Subaru is launching its first production plug-in hybrid — with a little help from Toyota. Debuting at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid borrows Toyota technology, and is another product of the same partnership that created the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 sports cars. The plug-in hybrid will go on sale before the end of the year, Subaru said.
Like Chrysler with its Pacifica Hybrid minivan, Subaru chose to omit “plug-in” from the Crosstrek Hybrid’s official name (the vehicle will get badging that says “plug-in hybrid,” however). It’s an odd move that will likely cause confusion with hybrids that don’t have plugs. Unlike a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid can recharge its battery pack using either the internal-combustion engine or an external electricity source. That means the battery pack can be bigger, allowing the car to rely more on electric power — saving more fuel.
The Crosstrek Hybrid combines the 2.0-liter boxer-four engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the standard Crosstrek with an 8.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack and Toyota-derived plug-in hybrid system. Subaru estimates total system output at 148 horsepower, which is slightly lower than the standard Crosstrek’s 152 hp. Nonetheless, Subaru expects the plug-in hybrid version to be a full second quicker from 0 to 60 mph than the standard Crosstrek, while achieving better fuel economy.
The Crosstrek Hybrid will be able to drive solely on electric power for up to 17 miles, at speeds up to 65 mph, according to Subaru. That falls short of plug-in hybrids from other mainstream brands, as does Subaru’s claimed 90 MPGe efficiency rating. For reference, the Chevrolet Volt gets an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 53 miles of electric range and 106 MPGe, while the Kia Niro PHEV gets 26 miles and 105 MPGe. But the Chevy and Kia, along with most other plug-in hybrids from non-luxury brands, don’t have all-wheel drive. The larger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV does offer all-wheel drive, as well as more electric-only range than the Subaru (an EPA-rated 22 miles) but lower efficiency (74 MPGe).
Subaru calls the Crosstrek a “compact SUV,” but it’s really an Impreza hatchback on stilts. Still, the Crosstrek Hybrid’s claimed 8.7 inches of ground clearance (important for off-roading) and 1,000-pound towing capacity are respectable. Like the Subaru Ascent and Forester, the Crosstrek Hybrid also features an “X-Mode” for unpaved surfaces and hill descent control.
In addition to all-wheel drive, standard equipment on the Crosstrek Hybrid includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a variety of driver aids and safety features under Subaru’s EyeSight banner. The list includes autonomous emergency braking (forward and reverse), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, and headlights that turn as the car is steered.
The 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid will start at $35,970 when it hits showrooms. That base price includes a mandatory $975 destination charge, and represents a significant premium over the standard Crosstrek. The base price of the plug-in hybrid is $7,800 higher than the most expensive standard Crosstrek trim level.
Updated on November 28, 2018: Added live photos.
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