Subaru Alcyone SVX

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Subaru Alcyone SVX
Subaru SVX in parkland in the British West Midlands first registered February 1997 3317cc.JPG
ManufacturerSubaru (Fuji Heavy Industries)
Also calledSubaru SVX
Production1991 – December 1996
AssemblyYajima Plant, Ota, Gunma, Japan
DesignerGiorgetto Giugiaro
Body and chassis
ClassGrand tourer
Body style2-door coupé
LayoutFront-engine, four-wheel drive
Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Engine3.3 L EG33 H6
Transmission4-speed 4EAT automatic
Wheelbase2,610 mm (102.8 in)
Length4,625 mm (182.1 in)
Width1,770 mm (69.7 in)
Height1,310 mm (51.6 in)
Curb weight1,590 kg (3,510 lb)
PredecessorSubaru Alcyone XT

The Subaru Alcyone SVX, also known outside of its home market Japan as the Subaru SVX, is a two-door grand tourer coupé that was sold by Subaru, the automobile manufacturing division of Japanese transportation conglomerate Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI). Produced from 1991 to December 1996, it was FHI's first attempt to enter the luxury/performance car market. Its intention was to combine two seemingly contradictory elements—comfort and performance. The name "Alcyone" (pronounced "al-SIGH-uh-nee")[1] refers to the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, on which the Subaru logo is based.


Alcyone SVX hood emblem

The Subaru Alcyone SVX made its debut, as a concept car, at the 1989 Tokyo Auto Show.[2] Italian automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro of ItalDesign designed the slippery, sleek bodywork,[3] incorporating design themes from his other concepts, such as the Ford Maya and the Oldsmobile Gabr. Subaru decided to put the concept vehicle into production and retain its most distinguishing design element, the unconventional window-within-a-window. Subaru called this an "aircraft-inspired glass-to-glass canopy," which was adapted from the previous model Subaru Alcyone with an additional extension of glass covering the A-pillar. The decision to release this car for production gave the public the first opportunity to buy a "concept car" as conceived. The suffix "SVX" is an acronym for "Subaru Vehicle X".

In contrast to the boxy, angular XT, the SVX had curvy lines designed by Giugiaro and the unusual two-piece power side windows. The windows are split about two-thirds of the way from the bottom, with the division being parallel to the upper curve of the door frame. These half-windows are generally seen on exotic vehicles with "scissor", "gull-wing", or "butterfly" doors, such as the Lamborghini Countach, De Lorean DMC-12 (another Giugiaro design), and the McLaren F1. The SVX's aerodynamic shape allowed it to maintain the low drag coefficient of Cd=0.29, previously established by the XT coupe it replaced. European market cars had a slightly lower wind resistance of Cd=0.285, thanks to a larger undertray.[4]

From 1991 to 1992, Subaru displayed the Amadeus, a prototype shooting brake variation on the SVX, in both two- and four-door versions, which was considered for production.[5] Ultimately the Amadeus was not produced.[6]


Unlike the previous model, which had been available with either a turbocharged flat-four (as XT) or a naturally aspirated flat-six (as XT6), the SVX debuted with and remained available with only one engine, the EG33 model 3.3-liter boxer horizontally opposed flat-six. This engine was the largest engine produced by Subaru for its passenger cars until the introduction of the 3.6-liter EZ36 engine in the 2008 Subaru Tribeca. The previous generation Subaru Alcyone had a turbocharged the four-cylinder engine, but the larger EG33 was more powerful and so a turbo was not installed.

EG33, quad cam, 24 valve engine

Internally, the engine is essentially a six-cylinder variant of the EJ22 found in the first-generation Japanese market Legacy and Impreza. The new 3.3-liter variant was equipped with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, and had an increased compression ratio of 10.1:1, bringing horsepower up to 172 kilowatts (231 hp) at 5,400 rpm with 309 newton metres (228 lb⋅ft) of torque at 4,400 rpm. Fuel delivery was accomplished with sequential multi-port fuel injection with dual-spray injectors. Engine ignition used platinum spark plugs and a computerized management system with "limp home feature", which included over-rev protection, as well as monitors for fuel injection and ignition.

Later Japanese S-Four badged versions had the improved 250 hp versions of this engine. Some later Japanese models also came with upgraded 17in BBS alloy wheels instead of the 16in wheels most cars have.

