Big turbo power, crossover style

As an older WRX fan, I lament the loss of the WRX hatch. More than that, I’m downright crestfallen over the loss of the WRX wagon. Once considered a bastion of speed and practicality, Subaru’s most famous performance machine is now no more than a be-winged four-door, downgraded from the glory of “yes please, more junk in the trunk” to “I’m not sure if it’ll fit.” However, if cargo room is what you’re after, then the Crosstrek looks like a decent solution, albeit a boring one. If we had our way, we wouldn’t have to choose – strap on a turbo, drop the CVT, and suddenly you’ve got the best of both worlds. Say hello to the Crosstrek XTI.

The name draws from the 2008 Forester XTI concept, which appeared at SEMA with the same 2.5-liter turbo boxer engine as the WRX STI, plus a six-speed manual transmission, 18-inch S204 wheels, high-performance Yokohama rubber, coilover suspension, big Brembo brakes, leather and Alcantara in the cabin, and a new cabin layout. Output clocked in at 315 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. Sounds tasty, but unlikely, no? Not so fast. Subaru has already offered a more aggressive design study for the Crosstrek called the Subaru XV Sport Concept, introduced at the Tokyo Auto Salon in 2013, bearing new styling, upgraded suspension, LED lights, STI tower bar, new aero enhancements, STI muffler, 17-inch Enkei wheels, Recaro seats, and Brembo brakes. So what if Subaru went whole hog on the performance crossover thing?

Continue reading to learn more about the Subaru Crosstrek XTI.

Exterior

2020 Subaru Crosstrek XTI Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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The stance is still as high as before (as much as 8.7 inches of ground clearance), but the wheels get a larger diameter, going up to 18 inches.

As you would probably expect, the Crosstrek XTI is much more aggressive than your average Crosstrek model, and it looks the part to match. The same general body shape remains, but to it is added a host of styling and aero enhancements that help it stand out from more commonplace variants.

2018 Subaru XV Crosstrek High Resolution Exterior
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Note: standard Subaru Crosstrek model pictured here.

Let’s start in front, where we find a revised fascia and bumper sporting additional curves and bumps and ridges – all standard sporty cues. In the corners are new, larger intakes that replace the stock fog light housings, bearing a horizontally split design that’s somewhat reminiscent of the WRX STI. The lower grille is also larger, and comes underlined by a silver skid plate that runs the length of the lower bumper. The headlight housings are more or less the same, retaining the standard Crosstrek’s C-shaped daytime running lights, while up top is a squared hood scoop to force feed the intercooler underneath.

Along the flanks, the Crosstrek XTI keeps the same flat black under cladding, while the sideskirts get a brushed metal look that complements the front skid plate. The stance is still as high as before (as much as 8.7 inches of ground clearance), but the wheels get a larger diameter, going up to 18 inches from the lower-grade’s 17-inchers, and using a five split-spoke design. Alloy is used for less weight, while sticky performance tires keep it glued to the road (more on that in a little bit). The wheel arches are flared in front to give it a more muscle-bound appearance.

Finally, the whole thing is draped in Sonic Yellow paint, a specialized color from the old WRX.

In back, we expect the same chunky design as before, plus the addition of a skid plate under the bottom edge of the bumper. A duo of polished exhaust tips is also likely to make an appearance. Up top is an aggressive spoiler, which looks pretty good next to the brushed metal roof rails.

Finally, the whole thing is draped in Sonic Yellow paint, a specialized color we plucked from the first batch of limited edition “bug eye” WRX’s to hit the states back in the early 2000’s. Why? Because we like it.

Interior

2018 Subaru WRX STI High Resolution Interior AutoShow
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Note: Subaru WRX STI interior pictured here.

The six-star brand has been making excellent strides as of late when it comes to interior comfort and features, and the Crosstrek is sure to come with a good deal of Alcantara and even a little leather as well.

