I totally get why the Subaru Crosstrek is something of a cult-status rock star in the Subaru lineup for tens of thousands of owners across the country. It’s ridiculously spacious, loaded with tech, can go off-road better than you might suspect and isn’t unreasonably priced. Fuel economy has been decent, if not stellar — but now there’s a plug-in hybrid version of the Crosstrek to boost that mileage rating, one that can actually travel a decent distance on electricity alone before it kicks in its gas engine.
So, I decided to use my local plug-in hybrid test loop to answer the question: How far can a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid go on electric power only?
Turns out, as with most plug-in hybrids, farther than the EPA ratings would suggest. The Crosstrek Hybrid is rated to go 17 miles on full electric power before kicking in its gas engine to allow for 480 miles of total range. My test loop from Ann Arbor, Mich., to nearby Dearborn, Mich., enabled me to eke out 21.4 miles of full electric range before the battery read empty.
Method to My Mileage
I wasn’t engaging in “hypermiling”-style driving, but I did employ cruise control where applicable, kept to within 5 mph of the posted speed limits and made sure to use the maximum regenerative setting to recapture as much energy as possible. I also made sure to keep the windows up (aerodynamic drag dramatically affects range at higher speed) and the climate control off (air conditioning and heat will drain batteries quickly, too). I accelerated carefully so as not to engage the gasoline engine, which automatically switches on if you demand significant acceleration out of it. There’s no “EV-only” mode that I could find, nor a “charge” mode that will recharge the battery off the engine, as there is in some newer plug-in hybrids. I drove at a moderate pace, keeping up with traffic but not employing methods that would get things thrown at me by other drivers, things like curses or coffee cups.
How It Works
The Crosstrek Hybrid employs a different powertrain than the conventional Crosstrek. The 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine only produces 137 horsepower as opposed to the standard Crosstrek’s 152 hp, but it’s augmented by what Subaru calls its StarDrive Technology — which sounds a lot like the Crosstrek should be able to achieve warp speed, but no, not quite. It integrates two electric motors into a revised continuously variable automatic transmission, one used as an engine starter and electrical generator, another that powers the car for hybrid and electric-only driving modes as well as adds power back into the battery when regenerative braking is engaged. The total system power is an estimated 148 hp, but the torque delivery is changed with the electrified version, enabling a full 1-second improvement in the zero-to-60-mph sprint, according to Subaru.
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Guilty as Charged
Of course, if you regularly test out that acceleration, you won’t get the 21.4 or even 17 miles of electric range that you should be getting out of the hybrid. The car’s 8.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack isn’t terribly big (a Chevrolet Volt’s is roughly twice as large, by comparison) and takes about two hours to recharge on 240-volt power or five hours on a 120-volt household plug.
But what’s worse about charging the Crosstrek is that Subaru put the charging port in a terrible spot: on the left-hand rear fender, on the opposite side of the car from the fuel door. This makes it tricky to plug in anywhere as a charging cord has to be long enough to snake down the whole side of the car. I had to awkwardly back the Crosstrek into my garage to access our home charger. Putting it at the front of the car is a far better idea, and one that most automakers employ.
Other than that quirk, the fact that there’s no EV-only mode (odd in a plug-in hybrid) and the loss of cargo space taken up by the hybrid’s larger battery pack, the Crosstrek Hybrid is a great around-town car. All-wheel drive is rare in a plug-in hybrid, and the fact that it’s standard here is even better. It does indeed feel quicker than the regular Crosstrek (though that’s not hard to accomplish, as the regular version isn’t exactly a rocket). It gets better than the advertised range when driven properly, and it does so in comfort and style.
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