The Subaru SVX was in many ways Subaru's finest car. It was quite an expensive ride, costing well over $30,000 USD in 1991 when it was introduced. But it was well worth the money considering what it had under the body panels. It was very similar in performance and equipment to the Porsche 911 Turbo AWD.

The SVX's exterior screams japanese supercar. Very sleek and round styling. The most notable thing was the window within a window system that it had. You couldn't roll the windows down, instead it had little windows inside of the main windows, (those could be rolled down). The window trick was done to keep the air resistance very low even with the windows rolled down. The SVX has a very respectable .29 drag coefficient. This also has the added effect of keeping wind noise to a minimum. You would think this odd window arrangement would hurt visibility, but it doesn't hurt it one bit. The SVX is pretty much all window from the top of the doors on up. There aren't any blind spots, as none of the pillars are more than a few inches thick.

The SVX featured a water cooled horizontally opposed 6 cylinder engine. Just like the Porsche 911 Turbo did. But then they one upped the 911 by throwing in all wheel drive as standard equipment. (All wheel drive is a very pricey option on the 911). Performance wise the 911 was a little better, (mainly because the SVX was bigger and heavier). But the SVX was priced at about half of the 911's price tag, so it blew the 911 away in the bang for the buck department. The engine wasn't the only high tech thing on this car, everything was top of the line. Passive four wheel steering was standard, and the entire suspension subsystem was top notch.

One major disadvantage was the lack of an available manual transmission. It seems that Subaru just didn't have a manual that could handle the 230 horsepower that this car was capable of. For that matter, they didn't have any transmission that could handle that horsepower, as transmission failure is the number one reason you might see an SVX in the salvage yard. The transmission did make up for its failings slightly by having both a "power" and an "economy" mode, which it autoselected based on your how you were driving. There was also a button that could lock out 1st gear, which was very useful in the snow.

There were approximately 25,000 SVXs produced between 1992 through 1997, of which 14,000 ended up in the United States. The SVX did have a few problems in the area of parts failures. The transmission, brake rotors, and wheel bearings were especially prone to early failure. Most of these problems were caused by the SVXs heavy curb weight of 3,580 pounds. Subaru had never built such a heavy vehicle, and the normally high quality Subaru components were not quite up to being installed on a car of that bulk.

The SVX was not retained for the 1998 model year. Many people say the SVX failed not because it was a bad car, but because people just didn't see Subaru as a sports car manufacturer. They had no history of making them, and you simply can't establish that kind of reputation overnight.

As a long-time SVX owner, I feel the need to make a couple more points and nitpick the above write-up.

Subaru started producing the SVX in 1991 with a very limited production run. There were two distinct models: the LS-I had a no-frills suspension that gave it the lighter 3600lb curb weight; the LS-L had an extra sway-bar in the rear, as well as two extra linkages to the hub per corner (adding 200-300 lbs). This gave the LS-L a much tighter suspension, and, I can say from personal experience, a very nice ride. However, the SVX is in no way comparable to a Porsche; Porches tend to have a shorter wheelbase, much lower curb weight and up until recently (ca. 2002), they all used air-cooled engines. If there is a car at all comparable to the SVX, it is the Ford Mustang of the late '80s (except for the AWD). Subaru was attempting to break into the burgeoning U.S. sport car market partly caused by Reaganomics. The SVX was a great first attempt by Subaru during their formative years on the World Rally Championship or WRC. The SVX bridged the gap between their earlier utilitarian vehicles and the pinnacle of affordable consumer sports cars today, the Subaru WRX. It was also their late-coming answer to the mid-80s Audi Quattro.

The driver and passenger side windows were designed in the half and half configuration because the car was too squat to allow the whole window to roll down. Because of the unique design, the forward roof pillars are larger than most cars and obstruct visibility somewhat. Traditional blind spots are absent, replaced by new ones beyond the rear roof pillars at about 4:00 to 4:30 and 7:00 to 7:30. The windshield is bowed significantly and can cause a (barely noticeable) fishbowl effect out the front of the car. Subaru did indeed miss the boat by leaving out the manual transmission, but the Subaru Legacy manual transmissions from '95 and '96 bolt right up to the engine, leaving only body mounts and driveshafts to bodge together. The automatic transmission in the SVX was not weak; it could easily handle ~450 horsepower. The reason for systemic transmission failure in the earlier models was an oversight caused by Subaru's inexperience: inadequate cooling. Without an aftermarket transmission cooler inline with the existing one or excessive changing of transmission fluid, particulates would emerge to block essential hydraulic paths inside the transmssion. Likewise, the oft failing rear wheel bearings were also capable of handling the weight of the vehicle and aggresive driving, but because of the large offset of the wide rims the bearings in the rear succumbed to bad geometry. There are other glaring problems that were never addressed by Subaru: the taillight housings would trap condensed moisture leading to premature oxidation of the bulb contacts; the sun visor retention mechanisms fail, causing them to droop into your field of vision.

Even with all these problems I still like the car because it is fast, handles well and when I clean it up it looks damn sexy. My favorite part of owning the car has little to do with the car itself though: The car was designed by an Italian guy who later went crazy and committed suicide. There is something intrinsically wierd (and sickly cool?) about driving a car designed by a crazy man!

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.