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.
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  • 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?