Subaru SVX 1992-1997 review

Photography by: Joe Kenwright

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If there was ever an automotive equivalent to Thunderclap Newman’s ‘Something in the Air’ it was Subaru’s crazy SVX


From Unique Cars issue #320, Jan/Feb 2011


Rich in production values, lots of action, some heavy classical, some lightweight rock, a switch in mood, then at the end, the question: what was that all about?

Yet the world is so much richer for the one-hit wonders that went nowhere. The SVX is no exception. Until the SVX challenged the world view of Subaru, the WRX may never have got off the ground. With barely 250 delivered new in Australia, it is also very rare. Against today’s blocky Subaru designs, it is hard to believe the SVX ever existed.


Giugiaro’s ItalDesign presented it as a 1989 Vortex replacement. Subaru had to leave behind quaint but flawed little cars with their extra complication that didn’t deliver. It was a shortfall the Vortex seemed to highlight as the Liberty charted the way ahead.

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Rushing the SVX into production exactly as Giugiaro intended seemed like a good idea at the time. Launched in 1991, it reached Australia in March 1992. Its sleek exterior added validity to the first-generation Liberty’s new look and the glass-within-glass cabin brought a touch of exotica.


Its 3.3-litre flat-six (the Liberty’s 2.2 flat-four plus two cylinders) gave it soul and its 169kW/309Nm went some way towards shifting its 1620kg girth. Then the compromises crept in. The heavier, longer engine still sat Subaru-style ahead of the front driveshafts, leaving little room for a decent manual or auto to exploit it. And so Subaru’s everyday four-speed auto was adapted for the job. It quickly wilted under SVX’s power and weight. Subaru had to act quickly to bolster its cooling and durability.

There were two four-wheel-drive systems and a cheaper front-drive model. Australian cars came with the best system, which spread drive more evenly front to rear, all the time. On fast or loose sweepers, it allowed a keen driver to exploit the sophisticated engine and outstanding multi-link rear suspension, both a world away from past Subarus.

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Locally, there was another issue. By 1992, the Holden VP Commodore had arrived with an almost identical clear grille. Although inverted compared to the SVX, it did little to help define exactly what the $70-80,000 SVX was as Aussie roads became awash with similar-looking Commodores. As the VP has now all but disappeared, the time is almost right for the SVX to claim the stand-alone status it deserves.


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