1985 Subaru XT 4WD Turbo Embraces the Unusual

From the June 1985 subject of Automotive and Driver.

In case you have not checked in with Subaru currently, brace your self. Respectable, dependable Subaru, the corporate that completed second within the J.D. Energy Buyer Satisfaction Index proper behind Mercedes­-Benz, the corporate that led the push to four-wheel-drive passenger automobiles, the corporate that has constructed its status on automobiles which are “in­costly and constructed to remain that manner,” is making a daring transfer. It is going into the dream-car enterprise.

However wait a minute. Do not let your self slip into the Lambo-Maser-Porsche mindset. That is one thing else totally. Harvey Lamm, president of Subaru of America, says it greatest: “Lots of people do not need to make the compromise for that attractive dream automotive. They won’t need a automotive that is arduous to get into and out of, or one it’s essential put on a kidney belt to journey in. We need to construct civilized dream automobiles, gents’s sports activities automobiles.”

And that is how the all-new Subaru XT coupe got here to be. Effectively, all that and years of coaxing the house workplace into motion. It was Lamm and his cohorts at Subaru of America who satisfied Fuji Heavy Industries that it wanted to construct a sporting flagship for the U.S. market. For all intents and functions, the XT was conceived in America and is being constructed for America. And that is why Subaru selected America for the XT’s world debut.

The XT’s mission, then, is to function an emblem of Subaru’s transfer as much as a extra prosperous market, from rural pack horses to high-tech metropolis slickers. “We wished the XT,” says Lamm, “to be every part Subarus are and every part they don’t seem to be.” Come to consider it, that is precisely what the XT is—and is not.

Taking first issues first, the XT is a two-plus-two sports activities coupe primarily based closely on the agency’s new line of sedans. It borrows the sedans’ port-fuel-injected, 94-horsepower, 1.8-liter, overhead-cam, horizontally opposed, all-alloy four-cylinder engine and their transaxles (your selection of five-speed guide or three-speed computerized). As with the sedans, you possibly can go for a 111-hp turbocharged model of the identical engine. The totally impartial suspension, consisting of struts and coil springs within the entrance and semi-trailing arms and coil springs within the rear, can also be sedan-derived. Turbo fashions will be outfitted with part-time four-wheel drive, which is the sort not supposed for dry-road use. All four-wheel-drive XTs are outfitted with air springs and digital top management.

To date, the XT is pure Subaru. Techno­logically, it is typical of every part that is developed on the agency in recent times, and it breaks no new floor. Which means it’s best to anticipate the identical form of award-win­ning reliability and above-average supplier service which have lengthy made Subaru house owners staunch believers.

When you get previous the mechanical stuff, although, look out. This Subaru goes the place its predecessors feared to tread. Inside and outside, it is designed to shock you out of any preconceived notions chances are you’ll harbor about Subarus.

The brand new-wave design will definitely fire up controversy. The XT’s extreme wedge form is clearly placing, totally different from any­factor Subaru’s achieved earlier than. Then once more, we have not heard anybody accuse it of being lovely. From the rear it seems ungainly, due to sharp tapering within the rear quar­ter-window space, a longish trunk lid, and a blocky rear bumper. Following the XT down the highway, one is reminded of a Victorian-era bustle. The most effective we will say is that from some angles­—notably the facet—it is aggressive and pleasing.

There is no quibbling over the XT’s aerodynamics, nevertheless. This automotive is a 4­-wheeled needle. Essentially the most slippery mannequin within the line, the front-drive Turbo, registers a drag coefficient of solely 0.29. That makes the XT essentially the most wind-cheating automotive bought in America, about ten p.c extra slippery than the vaunted Audi 5000. As a matter of reality, the one manufacturing automobiles on the planet with higher drag coefficients are Renault’s 25 and Alpine, each of which register 0.28 in Renault’s wind tunnel.

