SANTA BARBARA, California — High in the Santa Ynez Mountains above the city overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands, we are quietly roaring up a pockmarked dirt road in a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV).
A fresh layer of sand and soil coats our all-new Crosstrek Hybrid’s exclusive shade of Lagoon Blue Pearl paint. Subaru’s all-wheel drive X-MODE, Hill Descent Control, new suspension, and the Crosstrek’s 8.7-inches of ground clearance helps our tester gently bounce over the steep, stony single lane road with graceful ease.
Additionally, Active Torque Vectoring is standard on the crossover and improves cornering significantly. Out and about on the various types of roads, the steering even feels a little sporty at times.
We scoot past loose boulders on the edge of a scraggly tree line and manage to startle a retreating Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis). But surprisingly it wasn’t the sound of our Boxer engine that disturbed the bird of prey; instead it was the man-made whirling sound that can be heard as the car is running in all-electric mode.
The new pedestrian alert system can be heard when the hybrid is traveling below 20 mph and sounds like a vintage UFO from a “Twilight Zone” episode. It also mimics the sound of the new Harley-Davidson LiveWire all-electric motorcycle. Go figure.
Aside from the wildlife and two senior hikers spotted on the trail, we keep our speed in check despite a 65 mph speed limit posted on our 8.0-inch Starlink navigation screen—also, it’s a long way down into the valley below. Our Crosstrek is fitted with seven standard airbags, and we didn’t want to test them on this run.
The new plug-in Subaru has two electric motors and a full electric range up to 17 miles. It enhances the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine which adds 137 horsepower and 134 pound-feet of torque. You can see the powertrain in action in the photo below.
According to the company’s engineering eggheads, the combined gas and electric output is 148 hp. The engine and motors are mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that utilizes regenerative braking energy with AWD.
The hybrid’s sophisticated sorcery yields 35 mpg and 90 mpgE with a combined touted range of 480 miles from its 13.2-gallon tank—that’s only a mile shy of a standard Crosstrek. Plus, it can tow up to 1,000 pounds and it still runs on regular 87 octane.
There are three hybrid modes to choose: Normal, Save, and Charge. Normal is the default and automatically switches between EV, EV and gas, or gas only for longer drives. Save mode is best for highway driving, which saves the battery’s current charge level to be used for shorter jaunts around town. Charge mode uses the gas engine to help charge the battery when plug-in charging is not available.
Aside from the normal Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive options on the shifter, there’s a “B” option for regenerative braking. It takes a few minutes to figure out if you haven’t used it before and there’s a power meter and a multi-function display on the dash to help before you engage it. Once you do it’s all easy peasy.
Also, finding a charging station in the middle of nowhere is no longer an issue, since you can use regenerative braking and/or the Charge mode while driving to keep a steady charge on hand for normal scoots around your neighborhood.
If you plug in at work or at home, the PHEV requires five hours of charging time with a 120V Level 1 charger and two hours with a 240V Level Two unit for a full charge. The 8.8 kWh, 25.0 Ah lithium-ion battery takes up a good bit of real estate in the trunk area that ditches the spare tire and adds about 500 pounds over a standard Crosstrek model.
Instead of a spare, there’s an air kit behind the 60/40-split fold-down rear seats. Depending on the configuration used there’s between 15.9 cubic-feet to 43.1 cubic-feet of space for your gear.
The Crossover sports LED fog lights, black low profile roof rails that are rated for roof top camping, and black plastic cladding around the wheel wells that seems to be all the rage these days. Plug-in access is located on the left side of the vehicle and the gas door is located on the right.
Hybrid models roll on fancy 18-inch wheels shod with all-season rubber that managed to resist punctures during our brief and rocky trail run. Since we were out of cell phone range and did not have a spare, we still recommend packing a spare tire for real world adventurers planning extreme trail blazing excursions.
Inside the interior receives a well-balanced cockpit with easy to read gauges and clean design lines that curve and split in pleasing directions. The gray and navy blue leather seats contrast nicely with the two-tone door panels, and bold blue trim stitching.
There’s also a horizontal cup holder between the driver and passenger seats that’s designed for beverages. It’s not as impressive as the Subaru Ascent’s 19 cupholders, but there are still enough nooks and crannies to stow at least a dozen of your favorites.
Subie’s first plug-in vehicle is equipped with plenty of tech goodies including an optional 8.0-inch Starlink Multimedia system that’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay friendly, and a standard all-weather package with headed seats and exterior mirrors.
Standard safety tech includes pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and lane keep assist, and steering responsive headlights. Additionally blind spot detection with lane change assist, and cross traffic alert is also included.
In addition to the exclusive Lagoon Blue Pearl paint job, the Crosstrek Hybrid is available in four flavors. All hybrids share the same leather interior with gray/blue trim—it looks great, unless of course blue gives you the blues.
Subaru expects the 2019 model to reach some of its dealer network by the end of this year. If you want to see more of the Crosstrek Hybrid, check out our exclusive gallery of photos here.
|2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid Specifications|
|ON SALE||January 2019|
|PRICE||$35,970/$38,470 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE/MOTOR||2.0L DOHC 16-valve flat-4/137 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 134 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm; 2 electric motors, 118 hp, 149 lb-ft; total sytem output 148 hp|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, hybrid AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||35/90 mpg/MPGe|
|L x W x H||175.8 x 71.0 x 62.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.3 sec (est)|