Sunday, December 29, 2013

1996 Subaru SVX - 10 Years Ahead Of Its Time

I am, by no means, an expert at predicting what cars will increase or retain their value in the future. (Hell, I've bought brand new Renaults. ;-) ) But, if I was asked to make a list, the Subaru SVX would be on it.

Giorgetto Giugiaro designed the SVX and it replaced the XT in Subaru's lineup (Both the SVX and the XT were named Alcyone in the Japanese market.) While it looks pretty tame - and quiet nice - today, back in the early 1990s, this was considered an outrageous looking car. It was rounder than any previous Subaru and featured a controversial "window-within-a-window" design. People either loved it or hated it. (I, as you would imagine, loved it.)

The engine is a 3.3-liter, normally aspirated, 230 horsepower, flat-six. 0 - 60 times were in the low to mid 7 second range. All SVXs came with automatic transmissions.

Except for a few "price leader" cars sold in 1994 and 1995, all SVX cars came with AWD. It was the typical, effective, Subaru set up with a center differential. Under normal driving, there was a 90/10 power split ratio front to rear. When maximum traction was needed it would provide a 50/50 power split.

Inside, the SVX was more luxurious than any previous Subaru. The top of the line model came loaded with leather and power everything.

When introduced, the SVX sold for around $24,000.00 to over $28,000.00. That was a lot of money for a Subaru in 1992, and the SVX never sold well. Between its introduction in 1991 (as 1992 model year) and its final sales year in 1997 (all built in 1996), Subaru sold just over 14,000 SVXs in the US.

The SVX is a fairly reliable car. Rear wheel bearing problems are common as is the occasional electrical glitch (The electrical problems are due more to the the car's age, not any design flaw). The biggest issue can be the JATCO (Japanese Automatic Transmission Company) transmission. A poor design caused it to get extremely hot. The radiator-based transmission cooler in the SVX can't keep the transmission fluid cool enough and eventually the transmission fails. Subaru was aware of this problem and made improvements throughout the car's run. Later transmissions are better, but every site I have seen recommends installing an external transmission cooler and filter. (Google "Subaru 4EAT transmission" for more details.)

The SVX was probably 10 years ahead of its time. It was Subaru's first giant leap away from being known as a builder of plain, effective AWD cars - that were loved by those of us in New England and the Snow Belt - and towards the performance company it is becoming known as today. It's a cool, slightly quirky, piece of Subaru history that could be a fun and unusual daily driver.

This SVX is close to the top end of stock SVX pricing. It has just 45,000 miles on it. It also has a salvage title. Take the seller up on his offer and have it thoroughly checked out by a knowledgeable Subaru mechanic before making an offer.

Located in Everett, WA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

7 comments:

Dave said...

I work in classic/modified/enthusiast car insurance here in Australia and I've spoke to more than a few SVX owners.

One guy stood out; he'd converted it to manual. I was initially non-plussed, then he said, "no wait, you don't get it; they didn't make manuals...at all!"

I was impressed by this stage; he'd converted it using a WRX box and adapted the bellhousing to suit the EG33 flat-6 engine.

The hardest part was creating a pedal box as nothing just bolted in. It was a heroic effort (well, it sounded like it for someone like me who can talk and write cars, but gets all Jeremy Clarkson-ish when trying to fix them) and would have made it a tremendous drivers car.

Nice post!

mallthus said...

I have long had "a thing" for this car. I think the biggest thing holding me back (aside from all the usual mechanical gremlins) is that here in the US, they all came with automatic seatbelts. I didn't like them when they were new and I certainly don't want to rely on them magically sliding into place 20 years later.

mallthus said...

Color me stupid. This one does not have them. I might need to have a chat with the missus tonight...

Quantum Joe said...

I always liked these cars. Thought about buying one a few years ago, but never found one with a manual transmission. Now I knw why.

Informative post.

Anonymous said...

Only the 1992 model year had automatic seatbelts in the US. There are quite a few 5-speed manual swaps out there in the wild, and even some 6-speeds. I too had a jones for an SVX, satisfied it with a 5-speed converted 1994 in red. It's a nice highway car, less fun than my STi in the twisties, and nearly unstoppable in snow. Fun car.

Just A Car Geek said...

Just spotted this one...

http://york.craigslist.org/cto/4267338290.html

Anonymous said...

Not all had power seat belts. Look harder.