I’ve been a bit addicted to the MotorWeek Youtube channel lately. In particular, the retro reviews. They reminded me about the Subaru XT6, which in-turn reminded me that Cadillac has a car with the same alphanumeric signature.
The Subaru XT6 is a wedge-shaped, four-wheel-drive coupe that, while it may appear to be ‘sporty’, really isn’t. Its suspension is tuned for handing rougher terrain, not carving up corners. Cadillac’s XT6 doesn’t look sporty–and it isn’t–but of course, Cadillac says it is.
I got thinking that I would compare these two cars and how they would do off-road. Honestly, though? I just do not care about the Cadillac XT6. It’s a big, V6-powered, ‘squad hauler’ that’s not something I would ever consider buying. So I’m just not gonna talk about it! Let’s talk about the Subaru. It’s much more interesting.
The Subaru XT6
For me, this car was originally something of an unknown. I had heard of its successor; the SVX, but I hadn’t heard of this thing. It was only after–for a reason I cannot recall–I saw this extremely 80s and very entertaining video on Youtube did I realize they made it:
I wonder when the last time somebody jumped a car for a TV ad was. The answer? Too long ago.
The car in the ad is one of the four-cylinder turbo models, not the six-cylinder. So it’s still an XT, but it’s not the one we’re concerned with. The car we’re talking about is called the XT6 because of its 2.7-liter flat 6. This motor made 145 horsepower in North America, which isn’t bad–but it’s not great either. This engine, combined with the AWD system (which I’ll talk about more in a minute) added up to a curb weight of around 2900 pounds.
The AWD system available on the XT6 differed depending on the choice of a four-speed auto or five-speed manual. While the manual versions had Subaru’s standard “symmetrical” AWD system– that is just a flat, non-variable split–the automatic XT6 had a multi-plate clutch system that was capable of transferring 95% of the torque to the front in slippery situations. At each axle, this torque would be put down by a viscous LSD. Both automatic and manual transmission-equipped systems came with a button to lock the center differential.
On some cars the suspension was pneumatic and self-leveling. I believe it could also be raised and lowered depending on the terrain, which is cool.
On the Inside
The really unique thing about this car, besides everything I just mentioned, is the interior. This is really best explained about 74 seconds into this video by John Davis and his silky mid-Atlantic accent:
In summary: Many of the controls were contained on these weird pods that tilted and telescoped with the steering wheel. The instrument cluster also tilted with the steering wheel. For some reason, the primary climate controls were on the center console, next to the parking brake. It’s all very confusing; just watch the video.
The image above also clearly presents the viewer with the XT6’s strange, asymmetric steering wheel. Note that the pictured car has a digital dash. It apparently wasn’t very good, so it was scrapped later for what you see in the MotorWeek video.
Slippery Roads, Slippery Subaru
This car’s drag coefficient is also strangely low, at .29. The 80s are typically associated with boxy little cars that don’t need any metaphors to describe what they look like in a wind tunnel, so it’s unusual that this car is so aerodynamic. For comparison, BMW’s now-defunct i8 has a drag coefficient of .26. It isn’t as good as that slow-slung sports car, however, the XT6 is as good as the i8’s slightly lumpier cousin, the i3.
This doesn’t mean much for fuel economy, though. The EPA’s best-case scenario for the XT6 was around 25 on the highway. That full-time AWD system is to blame–it’s the same reason why many Subaru’s today have such mediocre gas mileage as compared to other cars in their respective segments.
Buying One Now
It seems like they didn’t make a ton of these things, because they’re hard to come by. I’m finding barely any for sale when I look. The good news is, when I do find them, they all seem to be under six-grand without exception.
I think one of these would make a cool winter car. It’s certainly capable enough and probably a bit of fun to drift around in. I would put some chunkier wheels & tires on one, cut the fenders out, and maybe try to ditch that finicky air suspension for some tall coil-overs. Would definitely be unique, to say the least.