Curbside Classic: 1992 Subaru SVX

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Mar 29, 2014

    I remember when this post first came out a few years ago. I wondered then why anyone who had ever not owned an SVX would advise against owning one. I can assurevprospectivevbuyers. Go ahead! You'll love bit! In 2010 we had Just gotten back to Calif ( northern calif the real California) from 2 years in Ohio and SE Michigan. I I Bought a "tuxedo" black & white 93 within a few months of returning. Great car. No problems at all. In northern Calif we have no rust. Went to AZ State and obviously there's no rust there either. But boy oh boy you upper Midwesterners do indeed face rust. It's nuts. Cars that last 50-60 years in rust free America don't last 15-20 in that upper Midwest salt laden ice and snow mess you call winter. Here we get a lot more snow (in the Sierra mountains anyway) than anyone in the Midwest gets... but salt is illegal on California roads.... so we just do not suffer rust. So: here's my point: As long as it comes from a rust free part of America the Subaru SVX is a fine car. Yes you must find one with a new transmission. Yes... do that .... it's because the mostly reliable 4EAT just gets beaten to death by many SVX drivers and yes... then eventually it does give up the ghost. The clutch discs just plain wear out. So what? So... ...if you replace it once every 100k it's part of ownership. And it doesn't have to cost more than about $1,500 if you can find the right shop. me!..... ......everything else is fine. If you can find a good one from rust free America buy it! Stay away from one brought into a rust free area from the rust States. Avoid them. Then... things like rear wheel bearing will not need constant replacing. And now that radiators are cheap thanks to 1-800-Radiator... all the mainline parts chains now have cheap radiators. The only thing we've needed in four years is an alternator. BFD.oh and maybe a battery. Yep we did buy one, that's right. The engine is freakin bulletproof. And the big thing that's been unmentioned in this thread is that this engine... because it's a stretched 2.2 it's non-interference and the head on the 3.3 is hyper reliable. No one ever complains about this engine. The HVAC system is worry free it's wonderful. I have no idea why my newer Outback(s) don't have this automatic temp control system. It's great. All this talk about how an SVX is an unreliable car. And it's by people who don't own one. Well I've owned a couple. And believe me... once the trans is replaced and maybe a rear wheel bearing (all of a two hr repair big deal) then the SVX is a wonderfully reliable car that's a joy to drive. And as far as high number of repairs: nope. Just isn't true. It's a great car and it really is cheap to keep on the road. If you can fix most small things it just isn't a costly car to own. Last point: you can't go anywhere without turning heads... without people asking about it with envy in their voices. It's an amazing car. Especially from 20mph to about 130. It's an amazing car in everything except off the line. Take it easy until it gets to about 20 mph then let loose. Have fun! And be careful. :)

  • Phxmotor Phxmotor on Mar 29, 2014

    Oh... I've owned three Citroens in my time too. A long time ago. An ID19 and a couple DS21's. Talk about amazing cars. If parts were available id be driving one now. But powerhouses they never were. The vom

  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.
  • Ajla A Saab that isn't a convertible. 😏