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Subaru SVX | Spotted

Want a rare and quirky classic that doesn't cost megabucks? Enter the Sports Vehicle eXperimental...

By Matt Bird / Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Even more so than at its launch in the early 1990s, the Subaru SVX seems like a truly bonkers idea. Here was a luxury coupe, a vehicle aimed at those who golfed at a weekend and drove around at a glacial pace, from a manufacturer known best for durability and dependability. And rallying. Opulent and fancy, Subaru was not - and never will be. At this point Subaru didn't even have much of an enthusiast following, with the Impreza a very new car and only the Legacy having achieved notable rally success.

So it must have looked courageous to say the least 30 years ago (outrageous might be another word), like Mountain Warehouse branching out into haute couture or Lego making porcelain vases - it just didn't fit the brand. But what's important to remember is that, way back in the 1980s when the SVX idea was conceived, all the Japanese manufacturers were attempting to make a mark on the global car scene by outdoing each other in the tech stakes. Subaru was just attempting the same sort of thing. The SVX was launched in 1991; in the two years before then we'd seen cars like the Lexus LS400, Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 and Honda NSX to name three. All quite different cars, but all capable of taking on the world's best in their segment - and beating them, in many instances - thanks to an onslaught of cleverness.

In an attempt not to be outdone, the kitchen sink, plates and crockery were thrown at the SVX by Subaru. It had a unique engine, the 3.3-litre boxer-six built and used only in the big coupe. Boasting four overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and Subaru's IRIS variable intake system, it was a very advanced (and very expensive) way to make 230hp and the same again in torque. Like all the best Subarus, the SVX was four-wheel drive, though sadly all made it to production with a four-speed auto as well. And a £28,000 list price once those few cars made it to the UK, which was a heck of a lot of cash.

Despite styling penned by Giugiaro and decent handling thanks to the low centre-of-gravity, that high price - combined with the image of an expensive Subaru and an unremarkable interior - meant the SVX was never destined for success in the UK. It would forever remain a left-field curio until it was pulled from sale in the middle of the decade, with very few sold over here and substantial money lost on every single one. Which tends to happen when money is no object in development...

What about, then, as a rare-groove classic? Nearing in on its 27th birthday, this entirely standard SVX is for sale at £7,000. Which, in the grand scheme of classic cars, really isn't very much. Moreover, it's being sold by a PHer who's indirectly replaced it with a Citroen SM, because maybe maintaining a very specialised Subaru was too much like easy work... So it's being supplied with a good history file, nice paintwork, no rust and a carefully maintained transmission (the four-speed auto being a weak spot for SVXs). Oh yes, and the rarity value of being one of just 40 or so left in the country.

Sure, it won't be the fastest or most exciting car from the early 1990s to drive, but the allure of driving around in something that looks like the SVX, is powered by a boxer six and is rarer than all sort of exotica is considerable. Just keep plenty in the fuel fund. And the rust fund. And pray to the sweet heavens that none of the windows have to be replaced soon...

3,318cc, six-cylinder boxer
Transmission: 4-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 230@5,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 228@4,400rpm
MPG: 25 or so
CO2: N/A
First registered: March 1993
Recorded mileage: 82,000
Price new: £27,999 (1992, or £57k now!)
Yours for: £6,995

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