What’s it like?
Theoretically, this new e-Boxer unit should help to right some of those wrongs. It sees a small 16bhp electric motor (and 118V battery) paired to the existing 148bhp 2.0-litre flat four, which combine to drive all four wheels via a gently recalibrated version of Subaru’s CVT. This makes driving the XV on electric power alone a possibility, but don’t assume this is a bonafide Toyota-style hybrid powertrain.
In fact, the instances where you rely on electricity for forward propulsion are fairly fleeting. Keep your speed below 25mph and all but remove your foot from the throttle and you might be successful in achieving a few seconds of electric drive. Even from step-off the combustion engine will kick in after mere metres – and kick in it does. There’s a noticeable shunt from the driveline as the engine sparks to life and the CVT flares its revs in anticipation, before you set of in the usual slightly noisy fashion we’ve become accustomed to in Subaru products.
That said, if you lift off the throttle when travelling at speed the petrol engine will shut down, allowing for emissions-free coasting. It’s instances such as these that, Subaru says, contribute to the e-Boxer being up to 10% more fuel efficient than the standard 2.0-litre unit.
The electric motor also contributes to a minor improvement in accelerative responsiveness, too, though this is very much still a powertrain that needs to be worked hard. The combustion engine’s 143lb ft of torque comes in at 4000rpm, but you need to push past 4500rpm to make what feels like meaningful progress. Just be prepared for the cacophony of noise from the engine and the CVT – not to mention the dip in economy – that accompanies such behaviour.
This leaves you with the sense this hybridised powertrain is best suited to low-speed, stop-start urban environments rather than open-road settings. But even here, it lacks the refinement of the full-fat hybrid architecture you’d find in, say, a RAV4 or a Corolla. Toyota has been doing this for far longer than Subaru, however, so perhaps we’ll see the e-Boxer powertrain become smoother and more coherent in time.