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Japanese cars range from quirky to incredible. For example, look no further than Subaru, which has produced quirky cars like the 360 and the Brat and incredible cars like the WRX. But in one case, the automaker created a model that was both quirky and incredible: the Subaru SVX.  

Launched in 1992, the SVX featured distinctive styling and an intriguing mix of luxury and performance. It was everything car enthusiasts would expect of a grand tourer from Subaru and seemed to build on the company’s strengths while moving the brand upmarket into Lexus territory. But while it was a good car, it never caught on with the public, and Subaru lost money on every SVX it made.  

Today this discontinued car makes a rare, under-the-radar classic. Most people have never heard of or seen the Subaru SVX. But if you can find one, you’ll behold something unique. 

A short history of the short-lived Subaru SVX 

A silver Subaru SVX coupe 1992-1997 production generation
1992-1997 Subaru SVX | Subaru of America, Inc.

Styled by famed Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who conceived icons like the Lotus Esprit, DMC DeLorean, and original VW Golf, the SVX debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Auto Show. It was a dramatic departure for Subaru, right down to its 3.3-liter flat-six-cylinder engine. 

Subaru intended the SVX to compete with the Acura Legend, Lexus SC, and Lincoln MK VII. It was an ambitious plan, but the SVX had the goods, including respectable performance, a luxurious interior, and an ace up its sleeve: Subaru’s signature all-wheel drive

However, it experienced teething problems upon its 1992 model year launch. Overheating transmissions, warping brake discs, and failing wheel bearings plagued the car. But it still delivered a fantastic ride. The large aircraft-inspired glass canopy provided excellent outward visibility. Plus, the interior was comfortable, and the AWD made it a capable all-weather cruiser.   

The SVX received numerous minor changes and upgrades over its five-year production run. But the most significant was a lower-priced front-wheel-drive model introduced in 1994. To counter the criticism that the SVX was too expensive for a Subie, the lower-priced model cost $5,300 less than the AWD version. 

‘SVX’ stands for ‘Subaru Vehicle X’ 

People often wonder what “SVX” stands for. The abbreviation is in line with other car names of the time, like the Acura NSX and Mazda RX-7. But according to MotorTrend, the letters stand for “Subaru Vehicle X.” It was also known as the Alcyone SVX, a reference to the brightest star in the Pleiades constellation, featured in the Subaru logo. 

The SVX is rare today

Unfortunately, the Subaru SVX didn’t attract hordes of buyers. It couldn’t compete with the more popular Toyota Supra, Nissan 300ZX, and Mazda RX-7. Starting at $23,000, the SVX was expensive for a Subaru, and a fully loaded model could exceed $30,000. The styling never entirely caught on with consumers, either. The window-within-a-window canopy provided several benefits, including reduced wind noise, but came across as weird or gimmicky. 

But on the open road, the SVX shined. It was the happiest cruising the highway in any kind of weather. Though far from perfect, it’s an intriguing GT, offering something unique in the collector car market at a relatively low price.   


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