Rare Rides: A Subaru XT Turbo 4WD From 1985

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a subaru xt turbo 4wd from 1985

Subaru started its first full decade in North America in the Seventies, where it sold the microscopic rear-engined 360. By the Eighties the company had found its niche among crunchy granola types and professors with four-wheel drive wagons like the GL. But Subaru wanted more; specifically customers with more money. Enter the XT.

The more upscale and sporting XT was a departure from Subaru’s standard fare in the mid-Eighties. Customers were used to seeing wagons, trucks, and hatchbacks from the brand, but the XT was the company’s first-ever coupe when it debuted for 1985.

Subaru chose not to apply its dorky and chunky styling theme to the XT. Rather they opted for a wedge-shaped, modern design with pop-up headlamps and a heckblende. Subaru’s engineers were steadfast in their pursuit of aerodynamics, and gifted the XT with completely flush door handles which popped out via a release panel. The single windshield wiper was 22 inches long, and tucked under the hood for less interruption of airflow. Underneath, the air suspension was height-adjustable.

The interior was a departure as well. XT’s multitude of buttons were arranged around pods, in an interior which could easily be described as wacky. The pods were attached to the steering column, and moved with the wheel to keep controls in reach of the driver. On XTs with digital gauge clusters, gauges were lighted in orange and had an aircraft-style artificial horizon effect.

Standard power for the XT was provided via a 1.7-liter boxer four which produced 97 horsepower. Customers who spent a bit more would find a turbocharger screwed to the same engine, which upped the power to 112. Transmissions included a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual. Based on a front-drive platform, lower-end models were front-drive only, and Turbo versions had optional part-time four-wheel drive. Turbo models were available only through 1987, as 1988 saw the introduction of the XT6 version. Subaru produced their first-ever H6 engine for the XT. The 2.7-liter displacement exceeded the limits for lower taxation in Japan, which meant the XT6 was taxed as a luxury car in its home market. The H6 provided 145 horsepower, and its additional weight was supported by a sturdier suspension setup.

Drivetrain changes accompanied the introduction of the XT6, as the four-wheel drive system was only available on XT models with a manual transmission for ’88 and ’89. Automatic XT and XT6 cars switched to full-time all-wheel drive. There were also front-drive versions of both XT and XT6. The holy grail was of course the XT6 with all-wheel drive and a manual transmission.

Though consumers were spoiled for choice with XT variations, the coupe’s Subaru branding and price (about $40,000 adjusted for inflation) meant slow sales. The angular Alcyone headed into the sunset after the ’91 model year, but Subaru had a successor in the wings. And that’s an SVXy story for another day.

Today’s Rare Ride is located in the Netherlands, because there weren’t any good XT examples for sale in North America. With a low 32,000 miles it’s in spectacular condition; graph paper wheel covers are intact. Yours for $22,000.

[Images: seller]

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  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Jul 29, 2019

    Subaru’s sport coupe to compete with the Prelude, MX-6 etc. Someone on my street had one in the early 90’s. Base model XT front wheel drive with steelies. It had no rear seat, just a color matched particleboard panel with a warning label stating that no passengers should sit there, just small parcels, like an old business coupe.

  • Icantdance Icantdance on Apr 20, 2021

    My dad for some reason got to test drive two models of this vehicle for Subaru when we lived in Japan back in 1985. We had it for a good six months. It was a really sweet ride.

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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