Subaru claims that there is not any actual magic within the XT’s form however admits to a whole lot of cautious detailing. Because it seems, the agency’s secret weapon within the warfare in opposition to the wind was an American. When the XT’s designer, Kyuchi Akari, was learning on the Artwork Cen­ter School of Design in Pasadena, he stayed on the residence of Alex Tremulis, a free-thinking aerodynamicist and a design­er of each automobiles and airplanes. (Tremulis’s numerous record of automotive accomplishments ranges from designing the slope-nosed 1961 Thunderbird to consulting on Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America land-speed­-record automobiles.) “I gave Kyuchi a fast course in aerodynamics,” says Tremulis. “I simply identified some areas to have a look at the place there is likely to be move separation.” The remainder, as they are saying, is historical past.

The XT’s exterior is definitely radical, nevertheless it was the inside the place Subaru man­agement actually gave free rein to its dream­-car fantasies. Though the coupe stretches to 175 inches total (in regards to the size of a GM J-car), no try was made to carve out room for 4 adults; the XT is a two-­plus-two all the way in which. Going for the racy look meant dropping the roofline about 5 inches decrease than that of the sedans. The front-seat passengers sit a commensu­charge quantity decrease, with their legs out straighter. The one nod towards practicality is the fold-down rear seatback, which re­veals a big entry gap to the trunk that allows you to haul lengthy objects.

Three ranges of trim can be found: DL (the bottom mannequin, which has no rear seatlet), GL (non-turbo, front-drive solely), and GL-10 Turbo (the full-on electro-kinky mannequin). Our 4WD Turbo take a look at automotive’s inside was, effectively—wild, Jack. The Subaru guys actually lower free, pursuing the high-tech Holy Grail as if there have been no tomorrow. From the driv­er’s seat, which is roofed in eye-straining checked velour, the view across the cabin is closely NASA.

The world immediately in entrance of the motive force is dominated by a pair of management pods that attain out from behind the wheel. The pods’ banks of contact switches function many of the climate-control capabilities, the cruise management, the ride-height override, the lights, and the wipers. The stylized mushy­-vinyl steering wheel has its thick spokes set on the three- and six-o’clock positions, and a pair extra cruise-control switches re­facet on the wheel hub. The soft-molded shift lever seems precisely like a video-game joystick, however as a substitute of killing aliens once you press the purple button atop the lever, you interact four-wheel drive.

Talking of video video games, it is value a visit to the supplier simply to see the XT Turbo’s digital instrument cluster, which fits manner past the acquainted readouts for pace, rpm, exterior temperature, coolant temperature, and gas stage.

If you twist the important thing, the show display screen involves life with a pictograph of a automotive seen from the rear, pointing down a protracted, flat highway that disappears into the dis­tance. The “sidewalks” paralleling the “highway” are literally the tach and the increase gauge. Because the revs and the increase construct, the sidewalks mild up in a manner that makes the automotive seem to maneuver down the highway. When the XT’s air suspension jacks itself up for additional floor clearance, the pictograph rises on its wheel as effectively.

When you recover from the techno shock of sliding behind the wheel, you may discover that there is not any scarcity of typical luxurious gear, both. All Turbos include energy steering, energy door locks, energy win­dows, cruise, A/C, a sunroof, a four-speak­er stereo, and way more. There’s even a pace alarm that trumpets your arrival on the double-nickel for those who’ve activated it with its separate key. Subaru means that this can be a good approach to preserve errant youngsters from exceeding the pace restrict. Contemplating the terrible racket this gadget makes, your child will both (a) by no means get a ticket, or (b) exit and purchase their very own automotive.

If you’re able to hit the highway, dial­ing your self into a snug driving place is straightforward. The seats are properly formed and pleasantly agency. For fine-tuning, there is a bottom-cushion rake adjustment. The steering column tilts and telescopes, and the instrument cluster and the satellite tv for pc pods transfer up and down in unison with the column in order that every part stays in line.

The driving expertise, like every part else in regards to the XT, has its excessive and low factors. You will not be 5 miles from the dealership earlier than you uncover the arduous reality in regards to the digital instrument clus­ter. In keeping with the sidewalk increase gauge, the turbocharger is both blowing for all it is value or in no way—and that simply ain’t so. The sidewalk tach is nearly indecipherable.

