CLASSIC CAR REVIEWS - SUBARU SVX

Do you really remember the Subaru SVX? Or, indeed, remember the last time you saw one on the road? In terms of sheer hen’s teeth rarity, it’s second only to the even more idiosyncratic squareedged XT that preceded it.
Launched in the early 1990s as a viable, if rather off-the-wall alternative to the likes of the Mitsubishi 3000GT, Mazda RX-7 and Toyota Supra, its optimistically lofty price actually brought it perilously close to Porsche 968 territory, which is almost certainly one of the reasons why it turned out to be such a short-lived sales flop.
Viewed as a rare classic, though…well, that’s another story altogether.
  

VITAL STATISTICS

SUBARU SVX

 

Engine                                    3319cc/6-cyl/DOHC

 

Power (bhp@rpm)                  226bhp@5600rpm

 

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 228lb ft@4800rpm

 

Top speed                                144mph

 

0-60mph                                  8.7sec

 

Consumption                           24mpg

  

Gearbox                                   Automatic

 


 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

Relative obscurity aside, this is still a Subaru, so corrosion is only really going to be an issue on cars that have been neglected by former owners, or have suffered heavy accident damage that has subsequently been repaired badly. The biggest issue with these cars, in fact, concerns replacement of damaged body panels and trim, which will almost certainly require a degree of internet surfing to locate, especially if it’s those remarkable door windows you’re trying to source. Engine
A Subaru just wouldn’t be a Subaru without the offbeat, highly evocative warble of a horizontally-opposed (or ‘boxer’) engine under the bonnet, and the SVX is no exception.
The 3.3-litre, 24-valve, flat-six the SVX employed from cradle to grave is unstressed and largely unburstable, and while Subaru does recommend replacing the cambelt every 60,000 miles, the engine is a non-interference type, meaning that a snapped cambelt will simply cause the engine to stop, rather than inflicting potentially terminal damage on valves and pistons.
Elsewhere, owners have been know to report an annoying buzzing sound under hard acceleration that, while irksome, is usually nothing more than a loose exhaust heat shield. Less commonly (and rather more expensive to rectify), however, it can also be symptomatic of a failed secondary catalyst.

 

ENGINE

A Subaru just wouldn’t be a Subaru without the offbeat, highly evocative warble of a horizontally-opposed (or ‘boxer’) engine under the bonnet, and the SVX is no exception. 

The 3.3-litre, 24-valve, flat-six the SVX employed from cradle to grave is unstressed and largely unburstable, and while Subaru does recommend replacing the cambelt every 60,000 miles, the engine is a non-interference type, meaning that a snapped cambelt will simply cause the engine to stop, rather than inflicting potentially terminal damage on valves and pistons.

Elsewhere, owners have been know to report an annoying buzzing sound under hard acceleration that, while irksome, is usually nothing more than a loose exhaust heat shield. Less commonly (and rather more expensive to rectify), however, it can also be symptomatic of a failed secondary catalyst.

 

RUNNING GEAR

If the SVX has an Achilles’ Heel, it concerns its advanced all-wheel-drive running gear. This generates so much heat that the cooling system has to be in top condition in order to cope, a situation that’s further exacerbated by the fact that the transmission cooler takes its feed from the engine’s radiator; any drop in efficiency here is going to cause problems elsewhere eventually.
As if this wasn’t problematic enough, an inherent gearbox design flaw can also apparently restrict the physical amount of coolant that can circulate around the transmission. Clearly, making sure that the cooling system in any prospective SVX purchase is in rude health is a top priority.
One other potential issue to look out for concerns wheel bearings, which have been known to fail prematurely. This is most commonly caused by another design flaw – this time in the original bearing seals – which allows water to seep into the bearings. Most early SVXs will have been upgraded using the re-designed seal used on later cars by now, but it’s worth checking that this has been done, and that any replacement bearings have been packed with a grade of grease that can withstand high operating temperatures.

 

INTERIOR

If the SVX’s exterior styling was toned down relative to its XT predecessor, its interior almost borders on the mundane by comparison. Where the XT reinforced its Jetsons exterior looks with a bonkers asymmetrical steering wheel and wilfully kinked joystick gear selector, the SVX’s cabin is of more familiar generic Subaru origin, with acres of shiny grey plastic and matching velour upholstery. That said, it’s all very durable, and the huge seats in particular are supremely comfortable.
The main things to watch out for inside an SVX are non-functioning electrics. With a such high standard specification running to electric windows, electric mirrors, air conditioning and so on, there’s plenty to go wrong, while overcharging the battery can cause the fusable link to blow, which in turn can take several pieces of equipment with it, including – potentially somewhat inconveniently – the dashboard lights.  

OUR VERDICT

Spiralling petrol prices and insurance premiums have done sales of big-engined 1990s coupés no favours at all of late, so the chances of you bagging a well-loved SVX for very little money are extremely good. They’re beautifully engineered, surprisingly quick and make a refreshing change from the long-distance GT cruiser norm.

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