How does one improve an already successful model? With so many cars in the market today that offer sleek looks, a comfortable interior and a peppy powertrain, adding upgrades to what ought to be a nicely packaged automobile is going to be a quite a feat.

Such was the undertaking of Subaru, which recently debuted the 2016 XV. Now sporting subtle improvements to its exterior, interior and powertrain, the updated compact crossover aimed to deliver a more comfortable and sporty ride, along with a more refined finish.

Motor Image, the official distributor of Subaru cars in Southeast Asia, invited us to the regional launch of the 2016 XV held at the 2015 Thailand International Motor Expo. Aside from seeing the crossover in the metal, we were also able to compare the old from the new as Subaru held a mini test drive of the XV.

Subaru XV facelift launch

The small yet noticeable details

The overall shape of the 2016 XV still resembles the pre-facelift model, but it now carries subtle updates that provide a fresher look. The grill has been reshaped and features thicker chrome trim, while the headlights now have integrated daytime running lights. The foglights now have L-shaped chrome trim, a nice touch in my opinion.

At the back, is a set of new C-shaped combination taillights and a tweaked roof-mounted spoiler. The 17-inch alloys have been redesigned as well.

2016 Subaru XV interior

Streaks of orange contrast stitching envelope the XV's cabin and can be seen on the leather-wrapped seats, steering wheel, shifter boot, and door panels. Other neat touches include a premium multifunction display, push start button with smart entry, and an electrically-adjustable driver’s seat. The most noticeable difference is the new 'unpark' button which replaces the usual start/stop button, perfectly aligned with their regional campaign which we'll discuss more about later.

Under the hood is a carried-over 2.0-liter Boxer engine that puts out 150 PS at 6,200 rpm along with 196 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. It is then mated to Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system and an optimized Lineartronic CVT that the company claimed has improved NVH properties.

Subaru XV AWD

Grippy and Smart AWD

Subarus are known for their exceptional handling both on and off the road. The Subaru XV is no exception. As a way to check out the improvements, Subaru set up a closed track that enabled drivers to test out the capabilities of the 2016 XV.

Also present in the closed track is an older model XV, allowing drivers to compare it against the newer one.

Off the line, power delivery from the Boxer engine was smooth and more linear. The CVT was equally matched with the engine, resulting in a very responsive powertrain. The electronic power steering was lighter and gives a lot of road feel than the older XV.

In the slaloms, it immediately pointed to the direction where I wanted it go, omitting the need to step on the brakes. A slight lift off the throttle was all that was needed to weave by the cones.

I admit, however that the Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDC) may have also helped me keep the XV stable in the slaloms. More on that later.

As for the CVT, there was a slight decrease in vibration from the transmission. Subaru stated that they had to rework the control logic software for a smoother running transmission.

Equally good was the braking system. The anti-lock disc-brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) were spot on and stopped the car dead in its tracks in a staged emergency. The seatbelt may have wrapped around my shoulders a bit too tight during sudden braking, but short stops is better than a collision.

The Symmetrical AWD system of the XV performed well, allowing the crossover to take long bends at speed. But perhaps the best use of the AWD system is when faced with uneven surfaces and along patches of dirt and gravel. True to its form, the 2016 XV managed to get through the off-road course without a hitch. Even if there was only one wheel touching the ground, the system channeled all available power to that specific wheel, allowing the XV to pull itself out and carry on moving.

Perhaps one of the most striking features of the XV is its VDC system. It monitors both the driver and the car, and makes necessary adjustments to keep the car on the road. The system also has an active torque vectoring system, which applies the brakes individually to deliver less torque on the inside wheels during a turn for better handling and cornering ability.

We got to test the VDC and active torque vectoring system on both the updated and older XV. First, taking control of the older XV, we noticed that the system responded slower, which resulted in wider turns. We even had to apply the brakes ourselves in order to correct the car further. Over to the refreshed XV, the VDC reacted faster, and immediately acted upon the driver's input. This allowed most of us to fully test the car's handling and squeeze a bit of fun in the drive.

A little more refinement was given to the window glass, which is now thicker, to lessen wind noise for better comfort, according to the development team. We noticed this bit inside the test track as it was definitely more quiet inside the car, compared to the pre-facelift model.

All in all, the 2016 Subaru XV performed to the letter, providing superb AWD handling, punchy engine power, as well as a comfy ride throughout the track.

Motor Image Executive Director Glenn Tan

Unpark Your Life

Motor Image Executive Director, Glen Tan, also gave a brief discussion about their new "Unpark Your Life" campaign for the new XV. Why this slogan? You get to 'Unpark Your Life' thanks to increased capability from the standard Impreza, taking you places with the peace of mind Subarus offer. Whether you're driving in the city or out of town, the XV can bring you there comfortably and safely. 

A very Swift XV

A Subaru event would not be complete without the presence of stunt driver extraordinaire, Russ Swift. If you've ever been to one of his shows, it is a known fact that Swift can quite literally make a Subaru dance.

At his disposal were specially prepped WRX and STI models and a single XV that had a special surprise.

Not a moment too soon did Swift show the WRX's capabilities by parallel parking it between two multicabs via a handbrake maneuver.

Russ Swift doing stunts in Subaru WRX STI

All well and good but a more exhilarating feat was with the blue WRX STI which Swift had the pleasure of doing donuts, power slides and J-Turns in.

Subaru XV on two wheels

The last stunt involved the 2016 XV and a rather narrow ramp. No, it's not for jumping, but for allowing the XV to run on two wheels. Swift had to make several restarts but he was finally able to stabilize the crossover and went around the test track on just two outside wheels.

The stunt cements the XV's reputation of combining performance and practicality in one.

Subaru XV Philippine group

Practicality and Performance

The Subaru XV has been a staple of the PH market since 2012. It's the baby brother to the Forester and is geared towards for active lifestyle oriented individuals. The 2016 XV delivered enough pep and comfort to an already good crossover, not to mention confidence when taking corners.

It may be considered by some as just an 'Impreza on stilts', but isn't that the idea? It offers the performance of the sedan with the bonus of practicality and advantages of a crossover. Because of this package, it's easy to see why the Subaru XV has now become a staple on Philippine roads.