Subaru’s try at high-tech switchgear additionally falls flat. We’re not saying you may by no means adapt to the control-pod setup, however in a single lengthy day of driving we did not make a lot headway. We stored scraping the edi­torial knuckle on the left pod’s assist when going for the flip alerts, and a number of the switches felt low-cost. The sliding le­vers for the heater’s fan pace and tem­perature, situated on the middle console be­tween the seats, are out of your line of imaginative and prescient. The ability-window buttons are hid­den within the fringe of the armrests, the place they’re troublesome to function.

We now have combined feelings in regards to the XT’s powerplant as effectively. This engine has all the correct stuff—turbocharging, port gas injec­tion, overhead cams—nevertheless it should make fairly a bit extra energy than it does. And it thrums once you press it to the redline. (The usually aspirated engine howls like a using mower once you lead-foot it.)

The flip facet is that the turbo 4 strikes the XT moderately effectively. Wind sprints to 60 mph eat up solely 10.3 seconds, and high pace ranges off at 110 mph. Many turbo automobiles really feel flat at low revs, however the XT has loads of pep round city. The gear ratios appear good, and increase lag is nearly un­detectable. The turbo 4 additionally preserve its voice down on the freeway.

Interstate journey, in reality, is likely one of the XT’s specialties. The driving place and the seat are snug for the lengthy haul, the straight-line monitoring is sort of good, the journey is effectively managed, and—due to the superior aerodynamics—wind noise is ee­rily absent. Our sound-level meter noticed the XT at simply 69 dBA at 70 mph, which is bordering on luxury-car quietness.

The XT’s dealing with is not dangerous both, so long as you do not ask it to do stunts. Arduous chargers will discover that the XT will get troublesome in all-out canyon-road blitzes. The adhe­sion is all used up at a depressingly low 0.70 g, which is down on the lowly­-econobox finish of the grip spectrum.

Trying on the XT purely as a sports activities coupe, it simply would not have the expertise to run with the leaders on this class, automobiles just like the Toyota Supra, the Mitsubishi Starion, the Honda Prelude, and the Audi Coupe GT. However when the highway turns white—or ends totally—it is an entire new ball recreation. The electronically managed air suspension raises the automotive an inch and a half for addi­tional floor clearance, and the XT makes you appear like a hero. We now have but to search out out whether or not the XT can do every part a Bron­co or a Blazer can, however we wager it handles it­self effectively sufficient off-road or on dangerous roads to fulfill most folk.

So all of it boils all the way down to priorities. For the XT 4WD Turbo’s fourteen-grand asking value—or a pair thousand much less—you could find a slew of higher two-wheel-drive sports activities coupes and sedans. The Honda Prelude, for one, can drive circles across the XT on dry pavement. For those who require the added dimension of all-wheel drive, nevertheless, the excellent Audi 4000S Quattro, at about 4 grand extra, is the one different sporty con­tender beneath $20,000.

In the long run, it is a matter of your private transportation wants. As we see it, the XT’s means to press on regardless implies that neither rain nor snow nor warmth nor gloom of evening will keep you from the swift comple­tion of your appointed rounds. The one factor you may be caught with is being totally different.


Blended messages with this one. I ap­preciate the daring step Subaru’s taken right here, and I reasonably just like the avant-garde styling. So do many: it is an actual eyeball snatcher on the road. I discover the cockpit design interesting, too; I am glad to see correct ergonomics receiving a lot consideration as of late. The turbo offers satisfactory energy with no detectable lag, and the four-by-four possibility is sweet to have in all kinds of conditions. Though rear headroom is a joke and the spare tire is intrusive, the general cargo capaci­ty is huge and the little “Uzi bin” underneath the ground of the trunk seems very helpful!

However. Though the styling and the facet graphics say “sport coupe,” the automotive will not take any leaning on in any respect. The suspension contrives to be each jouncy and floppy, the tires are pathetic, the understeer is really gross, and the within entrance wheel spins on the slightest provo­cation. Participating the rear wheels semineutralizes the dealing with stability, however engagement and disengagement are sluggish. Oh, and the engine sounds a bit coarse.

