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The SVX was Subaru’s effort to move into the luxury sports coupe market. Built by the automotive arm of Fuji Heavy Industries, the Subaru SVX competed against rivals like the Lexus SC, Lincoln Mark VIII, and Acura Legend. It was everything expected in a grand tourer — but produced by a company known for making quirky all-wheel-drive vehicles like the Subaru XT and GL hatchbacks. 

Built around a powerful flat-six-cylinder engine and AWD, the SVX is dismissed by some people as just another oddball from Subaru. But when the Japanese automaker developed the SVX, the company went all out, packing the car with luxurious features and enlisting legendary DMC DeLorean designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to style its new flagship. 

A short history of the Subaru SVX 

Subaru SVX
Subaru SVX | Subaru of America, Inc.

Introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Auto Show, the Subaru SVX heralded a new direction for the automaker in its attempts to move upscale. At the time, Toyota and Nissan were launching their Lexus and Infiniti premium brands to rival Honda’s Acura division. Not wanting to commit to a separate lineup, Subaru decided to produce the SVX as a flagship and readied it for the 1992 model year.  

Subaru hoped to sell between 10,000 and 20,000 SVX coupes annually. The automotive press praised it for its long-legged touring and comfortable ride. Yet it never entirely caught on with consumers, who thought it was too expensive for a Subaru, costing over $10,000 more than the brand’s average model. Performance, though adequate, was hardly breathtaking. A four-speed automatic gearbox and AWD hampered the 230-hp flat-six. The car reached 60 mph from a standstill in about seven seconds and a top speed of 143 mph. 

Subaru sold only about 14,000 SVX units during the car’s run from 1992 to 1996. The automaker introduced a front-wheel-drive model and cut the price by $5,000 to make the vehicle more attractive, to no avail. Ultimately, Subaru chose to stick with AWD wagons and sedans and develop its World Rally Championship program.   

Styled by legendary Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro 

Giorgetto Giugiaro is one of the most prolific automobile designers of the 20th century. Beginning his career at Fiat and Bertone, he produced some of the most iconic designs for the world’s automakers. Icons like the 1966 Maserati Ghibli, 1972 Maserati Merak, Alfa Romero Giulia Sprint, Lotus Esprit, and DMC DeLorean sprang from his pen. But he also designed everyday cars like the original VW Golf, Fiat Panda, Saab 9000, and virtually all of Daewoo’s lineup in the ’90s. 

The Subaru SVX has all the hallmarks of Giugiaro’s styling. It’s sleek and unadorned, with clean lines. Yet it also has bold elements such as “an aircraft-inspired glass-to-glass canopy,” HotCars reports. Then there’s the “window within a window,” a trait shared with the Lamborghini Countach and DMC DeLorean. And as with those cars, the SVX’s styling holds up and still looks good. 

But the Subaru SVX is no DMC DeLorean

Today, people remember the DMC DeLorean thanks to the Back to the Future movies. The car is a household name and enjoys a large cult following. There’s even a new DeLorean company that remanufacturers old parts, sells new/old stock, and restores the original cars, upgraded with modern amenities. 

The Subaru SVX isn’t as lucky. No company has dedicated itself to keeping the car alive, and parts are hard to come by. But like the DMC DeLorean, the SVX boasts Giugiaro styling and an active fan base. 

We could even argue the Subaru SVX is superior to the DMC DeLorean. Its performance is better. The SVX zooms from 0 to 60 mph about two seconds faster and has a higher top speed. It’s more comfortable to drive, with room for four people and a decent-sized trunk. And if the SVX had starred in a movie or TV show, we might be discussing it much more today. 


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