The exhaust system consisted of head pipes from each bank of cylinders with their own pre-catalytic converters, which entered a dual-inlet / single outlet main catalytic converter. A single 2.5-inch (64 mm) exhaust pipe exited the main converter and went into a resonator, and onto the main, transverse, single-inlet muffler with twin exhaust tips in the bumper.

All versions of the SVX sold were equipped with automatic transmissions, as a manual transmission capable of handling the horsepower and torque of the EG33 engine was not produced by Subaru at the time.[7] Subaru had two versions of their all-wheel drive system for the automatic transmission, called ACT-4 or VTD. Both used a high bit control unit which was unusual in a vehicle at that time, let alone as a transmission control. The first system, called ACT-4 (active torque split) was introduced on the 1988.5 Alcyone and has been used on many Subaru models since, including current CVT units. The system used an electronic control unit to vary the torque applied to the rear wheels dynamically based on driving conditions. As an active system, it varied the torque split infinitely based on several inputs. It was capable of as little as a few percent to the rear wheels when cruising to near 50/50 at heavy, low speed acceleration or when a slip is detected. This AWD system was used throughout the entire production run in vehicles manufactured for sale in the US, Canada, Germany, France and Switzerland. A more advanced system called VTD (variable torque distribution), was introduced and used on SVX for sale in Japan, the UK, the Benelux region, Sweden, Australia, Spain, Austria and Brazil. The VTD AWD system adds a planetary center differential. The system retains the use of the ACT clutch and active control, though its size and role are much smaller as it is used only to suppress differential action instead of the complete differential function. When no speed difference exists between front and rear, the entire VTD gear rotates as a unit and torque split is at a mechanical 36/64 biased by the planetary gear ratio. The clutch is incorporated to prevent and suppress any differential action that may occur as the planetary gear will send virtually all torque to the axle with the highest speed if not restrained. By using a similar logic to the previous ACT system, the clutch can theoretically direct any percentage of torque to either axle, but in practice the variation remains between 34-50% front and 64-50% rear. This system is not capable of operating in 2WD and therefore could not be used on 2WD dynos as required for emissions testing in some states. This prevented VTD as an option on Subaru vehicles offered for sale in US until passenger car regulations were changed, which occurred long after the end of svx production. It was later introduced to the US with the Outback VDC. [8]

Early SVX transmissions are plagued with problems including a defective torque converter clutch which disintegrates and clogs early radiators (both clutch and radiator changed in 1993), and systemic high clutch failures due to lower than spec pump pressure, fluid evacuation, and clutch balance pressure. Several major revisions were made, all of which are included by late 1994 production. Shortly after the SVX ended production Subaru transitioned to a completely redesigned 4 speed unit.

The Japanese-spec "SVX L" received four-wheel steering in 1991 and 1992 (model code "CXD" of which 1,905 were built). The VTD equipped versions received the "CXW" chassis code. In an attempt to lower the price for the US market, a front-wheel drive ("CXV") was offered in 1994 and 1995 but sales were less than stellar.

  • 0-60 mph: 7.3 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 15.4 seconds at 92.5 mph (148.9 km/h)
  • Top speed: 154 mph (248 km/h) (1992–93), 143 mph (230 km/h) (1994+ due to the addition of an electronic speed governor)[9][10]
  • 60-0 mph: 98 ft (30 m)[11]


Total sales of the SVX numbered 14,257 in the United States and a total of 24,379 worldwide.[12] 2,478 SVXs were sold in Europe (with 854 headed directly to Germany and 60 to France). Roughly 7,000 of all SVXs sold were right-hand drive models. Included in this number were the 249 vehicles sold in Australia, at a cost between approx. A$73,000 to A$83,000. 5,884 units remained in Japan.

As an investment, Subaru actually lost $3,000 on every Subaru SVX sold, for a total loss of around $75,000,000 on this project[citation needed]. It was also developed and released during Japan's "bubble economy", and as the economic condition in Japan continued to decline, it had an effect on sales in Japan.


In Japan, the SVX was the first Subaru to exceed government dimension regulations with regards to the vehicles exterior measurements. The SVX also obligated Japanese buyers to pay more annual road tax which limited sales due to the engine displacement. The SVX was not Subaru's first car to be sold in Japan with an engine bigger than two litres; this honor goes to the preceding Alcyone XT6.

The models offered in Japan were the L (similar to the LSi in the US) and the S4. As a result, in Japan the SVX was considered a luxury vehicle and was equipped appropriately with one-touch climate control, leather interior, front seats that were both electrically adjustable and heated, a single-disc CD player coupled with a Panasonic AM/FM stereo system, that was hidden behind a retractable panel, and a remote-controlled infrared keyless entry with security system. Later S-Four badged versions had 250 hp.

