ESTES PARK, Colo. -- We get to steer Subaru's Crosstrek 2.0i Limited -- a sporty 5-door crossover utility vehicle with all-wheel-drive traction -- over Colorado canyon courses like U.S. 36 climbing into the Rocky Mountains to Estes Park, and we find the driving experience way too much fun due to this vehicle's tight structure and precise mechanical components.
Crosstrek has the rigid unibody structure of a car but a hiked suspension with 8.7 inches of ground clearance which compares in height to a sport utility vehicle. Drawn in wide-track stance with wheels floating independently at the corners, it's a nimble vehicle of compact dimensions and rigged with the right stuff to let it romp on pavement.
Crosstrek for 2016 editions scores fresh front-end styling plus Subaru's optional Starlink safety and security features such as SOS Emergency Assistance, Automatic Collision Notification, Remote Lock/Unlock and Stolen Vehicle Recovery Service. Further, Crosstrek's top trim version -- Limited -- adds more safety gear like Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. And another safety option -- Eyesight -- brings coordination of Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking and Vehicle Lane Departure Warning.
Exterior styling for Crosstrek appears sleek yet strong. The prow, tapering to a narrow point in front of a sculpted hood, carries long corner headlamp clusters flanking a redesigned chrome-rimmed black grille with squared bottom edge and lower fascia with broad air intake port and corner foglamps.
The severe rake of the windshield sets up an arching roofline which tapers to the blunt hatchback lid. And shapely flanks are interrupted by edgy wheelwell blisters and large multi-spoke alloy wheels. There are ripples of dark body cladding around wheelwells plus rails on the roof.
Crosstrek's cabin contains a pair of bucket seats flanking a console on the front row, a 3-person split/folding bench on the second row and a rear flat-floor cargo bay with 22.3 cubic feet of space.
Crosstrek feels fired up for action, thanks to a unique little Subaru engine that produces surprising muscle and torque from relatively modest displacement. The plant displaces 2.0 liters and has four cylinders opposed horizontally and set perpendicular to the drive line, then linked with equal-length drive shafts so pairs of cylinders act like boxers jabbing at one another in counterbalanced movements that negate the typical in-line-4 engine's jar-your-teeth vibrations. It produces 148 hp at 6200 rpm plus torque of 145 lb-ft at 4200 rpm, with EPA estimated fuel economy numbers climbing to 34 mpg.
All of the engine's power channels through either a tight-shifting manual 5-speed stick with ISA (incline start assist) or Subaru's Lineartronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with a manual shift mode and paddle shifters at hand on the steering wheel.
There's no choice about traction, however, as Subaru rigs all Crosstrek models with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system that's always engaged. Pick the CVT and the active AWD system comes with a continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch (CVHTC) managed electronically. Choose the manual transmission and the continuous AWD system has a viscous-coupling locking center differential (VCLCD) designed to distribute the engine's power evenly between front and rear wheels.
For 2016 Subaru offers three trim versions -- Base, Premium and Limited.
The Crosstrek 2.0i Base model comes only with the manual transmission and scores the lowest price point of $21,595. The Crosstrek 2.0i Premium offers either the manual transmission ($22,395) or CVT ($23,395), while Crosstrek 2.0i Limited for $25,095 packs the CVT exclusively.
Crosstrek 2.0i Base edition provides standard features like a tilting/telescoping steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth control switches, power controls for windows and locks and mirrors, a multi-function display with fuel economy information, outside temperature gauge, carpeted floor mats and a security system with engine immobilizer.
Crosstrek 2.0i Premium loads more equipment including body-color exterior mirrors, upgraded interior trim and the All-Weather Package with heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer.
Crosstrek 2.0i Limited brings luxury features like leather seat upholstery, automatic climate system, upgraded instruments with LCD color display, auto on/off headlights and exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals.