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1997 Subaru SVX REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Distinctive styling, average acceleration for this class

Pro: All-wheel drive, distinctive styling, one of few luxury sports coupes left on market, great handling

What’s New: A body-color grille debuts, along with P215/55VR16 tires.

Review: Subaru has never been what you'd call a conventional car company. When 18-foot-long V8-powered behemoth station wagons roamed America, Subaru was busy marketing tiny, ugly, four-wheel-drive wagons primarily to consumers in the Northeast, Rocky Mountains, and Northwest. While the inline four-cylinder engine became the compact class standard, Subaru installed horizontally opposed flat fours in its models. All the while, Subaru retained character in the styling of its wares, bucking the jelly-bean look for a more squared-off wedge thing. The Subaru XT Coupe, about which nothing was common, became Subaru's first attempt at marketing a sports coupe. The SVX replaced that oddity in 1992.

The first thing you notice about the SVX is the out-there design. Much more attractive than the XT Coupe, the SVX is an interesting blend of curves, bulges and angles which result in a busy, overstyled car that looks too thick in the waist. Captain Kirk likely would have found the styling pleasing, but we don't. A new body-color grille arrives for 1997, and combined with cool alloy wheels, the SVX is at least getting more attractive with age. For 1997, those alloys are shod with slightly taller, slightly narrower tires. The split side glass is a neat concept that allows you to drive with the window down in a rainstorm without worrying about getting a wet arm or mussing your hair, but we suspect that in the real world of varying-height drive-thru service windows, it doesn't work well.

Inside, the SVX looks more like a luxury coupe than a sports car. Cloth covers the seats in the L; LSi models get leather hides. The swept dash is full of oddities, such as the trick stereo cover. Comfortable chairs provide surprisingly good outward visibility, but the rear view is somewhat compromised by the big decklid spoiler.

So why should you buy this Subaru? It's relatively speedy, comfortable and with standard all-wheel drive, is one of the few sports cars made for all-weather driving. Fully loaded at less than $37,000, the SVX gives decent bang for the buck, and makes a strong statement about its owner. If your wacky personality matches the offbeat SVX, you've just found the car of your dreams.


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