There’s a right way and a wrong way to do a vehicle launch, especially through a distributor.
The wrong way includes drawn out product demos and extensive PowerPoints proclaiming the “innovative” characteristics of the newest vehicle from _____ automaker. There will be food and beverages and maybe some entertaining displays, though you will never convince yourself that the entire event was done in a way that encouraged conversation about the vehicle. It’s always about pushing the refined message.
With this in mind, the experience surrounding Subaru of New England’s XV Crosstrek “Tweetup” was resfreshing. Yes, the event was not a presentation, rather a social-networking-driven engagement, branded by the hashtag #SNEXVTweetup. A dozen Subaru corporate and SNE distributor employees welcomed over 90 registered guests to the Rattlesnake Bar & Grill on Boston’s famous Boylston street, including “BostonTweet” (Tom O’Keefe). The brand new 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek was parked outside the restaurant, along with a product specialist and vehicle developer. These gentlemen were primed to answer any questions you had about the vehicle. The most enjoyable part of the event was the vibe: never once did you feel that when you spoke with a Subaru representative, all you would hear was scripted commentary about the “amazing new Subaru XV Crosstrek”. Instead, it felt like a natural Tweetup, with live updates posted on a screen in the restaurant and plenty of conversations to be had with Boston-area professionals -auto-related or not-. Points to Subaru, and especially this event’s organizer, Guy Mitrano, for a consciously-crafted event. Now that you know the setting of the vehicle launch, I’ll get right into the XV Crosstrek.
The 2013 XV Crosstrek was NOT meant for the US market. It was actually built for the European roads, especially when the pavement ran out. However, US distributors like SNE thought the crossover would be perfect for the younger families who already loved the Subaru brand. The Subaru product specialist I spoke with at the Tweetup did not deny that this vehicle isn’t much more than a lifted Impreza with some revised bumpers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Impreza is quite a good starting point, and the only things I haven’t liked about the revised model were…the body panels.
The utility 2.0 liter flat-four boxer engine serves in the Crosstrek as the Impreza, adding just 100 pounds onto a Impreza hatch’s curb weight. It should match the Impreza’s EPA estimates for fuel consumption of 25 mpg city and 33 highway with the manual or 27/36 with the optional CVT, so that’s a plus. By comparison, the Forester SUV only manages 21/27. Also, the Crosstrek trumps the Forester in the style department without question. Personally, I found the Tangerine Orange Pearl exterior really bitchin’ rather than annoying, and I’d love to see the “Sahara” color one of the developers described at the event.
For the Northeast, AWD is a huge bonus, but so is ground clearance. The XV offers 8.7 inches of clearance, 3 inches better than the Impreza. This is great for getting through snow, but with only 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque at your disposal, this is not a drivers car in good weather. It’s a bummer that a more powerful turbocharged option is not available, but if you’re considering the Crosstrek, it’s the price and looks that will really sell you. A fully loaded model with the CVT transmission will run you $27,290, but the entry level model comes in at just $22,790. That base model is considered premium trim and includes standard AWD, 9 airbags, and other goodies. Not a bad deal. The Suzuki SX4 undercuts the XV by over $4k, but you couldn’t pay me to park that thing in my driveway, so the next closest competitors would be the Mitsubishi Outlander (also a let-down), the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV-4 (those these last two aren’t for the off-roading enthusiasts). Personally, this XV is the best looking of the bunch, and if unique is important to you, the XV will be the clear choice.
What The Crosstrek Means For Subaru
For the Subaru brand, this model is an exercise in creative development more than a sure-sale product. The Forester and Outback Sport will serve just fine as practical AWD SUVs for the majority of buyers, but for those folks who want a touch of flare from the same chassis and bulletproof engine out of the Impreza, the Crosstrek might be a great option. I’m glad the decision-makers within the Japanese automaker approved this model, because it inspires faith that the brand is still listening to its distributors and consumers. If the Subaru BR-Z was the purist’s ride for driving pleasure, the Crosstrek is the soloist’s ride for aesthetic joy.
Moreover, other automakers could learn a thing or two from Subaru and SNE in particular about a product launch. I learned everything there was to know about the model because they made informed Subaru representatives available to answer questions in a casual environment, not because I sat through an hour-long presentation about how many different climates the vehicle endured before it was approved for production.
Marketed as a separation from the mundane SUVs of the urban environment, the XV Crosstrek should be a success in the crossover segment and as a representation of the Subaru brand.
**NOTE: I was not compensated by Subaru nor any associated distributorss to compose this review. All content and opinions are my alone. **