Subaru is a brand that’s forged its reputation on sensible, practical and well-thought-out saloons, wagons and crossovers, so we’re still wondering what they were thinking when they conjured up the awkward looking XT.
To be fair, the XT wasn’t a hopelessly incompetent car. Sharing its platform with the vanilla-flavoured Leone family (comprising saloon, coupe, hatchback, wagon and pick-up), the XT was a workmanlike device dressed in sci-fi clothes. But the wannabe racy looks weren’t backed up by performance to match, as the entry-level 1.8-litre engine eked out a modest 97bhp, and even the upmarket turbo version only dished out an extra 15bhp. A 2.7-litre flat-six motor was later added (in the XT6), but that was no fireball either. The XT was sold in FWD and AWD formats, but both served up copious amounts of understeer and body roll if you drove them with any degree of gusto.
The Subie’s angular lines may have been ungainly, but they certainly were aero efficient, thanks to extensive wind-tunnel testing. This yielded aircraft-type door handles that sat flush with the outer door panel, and there was a single 22in windscreen wiper that receded below the bonnet line when not in use. There were also little rubber spoilers ahead of each wheelarch that channelled air smoothly past the wheels and tyres. As a result, the XT was one of the slipperiest cars of its time with a drag coefficient of 0.29.
Inside, there were clear nods to Subaru’s aviation links (parent company Fuji Heavy Industries builds aircraft), including touches such as pod-mounted lighting, as well as a tilting-telescoping steering that moved along with the instrument panel to keep it all lined up regardless of what position you set the wheel in. The gearshift lever was joystick-shaped and had a thumb trigger interlock and “on-demand” four-wheel-drive button.
However, buyers didn’t warm to the XT’s quirky oddities, so Subaru quietly shelved it after a six-year production run during which less than 100,000 units were sold.