Our latest Daydreaming Designer installment (go ahead and click that link or the image below if you missed it) featuring the Subaru SVX is the source of our Comment of the Day, and I suspect I’m not the only one among us who will agree with reader ADDvanced that the Subaru SVX was very much under appreciated—certainly by the general public, but also by the motoring press. As ADD notes, “The magazine reviews at the time were completely off the mark. Magazine reviews often focus on 0-60, slalom, or lap times and other metrics, which, while fine, are not everything. [The SVX] was NOT a sports car, it was a real GT car …”.
The idea that a not-blistering 0-60 time would be OK for a premium coupe, especially one that looked like the SVX, was crazy talk in the 1990s. But as we verge on the all-EV future, 0-60 is finally sinking away from most-important-performance-spec status. Not because buyers have figured out it ain’t all that, but because drivers of the most popular fuel-burning muscle machines may find themselves humiliated in stoplight drag races my parents in EV crossovers running late to pick up their kids from school—who didn’t even know there was a race going on. When every car is fast, something else has to separate the special from the common. The SVX certainly had everything else in spades, and was a fine machine as ADDvanced argues so well. But alas, it was the 90s.
I owned an SVX for 7.5 years, and took it from 112k to 200k miles. I think the general public missed the point of the SVX, and the magazine reviews at the time were completely off the mark. Magazine reviews often focus on 0-60, slalom, or lap times and other metrics, which, while fine, are not everything. It was NOT a sports car, it was a real GT car, and by that it could cover long distances at high speeds in comfort and no matter what the weather.
I was a ski instructor at the time so my schedule involved waking up at the ass crack of dawn and driving an hour away to the hill on roads that were rarely plowed yet, and the SVX just ate it up. I’ll never forget passing multiple SUVs in the ditch, while my trusty subie plowed through 12″ of white gold.
I also took it on long trips, from WI to Florida and back, out west, and man on the highway it’s just so ‘right’ at 80mph. I actually hated driving the thing in town; the gearing, the suspension, all of it felt awful in urban environments, and yeah, a jeep cherokee could beat it from a stop light. But from 60mph to 120mph, the thing was quite quick.
Out in South Dakota at around 2am, I decided to see how fast it would go; I wound up hitting 143mph on my GPS and it was still pulling pretty hard, but the pavement started getting uneven so I backed off. Supposedly they hit 155mph, stock.
Anyway….great car, learned a lot, very reliable, but I changed my trans fluid every other oil change because I REALLLLLLLLY didn’t want to replace a transmission, which they are known for. Next owner got it to 260k and burned up the transmission, undoubtedly from never changing the trans fluid.
Unrelated, I swear any car that is “known for” having bad transmissions are really just lazy AF owners that don’t change the ATF and trans filter like they’re supposed to, then act all shocked pikachu when their transmission dies.
Have a great evening, everyone!
The first time I saw one I did a double take because it’s so cool looking. Then I did another double take when I saw it was a Subaru.
I wanted one then and still do.
What company other than Saab would have the stones to build an affordable, futuristically styled, quirky, AWD, flat-6 powered GT coupe?
If they had offered a manual transmission from the factory they would probably have sold twice as many. Including to me.
They didn’t have a manual trans that could hold up to that engine yet; keep in mind this was coming out of the Loyale/Justy era, I think their manual transmissions were rated for maybe 150hp/ftlbs.
I would think they could have farmed that out to Tremec or Borg warner by then. it would have just been and adapter for the t-case and possibly the engine for a t-5 to be fit in there.
Not true. The Legacy turbo in Japan was already making comparable power and torque in 1989. They were hurting for money then and didn’t want to bother developing a manual and/or turbo version. If they did, they could have more closely competed with the GTO/3000GT/Stealth.
These things are bonkers with a manual swap done to them… Way ahead of their time
I still own one of these beasts and have so for over 15 years. This is a bit of a story but the first car I ever even test drove as a 16 year-old in the fall of the year 2000 is the very SVX that I own now.
Im quite fond of them and ( I promise I am not trying to advertise here) make and sell larger rear away bar kits for them as well. Why? Because it IS a GT car! With the right setup it can feel very tight and composed which is no small task for a 3600 lb car with a major front weight bias. This car is fun but unimpressive at the drag strip but I agree 100% that its natural gait is 80 mph. I have had mine to 155 “verified” on a gps and man what a ride. All that to say that it is easily the most “stable” car i have ever driven. At 140 it feels like other cars going 70. So controlled and smooth. If you look at the “tube” and search for “Subaru SVX highway run” you will find videos of me out making some hay with my SVX many moons ago.
And the SOUND! My the sounds! With a variable resonance intake manifold it makes a throaty down low sound and just absolutely sings up top. Building and adding a custom dual runner cold air intake was my second favorite mod after the swaybar. Absolutely equal to any N/A porsche in the sound department. Tunnels are no match for the throbbing baritone followed by the high revving DOHC flat 6 wail. Ahhh!! So wonderful.
Ok. I should stop now. I really could go on and on.
Mine will never be for sale.
I have one of your sway bars on my SVX! I totally agree, it was an good purpose built car and now with a few teaks they can be made into an excellent cruiser
Awesome hugh!!! Internet high five!
I have similar arguments as to why I love my MX6.
People tend to compare them to sports cars and then hate on them for not being one.
It’s not a sports car.
It’s a cruiser.
It eats up highway miles like a bandsaw eats through lumber, and sounds great doing it.
Plenty of room in the trunk for road trips.
The much maligned FWD does well in most weather (stock wheels help (fuck your fat rubber)).
Probably the best factory installed seats I’ve ever had the pleasure of tamping down with my toosh.
Hell the center stack and controls are all angled at about 20 degrees toward the driver as if to say “I’m here for you, passengers be damned”.
I love that car.
Sadly the MX6 is also my answer to today’s question “What car would you never buy again?”
Not because I wouldn’t, but because I can’t.
I feel the same about my car. An E36 BMW 323i coupe.
I lament how many E36s got modified beyond recognition into drift cars or track cars. In order to make them do those things requires huge amounts of modification. They’re not sports cars.
Mine is a 5 speed manual and they have long gearing from the factory. It feels almost sluggish from a standstill in first. It feels grumpy around town. Out on the open road, though, it opens right up and will cruise at 70-80mph all day long, and it’s genuinely quiet and supremely comfortable (and surprisingly ok on fuel) at those speeds.
I see the E36 coupe as sort of a mini GT car, as that’s how they feel to me. I’m on my second one now (previous was a 320i automatic). I kept both of them mechanically stock, on stock sized wheels and tyres (205/55/R16), and they just feel right on a road trip.
I also had a 1g MX-6 4WS with a big t3 injectors and a JayB chip. I could do burnouts going 60! Also had a 1g probe and the first car that i DID buy was a 94 PGT with. ZE swap, headers, full bolt ons with coilovers!!! Ahhh so much fun.
Long live underappreciated cars!!!
The early WRX models were also ‘known for’ weak transmissions.
I think a fair number of those were user error and not understanding that you cant just rev up and drop clutch to launch like on a FWD or RWD car.
The traction from all four tires is a lot harder to break than just two, so the trans would pop first. Way back when bugeye was a new model, someone’s parents bought one for a kid at my high school.
He blew up the trans within two weeks trying to drag race a mustang. Blamed the car and didn’t understand why he couldn’t do smoky burnouts too.
GMC Syclone owners also found this out, but usually the viscous coupling that got them AWD was the first thing to pop.