Exec wheels: Refreshing simplicity

2015 SUBARU XV CROSSTREK Premium 2.0i

I sometimes wonder why everyone doesn’t drive a Subaru. Every time I get to drive the stand models – the Outback, the Legacy, the Impreza – I am impressed with the simplicity, the performance, the comfort, and the overall quality of the vehicles.

And with excellent all-wheel-drive – which Subaru calls Symmetrical AWD – in most all of its products, Subaru provides worry-free driving as a standard, not an option, which makes the price for these vehicles highly competitive. Plus, there is such reassurance in the line visible everywhere you go: there are Subarus all over the roads of Colorado, and elsewhere, in such a wide range of model years that it is immediately evident that these cars will go on and on for years.

The rap on Subaru for years was that while the line offered quality, the cars were stodgy and bereft of styling, and appealed to a small core group of people generally referred to, pejoratively, as gorp-eaters, environmentalists or worse. This is an important point: some really bad cars with sexy images sold well, so reputation has a lot more to do with intangibles that realities.

Subaru finally got the message about 10 years ago, updated its styling, made the cars somewhat larger, and greatly improved the interior details and comfort. If you look at car sales statistics over the past several years, Subaru is knocking it out of the park, particularly here in Colorado.

One of the big reasons is the Crosstrek, introduced a few years ago. It is essentially a reworked, beefed-up version of the venerable Impreza, and it obviously a rousing success. As someone who observes car trends for a living, I was amazed at how the public, especially young people, took immediately to the Crosstrek, and now you see them all over the place. It’s not just for the young: I love the car, my wife loves the car, and many people I encountered on my week-long test drive loved the car.

While I very much like the Legacy and the Outback – and my wife, I think, would choose the Outback for her car if we were in the market, and it is a great road car for the family – the Crosstrek combines everything I would want in a smaller car. It has the right size and gas mileage – 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway – for commuting and running around town; it has the AWD for the weather that frequently pops up in these environs, it has the great, aggressive, sporty look I like; it drives superbly with great simplicity; and, for my wife and I it would be a wonderful car to take to the mountains for a weekend jaunt.

And here is the best part: the base price on this XV trim of the Crosstrek Premium is $22,295 (there are four other trims, all within a couple of thousand on the base price). On my test-drive model they added, for $1,995, a Special Edition package featuring Sunrise yellow exterior paint (I would probably go with a less flamboyant color), integrated turn signals in the mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, keyless entry, push-button start and a power moonroof. Also included in the package was the Subaru Starlink 7” Multimedia Plus Audio System with Sirius Satellite radio.

They added another $1,000 for the Lineatronic continuously variable transmission, which worked beautifully. Add in $850 in destination charges and the bottom line retail was $26,140. I can say without issue that for that kind of money there isn’t much anything else on the market that competes. (There is also a Hybrid model of the Crosstrek, with a similar 2.0 liter gas engine and a 13.4-horse electric motor, raising the overall hp to 160. There are two hybrid trims, with base prices of $25,995 and $29,295).

I can’t emphasize enough the vehicle’s refreshing simplicity. With keyless entry, one-touch lock and push-button start, everything is easy. The Crosstrek drives beautifully, corners well, and with the 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, putting out some 148 hp (which feels like a lot more), there is plenty of power for around-town driving, highway cruising and mountains. The size is right for parking and commuting – not too small, not too large – the gas mileage is great, visibility is wonderful, and the comfort is above average.

I also liked all the technology connectivity. There’s a full suite of apps available, and Bluetooth hands-free phone of course, but I liked especially the fact that they didn’t put in an expensive navigation system but pointed out that with the smart phone connectivity I could use the navigation I already have on my phone through the car’s system. Moreover, the climate control system was easy to work and the AC was excellent – again, simple, efficient and fun.

I feel I should say something about the cargo area and access. There is ample cargo space in the way-back, under the easy-to-use hatch back, and when I needed extra room for two golf bags the 60/40 fold-down 2nd-row seats came down quickly and easily. This is in contrast to the perfectly awful Subaru BRZ I drove and reviewed recently where the fold-down rear seats, like everything else in the car, were a struggle. It should be noted that the BRZ, while labeled Subaru, is in fact a Toyota/Scion, and was more or less forced on Subaru because of business interactions; it is the only Subaru in the line also without AWD and shouldn’t be in the line.

There you have it: The 2015 Subaru Crosstrek is simple, easy to drive, fun to drive, easy on the pocketbook, styled with some taste and sex appeal, comfortable, roomy and overall, a great car.

RATING: FOUR WHEELS OUT OF FOUR