Subaru’s Crosstrek chosen for first plug-in hybrid

Subaru seeks to thrill at the Los Angeles Auto Show with the brand’s first plug-in hybrid, a gasoline-electric version of the Crosstrek subcompact crossover that arrives in U.S. dealerships by year end.

The 2019 Crosstrek Hybrid gets exterior and interior design flourishes to distinguish it from its gasoline-powered stablemate, the brand’s No. 3 seller since 2014.

The all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid will also be the most powerful and fuel-efficient variant, according to Subaru. The drivetrain pairs a 2.0-liter direct-injection boxer engine and new continuously variable transmission with two electric motors and a lithium ion battery.

The 148-hp setup achieves an electric-only driving range of 17 miles and can speed up to 65 mph in full electric mode. For a fuel economy rating of 90 MPGe, the Crosstrek shows remarkable promise while still delivering quicker 0 to 65 mph acceleration than the gasoline-powered counterpart.

 More to come

But after the Crosstrek Hybrid, Subaru plans to introduce another full electric in 2021.

The Crosstrek Hybrid will start at $35,970, including shipping, about $8,000 more than the base Prius Prime, Toyota’s plug-in hybrid offering. The Crosstrek Hybrid is built on the company’s new Subaru Global Platform, which is designed to accommodate hybrid and full-electric powertrains.

Blue headlight projector rings and silver metallic finish on the grille will make the Crosstrek Hybrid stand out from the standard Crosstrek. A lower front bumper and body cladding, as well as fog light accents, further convey the model’s electrified persona.

Interior highlights

Inside, the plug-in hybrid sports a new color scheme of high-contrast gray and navy blue. The leather seats, door panels and armrests are accented with blue stitching.

Drivers using Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system can also access some special hybrid-only functions. The Crosstrek Hybrid’s system will allow them to remotely start the vehicle’s climate control. They can also use a remote battery charging timer to manage charging from afar.

U.S. sales of the Crosstrek surged 40 percent to 122,464 vehicles through October. But executives expect the plug-in hybrid to be a niche model helping Subaru comply with new emissions mandates. Former global r&d chief Takeshi Tachimori said in January that Subaru expects to initially sell it only in states that have adopted California’s zero-emission vehicle regulations.