A CVT and 152 horsepower is a recipe for inducing yawns

This past week has seen Subaru’s all-new 2018 Crosstrek in my driveway. It’s the high-riding Impreza with more ground clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee (though only by 0.1 inches) and a Boxer engine under the hood. Now in its second generation, the 2018 Crosstrek rides on Subaru’s new Global Platform and is powered by a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated flat four-cylinder claimed to be 80 percent new. A new six-speed manual gearbox replaces the old five-speed and a Continuously Variable Transmission returns as the option. Both outside and in, the 2018 Crosstrek is highly improved and impressively capable at being a better crossover than most crossovers on the market. But as it turns out, the Crosstrek isn’t that fun to drive.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when realizing the 2.0-liter Boxer only muster 152 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 145 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Despite the Crosstrek’s meager 3,300-pound curb weight, the naturally aspirated engine wheezes its way through the CVT’s seven artificial ratios. Despite being mostly new and now having direct fuel injection, the little flat-four is simply underpowered. The lack of power is exacerbated by the CVT’s smooth, long, boring “shifts” that prioritize fuel economy over all else. I desperately want to try the six-speed manual, but even that can’t rectify the missing horsepower.

What the Crosstrek needs is the WRX’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It’s good for 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Pair that with the WRX’s sweet six-speed manual gearbox, and you’d have a Crosstrek that’s ready for a WRC Rally. Subaru could brand it the Crosstrek STi and boom – an instant halo car. While the extra power wouldn’t help with fuel economy, the added “cool” factor would bring more people to the Crosstrek lineup, even if they weren’t buying the STi version. Halo models are proven to improve sales in lesser models.

Admittedly, the Crosstrek and its lackadaisical CVT really appealed to my wife. “I love the way it shifts,” she exclaimed the first time she rode in it. “You can’t feel it at all, and I really like that.” While she might be the Crosstrek’s target audience, it’s hard to ignore the missing performance version Subaru should deliver. Combine that power with its well-appointed and comfy interior with its vastly improved infotainment system, 55.3-cubic feet of cargo room, and extra inch of rear-seat legroom afforded by the new Global Platform, and Subaru would surely have a hit.

I truly admire the 2018 Crosstrek and have very few complaints beyond its powertrain, but boy, the potential this vehicle has is astounding. As for its driving experience and other notable features, I’ll have more on that in the coming days here on TopSpeed.


Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Subaru XV Crosstrek High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.

2018 Subaru WRX High Resolution Exterior
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Read more Subaru news.

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