I hope they have not completed this automotive but. —Pete Lyons

Subaru executives make it clear that their XT coupe just isn’t supposed to do battle with critical sports activities automobiles. That is good pondering, as a result of the XT lacks the dealing with and the efficiency to take action. Sadly, the XT will discover tough going even in opposition to these coupes whose sportiness relies extra on picture than on actuality.

The most important drawback is its value. For the fourteen and a half grand the XT on these pages prices, one may purchase any variety of very engaging automobiles. For instance, an Isuzu Impulse Turbo, with its designer styling, wonderful energy, and avant-garde inside. Or a Mustang, a Camaro, or a Daytona, every overflow­ing with sporty options. You can even save a pair thousand on a Prelude, a automotive with refinement and dealing with leagues past the Subaru’s.

After all, the XT’s ace within the gap is its four-wheel drive. None of its com­petitors can match that function. For me, although, that single benefit would not offset the XT’s shortcomings, particularly its steep value. —Csaba Csere

They titter after I pull as much as the pickup window; 5:30 within the morning, they usually’re laughing at my XT. Hmmm . . . I will inform you one factor: oh-dark-thirty within the morning is not any time to climb into this automotive chilly. After an all-nighter on the phrase processor, you may assume you have come to in a nasty dream. Ye gods! Anyone who could make out these controls at nighttime will get my vote for standing in when the captain of the Area Shuttle will get meals poisoning. I cringe on the plastic of the unborn-alligator headliner, the window controls hidden within the sides of the arm­rests, and the temp and fan controls on the console.

In broad daylight, although, the remainder of it really begins to make some sense (assist me, physician). The Little Thrum­mer Boy engine runs positive, although it looks like a nickel vibrator, stressing the sudden smoothness of suspension and dealing with, although I have not 4­-wheel-driven but, so I can not gauge that. Extra automobiles must be this a lot enjoyable. I snicker after I take a look at it.

On the pickup window they guessed it was a Pontiac. (Will need to have been backlash from the Grand Am.) They laughed louder as I pulled away. Had been they laughing at me or with me? —Larry Griffin

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1985 Subaru XT 4WD Turbo
Car Kind: front-engine, entrance, 4-wheel-drive, 2+2-passenger, 2-door coupe


Base/As Examined: $13,768/$14,523 
Choices: alloy wheels, $480; cassette deck, $200; ground mats, $75.

turbocharged flat-4, aluminum block and heads, port gas injection

Displacement: 109 in3, 1782 cm3

Energy: 111 hp @ 4800 rpm

Torque: 134 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm 

5-speed guide


Suspension, F/R: struts/trailing arms

Brakes, F/R: 9.5-in vented disc/8.9-in disc

Tires: Bridgestone SF-237 Metal


Wheelbase: 97.1 in

Size: 175.2 in

Width: 66.5 in
Peak: 52.6 in

Passenger Quantity, F/R: 52/29 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 12 ft3
Curb Weight: 2640 lb

30 mph: 3.0 sec
60 mph: 10.3 sec

1/4-Mile: 17.4 sec @ 79 mph
100 mph: 39.7 sec
High Gear, 30–50 mph: 15.2 sec

High Gear, 50–70 mph: 13.1 sec

High Velocity: 110 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 208 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.70 g 


Noticed: 15 mpg

Metropolis/Freeway: 25/30 mpg 


Headshot of Rich Ceppos

Director, Purchaser’s Information

Wealthy Ceppos has evaluated cars and automotive expertise throughout a profession that has encompassed 10 years at Basic Motors, two stints at Automotive and Driver totaling 19 years, and 1000’s of miles logged in racing automobiles. He was in music faculty when he realized what he actually wished to do in life and, one way or the other, it is labored out. In between his two C/D postings he served as government editor of Car Journal; was an government vice chairman at Campbell Advertising & Communications; labored in GM’s product-development space; and have become writer of Autoweek. He has raced repeatedly since faculty, held SCCA and IMSA professional racing licenses, and has competed within the 24 Hours of Daytona. He presently ministers to a 1999 Miata and a 1965 Corvette convertible and appreciates that none of his youthful colleagues have but uttered “Okay, Boomer” when he tells one among his tales in regards to the loopy previous days at C/D.


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