practical nature is based on the Legacy Outback. One can call the Crosstrek a wagon with a raised suspension and not be far off the mark.

A hooded information window centered at the top of the dashboard includes a clock, outside and inside temperatures and the average fuel usage.

Standard amenities on the base hybrid model include power windows (express for driver up and down), door locks, and exterior mirrors. There are remote keyless entry and pushbutton start.

Redundant audio controls are mounted on the leather-wrapped and tilt steering wheel. The six-speaker sound system includes AM-FM stereo radio, compact disc player, iPod integration, USB connection and an auxiliary audio input jack.

Niceties include intermittent wipers front and rear, dual lighted vanity mirrors on the visors, map lights, front and rear floor mats, cruise control, air conditioning, rear defogger, tachometer and compass. Safety features include front airbags, side airbags (for front seats) and overhead curtains for both seating rows. Standard safety fare also includes a four-wheel antilock braking system, stability control, daytime running lamps, child safety locks, child seat anchors/tethers, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Turn signal indicators are in normal positions front and rear, but they also blink in the heated side mirrors. Five headrests are adjustable and mechanically tuned for whiplash protection.

The suspension system on this 175.2-inch long crossover includes stabilizer bars, arms, shock absorbers and coil springs. The P225 17-inch radial tires are mounted on alloy wheels.

With the boxer engine (four pistons horizontally opposed to each other), Subaru claims its symmetrical AWD gets greater grip for each tire and, thus, better road response. With a mechanical center differential and limited slip differential, Subaru vehicles are built for traction in winter ice and snow.

The strut and wishbone suspension system includes stabilizer bars, shock absorbers and coil springs. There is some lean on sharp corners at relatively modest speeds.

The Crosstrek carries a three-year, 36,000-mile limited warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance and a five-year or 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Crosstreks went on sale in the United States in 2012.

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