Subaru interiors have never really been all that glamorous – the money you pay usually goes primarily towards the drivetrain, and that’s doubly so when it comes to the performance models. As such, the Crosstrek XTI will likely continue that tradition and draw heavily from the Subaru WRX STI’s parts bin.

That isn’t to say all Subaru cabins are total dungeons. The six-star brand has been making excellent strides as of late when it comes to interior comfort and features, and the Crosstrek is sure to come with a good deal of Alcantara and even a little leather as well. Carbon fiber bits will also make the list of features, added in the most appropriate spots on the central stack and along the dash. Red contrast stitching will add a splash of color, while the gauges behind the flat-bottom, three-spoke, multifunction sport steering wheel will get a red coloring as well. The seats will be heavily bolstered to encourage a little spirited driving when the mood is right.

An upgraded 8.0-inch central infotainment screen will provide the necessary user interface, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support apps and phone features from the driver’s smart device. Options like additional leather seating, navigation, and an upgraded stereo add gloss to the package.

We wouldn’t be surprised if the Crosstrek XTI came with additional safety tech – for a price, of course.

Speaking of packages, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Crosstrek XTI came with additional safety tech like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert, and the like.

In back will be oodles of space, matching the standard Crosstrek’s 21 cubic feet. Fold the rear seats flat, and you’ll get even more, while the optional roof box will a new dimension to meeting your cargo hauling needs.

The Crosstrek will also be surprisingly quiet in the interior, benefitting from the same advances in interior comfort as the rest of Subaru’s Impreza-based lineup.

Drivetrain

2018 Subaru WRX STI High Resolution Drivetrain AutoShow
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Note: Subaru WRX STI engine pictured here.

Replacing the standard-spec naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat four will be the iconic turbo boxer rumble of the 2.5-liter from the WRX STI, plus a six-speed manual. Because of course.

Exterior styling and red interior trim bits aside, the real draw for the Crosstrek XTI will be what it’s packing under the hood. Replacing the standard-spec naturally aspirated 2.0-liter flat four will be the iconic turbo boxer rumble of the 2.5-liter from the WRX STI. While a bit dated in its design, this engine has a long history of making gobs of reliable power – try 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque as soon as the boost-maker gets going.

Mated to the 2.5-liter go-box will be a six-speed manual transmission as standard. The regular Crosstrek is also offered with a CVT, but, as well know, such things have no place on a performance machine like the XTI. Row your own or GTFO.

The rest of the STI’s high-tech drivetrain will also carry over. That means a fancy new electric center differential, complete with the same DCCD (Driver Controlled Center Differential) inputs as the sedan rally star. This will offer a ton of adjustability depending on whatever surface you happen to be tackling, and can be left in full auto mode if you just want the computer to figure it out for you.

Finally, there’s Subaru’s famous Symmetrical AWD system, which routes the power to each corner as needed. Put your foot down, and expect to see 60 mph in a blistering 5 seconds flat, just a few tenths off the pace set by the STI, while top speed will clock in at around 140 mph. Not bad for a crossover.

Suspension And Chassis

2020 Subaru Crosstrek XTI Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings
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While tricking the physics of a high-stance SUV to handle like a sports car might seem unusual, it becomes a necessity with over double the standard model’s horsepower under the hood.

Underneath the skin, the Crosstrek uses the same bones as the five-door Impreza, albeit with a raised suspension and a taller ride height to boot. That means that despite the raised center of gravity, Subaru should know what it takes to make a Crosstrek XTI handle somewhat decently, and as such, we’d expect it to equip all the proper bits and pieces to leverage the increased grip provided by the upgraded Yokohama tires. The overall rubber footprint should get a decent bump in size width-wise, and the low sidewall of the 18-inch wheels should help to eliminate sloppiness as well. Extra chassis bracing would also help in this regard, firming up the flex in preparation for some spirited driving. Large Brembo brakes would haul it all down, with six-pot calipers up front and two-pots in the rear.

