There must be something in the water at Subaru HQ. The company, which maintained a stable model lineup over the past decade, is coming out this year with not one, but two new models. The BRZ, and its twin the Scion FR-S, launched earlier to the delight of sports-car fans everywhere. And now we have the 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek.
Unlike the BRZ, the XV Crosstrek does not take Subaru into previously uncharted territory. With its all-wheel drive, the XV Crosstrek is like a downsized Outback, and less station-wagony than the Forester. It comes off as a mini-SUV, similar to the Mini Countryman and the upcoming BMW X1.
And as a totally new model, the XV Crosstrek doesn't get weighed down with legacy tech. The optional navigation head unit in the Crosstrek is a relatively new system for Subaru, with many advanced, and unexpected, features.
When optioned with navigation, as CNET's review car was, the head unit gets a 6.1-inch touch-screen LCD in the dash. The screen is not all that big compared with competitors' systems, but the system is feature-packed. The head unit offers not only navigation, but also digital audio and hands-free phone calling, all accessible through voice command as well.
A home screen crams audio and navigation information into the confines of the LCD, which ends up being a little cluttered when route guidance is active. However, a simple touch of the screen expands the map display. This interface can be a bit confusing, as the map screen has a button labeled Menu in the lower left, and a button with a little screen grid icon in the upper right. It took me quite a bit of poking around the interface just to find the volume control for voice prompts.
An icon on the map shows its orientation, and touching it cycles through the usual 2D and perspective views. The map manages to show traffic information in an easily readable format and will dynamically route around big problems. I was impressed by the system's route guidance, which not only shows detailed graphics for upcoming turns, but includes voice prompts that say street names.
The system responded quickly as I entered addresses with the onscreen keyboard. With voice command, activated by either a button on the head unit or on the steering wheel, I was able to say a business name, such as "Home Depot," and have it show a list of nearby corresponding locations. But the system had trouble recognizing a street name I tried to enter vocally.
Advanced voice command
As with most modern voice command systems in cars, I was able to tell it to call a person by name from my phone's contact list. In a more advanced voice command feature, the system let me ask for artists or albums from my iPhone when it was plugged into the car's USB port, mounted conveniently in the console.
I like the audio-source selection on this head unit, which shows a strip of icons on the right side of the screen. Along with satellite radio, USB, and iPod integration, the system also featured HD Radio. The audio interface showed track information from HD Radio stations and album art for music on USB drives or iPods plugged into the USB port.
This head unit also incorporates a seven-band equalizer for the stereo, instead of typical treble and bass controls. I liked that I could fine-tune the audio quality with the EQ, but sometimes you just want to twist a bass knob for some extra thump. Making up for the lack of quick adjustment of bass or treble controls, the system had five equalizer presets.
Not that the six-speaker system included in the XV Crosstrek had much bass to offer. However, I did notice some quality sound coming out of this system. Although not particularly flashy, I found the system better than I would have expected, making music sound enjoyable with good frequency separation. Subaru offers a number of speaker upgrade options as accessories through its dealers, such as a subwoofer. That would be my first upgrade choice.