THIS week’s test car eschews that buzz phrase that filtered out of the Geneva Motor Show a few years back that, with regard to the latest car colours, “white was the new black”.
There followed - as I am sure you are aware if you take note of such things - a rush to produce lots of white cars. Suddenly, over the next few years, the roads were littered, it seemed, with white cars. Black cars were regarded as, shall we say, a little retro or, to use another popular word, bordering on “vintage”.
However, Subaru has always gone its own way. It shows scant regard for trends, as anyone who has owned or even driven a Subaru will testify.
There is something unique about this brand and it is a quality I like. Any car-maker that bucks trends and yet still produces fine, user-friendly and good-to-drive cars deserves our praise.
The Subaru XV 2.0 SE, this week’s test drive, was black for a purpose: it is a Special Edition Black version. At the end of last year, Subaru decided to paint it black with a vengeance.
The Japanese car-maker launched the Subaru XV Black, a new limited edition variant of its compact crossover. The XV Black models are available with either a 2.0-litre Boxer diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, or a 2.0-litre Boxer petrol unit and a Lineartronic automatic transmission.
The test car employed the latter auto gear change, plus some rather nifty paddles on the steering wheel. Just out of interest, these paddle gears are not only handy for getting more direct performance out of the XV, they are also good for controlling the car if you are approaching a speed limit too fast.
Normally, the automatic gearbox will control engine speeds regardless of you, the driver. This is done in league with the car’s computer management system. But of course this cannot detect speed limit signs or cameras.
I am not suggesting one deliberately cannons along until you hit a speed sign. But it can be annoying if you are caught for speeding by just a margin of a few miles per hour above the limit. Because the paddle gears take over immediately from the auto gearbox, the driver can decelerate smoothly to get under the required speed limit. The idea behind the XV Black is that it uses its colour as an asset: exclusively finished in Crystal Black Silica paint, the XV Black offers a number of unique “visual additions”.
As an all-wheel drive crossover, this “look” is designed to boost the car’s rugged, go-anywhere appeal. These include front, rear and side silver-resin under guards, front and rear mud flaps, a cargo step panel, and a foldable cargo tray. Inside, the XV Black model is fitted with heavy-duty rubber floor mats. I had a bit of rugged work to do myself in this car: the recent storms that ripped across the country took hold of a large, climbing ivy at the back of our house and peeled it off the garden wall like a bad toupee from a bald man’s head.
I had to clear up the broken and messy climber. The XV Black, together with judicious use of a tarpaulin, swallowed the ivy in two loads to the local refuse tip. The rubber floor mats were easily washable afterwards.
So this rugged and defiantly dark, brooding car did just about everything it said on the tin: it was fast and comfortable on motorways, and hardy and robust in the countryside when asked to do a practical job of work. I did rather like this demonstrably black beauty.
By NIGEL WIGMORE