While tricking the physics of a high-stance SUV to handle like a sports car might seem unusual, it’s becoming more and more common in the segment, and with over double the standard model’s horsepower under the hood, using those handling chops to their fullest becomes a necessity. The steering should also see an upgrade with a quicker ratio, while Subaru’s Active Torque Vectoring will make the most of the available grip.

Of course, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, you know there’s at least a few folks out there who will wanna take this thing into the dirt, and while it’s not an optimal set-up for serious rock crawling, the hard bits should be more than enough to take on a rutted trail or fire road. Think toned-down Dakar rallyist, and you’re on the right track.

Prices

2020 Subaru Crosstrek XTI Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings
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While impressive in terms of specs and speed potential, Subaru’s top-of-the-line performance models don’t come cheap. At the moment, the standard WRX STI starts at $36,096, which is a serious chunk of change for the segment.

Then we have the standard Crosstrek model, which starts at $21,795 for the entry-level model, and ranges as high as $26,295 for the top-trim 2.0i Limited.

So where does that land the Crosstrek XTI? We would venture a figure somewhere around the $40,000 spot before options, with another $5,000 added for a “Limited” trim equipped with nicer interior gear and technology.

Again, that’s not cheap for a Subaru, but like the adage says, speed costs money – how fast do you want to go?

Competition

Mercedes GLA45 AMG

2015 Mercedes GLA45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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2015 Mercedes GLA45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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Merc dropped the AMG’d GLA back in 2014, and it arrived with all the go-fast stuff you’d expect from those three little letters on the trunk. For starters, the body is enhanced thanks to big vents, big intakes, big aero, and big wheels, while the interior is decked out in Nappa leather and microfiber, complete with red contrast stitching and a splash of carbon fiber trim. The party piece under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, tuned to produce as much as 355 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Properly applied, it’s enough to propel the baby Merc to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds.

Read our full review on the Mercedes GLA45 AMG.

Audi RS Q3

2014 Audi RS Q3 High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Audi RS Q3 High Resolution Exterior
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While it’s unavailable here in the states, the RS Q3 is a tempting proposition for those overseas, offering slick, rounded four-ring style, plus no shortage of speed. Go for the Performance model, and you’ll have as much as 367 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque at your command thanks to a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder. Routed to the pavement by way of Audi’s quattro AWD system, and the sprint to 62 mph is dispatched in as little as 4.4 seconds.

Read our full review on the Audi RS Q3.

Conclusion

2020 Subaru Crosstrek XTI Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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I’ll be straight up with you, dear reader – I’m not the biggest fan of the crossover segment. I find the faux-off-roader style to be rather pointless, while the practicality side of things can be met just as easily in a hatchback or wagon alternative. The Crosstrek XTI is no exception. I think a better alternative would be a bona fide STI wagon, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment.

That said, I would still celebrate if Subaru decided to make a hot-to-trot Crosstrek. The popularity of the crossover segment continues unabated, and per usual, the option for extra performance is always a welcome treat. You could almost consider a Crosstrek XTI to be a sort of return for the WRX hatch, if you wanted.

While I’d prefer a new WRX wagon, I’d still celebrate a hot-to-trot Crosstrek.

Of course, there are a few issues. First off is the price. At $40,000 to $45,000, this is one very pricey Scooby, and buyers might prefer to go with something European instead. Additionally, the tall ride stance might play havoc with handling when there are 300 horses available from the right foot.

But you never know. Either way, we’d love to see more turbo goodness from Subaru, even in a crossover.

  • Leave it
    • * A little expensive for a Subaru
    • * Low-grade interior spec compared to competitors
    • * Is demand high enough to justify building it?

References

Subaru WRX

2018 Subaru WRX
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Read our full review on the Subaru WRX.

Subaru WRX STI

2018 Subaru WRX STI High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
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Read our full review on the Subaru WRX STI.

Subaru Crosstrek

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

2008 Forester XTI concept

2009 Subaru Forester XTI Concept
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Read our full review on the 2008 Forester XTI concept.

Subaru XV Sport Concept

2016 Subaru XV Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Subaru XV Sport Concept.

What do you think?
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