Always hankered for a Citroen? The Subaru SVX is the closest thing we’ve gotten to one these past few decades. I find the resemblance to the XM more than coincidental. Which is a bit odd (or not) considering that the XM beat the SVX to the market by a few years (1989). And the XM was styled by Bertone, while arch-rival Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Ital design did the SVX. A case of great minds thinking alike? Or just the styling cliches de jour? Given the Subaru’s “aircraft-inspired glass-to-glass canopy” with the very unusual windows within windows, the SVX was actually more “Citroen” then the real thing. No wonder it’s such a curious oddity today.
A replacement for the almost-equally “progressive” XT Coupe (coming to CC soon), the SVX was an ambitious attempt to show the world that Subaru could do more than crank out funky little AWD wagons for Vermonters and Oregonians. It turned out to be too ambitious, especially at its price. The LSL version stickered at $28k in ’92 ($42k adjusted). That was problematic, given that it appeared in the middle of a recession. The SVX never lived up to Subaru’s sales expectations, and only some 14k of them were sold during its five years (’92-’97) on the US market.
The SVX’s engine was a further development of the boxer six that first showed up in the XT6 a few years earlier. Now it sported DOHC heads and 3.3 liters, but its 230 hp weren’t exactly earth shattering, even for the times (and price). And due to its struggle with weight (3600 lbs), performance was more garde than avant. Zero to sixty came in 7.3 seconds; the quarter mile in 15.4/92 mph. Obviously, the SVX wasn’t going to offer the performance to bucks ratio of a Mustang GT.
Subaru’s manual transmission wasn’t up to the H6′s twist, so it was automatic only. The word on the street is that the automatic is overstressed too, and very fragile. Buyer beware! And although conceived of as an AWD all-the-time coupe, Subaru sold some FWD versions during ’94-’95 in an effort to keep the price down. It was still too steep, and the market for cars like this was just melting away during the nineties.
It’s said that Subaru lost some $3k per SVX sold, or a total of $75 million. But a major part of its existence was to be a halo car, and in that respect, those numbers aren’t exactly terrible. The next Subaru coupe, the Toyabaru, will presumably hit the sporty coupe market closer to the sweet spot, with competitive prices. And the SVX will increasingly be seen as the unique oddity it always was, the Japanese Citroen.