The luxury approach followed the introduction of the Subaru Legacy four years earlier.

The television commercial advertising the car in Japan used Alison Krauss singing "Five Hundred Miles",[13] a reference to the car being able to travel 805 kilometres (500.2 mi) on one 70 litres (18 US gal) tank of fuel, with a fuel economy of 9.4 L/100 km (30 mpg‑imp; 25 mpg‑US).[14]

North America[edit]

A Subaru SVX in the United States.

Subaru introduced the SVX in the United States in July 1991 (as a 1992 model), following up the US debut with a Japanese market introduction in September of that same year. The model was designed and marketed as the replacement for their aging, envelope pushing Alcyone XT and Alcyone XT6 coupes. Outside Japan, the Alcyone designation was dropped, and the car was marketed as the Subaru SVX. The 1992 Subaru Legacy was given a facelift that strongly resembles the SVX, introducing a visual similarity between Subaru's top level vehicles. Many of the color choices on the Legacy mirrored those offered on the SVX. The introduction of the SVX followed the 1990 introduction of the Acura NSX, and the 1980 introduction of the Isuzu Piazza, as it appeared that Subaru was following Honda's and Isuzu's lead in introducing new products with an emphasis on performance and luxury, which were not previously associated with either Honda, Isuzu, or Subaru in the past, which reflected the state of the Japanese economy before the economic downturn in 1991 called the "bubble economy".

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the US base model 1992 SVX-L was $24,445, with the top of the line model with touring package (leather trim, 8 way electronic seat adjustment, tilt and slide sunroof), the LS-L, listing at $28,000.[11] This was $8,000–$11,000 higher than any previous Subaru. A rear spoiler was optional on the 1992 L and LS-L models and was included as standard equipment beginning in 1993. There was a brief XR model in 1992 that was made on the first production run that included the spoiler standard but put the vehicle over the import weight limit. As a result, the spoiler was shipped separately. On the other hand, it was almost $5,000 lower than a comparable four wheel drive Dodge Stealth R/T/Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, though with almost 100 additional horsepower, the Stealth/3000GT twins were much faster and more technologically advanced.[11] By the end of its production run in 1996, the price had risen to $36,740 for the top-of-the-line LSi, which was the same trim level as the 1992 LS-L

Soon after the SVX entered production, Subaru began to realize that the high selling price of the SVX was giving some buyers "sticker shock".[citation needed] In an attempt to attract more buyers, a front-wheel drive version was offered on the SVX during the 1994–1995 model year, which cost about $5,300 less than the AWD version in 1994. and $1500 difference in 1995. In 1994, FWD was offered on both the base L model (X33 in the VIN) and on the mid-range LS model (X34 in the VIN). In 1995, only the base L model was offered in FWD (X33 in the 5th, 6th and 7th digits of the VIN). Buyers avoided the compromised FWD version and weak sales figures led to its discontinuation after 1995.

Due to the SVX's introductory high price, and the fact that it had made its debut during an economic recession, sales in the United States were sluggish; just 5,280 cars were sold in 1992 and 3,859 cars in 1993. Subaru intended to sell 10,000 SVX's each year. Although ending production in December 1996, allowing for transit time before the final cars arrived in North America, meant sales continued into 1997, with 640 units sold in the final year.


In 1991, a Subaru SVX, driven by Ken Knight and Bob Dart, won the Alcan Winter Rally,[15] a race starting in Seattle to the Arctic Circle and back.

In the early 1990s there was a Subaru SVX PPG Pace Car.[16] It featured a silver to purple fade paint job, silver wheels in the front, purple wheels in the rear, "SVX" windshield banner, roll cage and an amber roof light. It was evaluated by Wally Dallenbach Sr, Indy Car Chief Steward and PPG Pace Car evaluator. It was used as a promotional tool for Subaru, as well as a pace car. While most pace cars were retired after one season, the SVX proved to be such a worthy example and a favorite, and was used for several seasons. It was in storage for many years in the famous "Subaru Performance Attic" in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, near Subaru of America's headquarters. This is an unofficial museum where many of the unique Subaru concept cars and Subarus of historical significance are stored. The Pace Car (VIN 000002) has been recently been shipped back to Japan to be permanently united with the first SVX produced (VIN 000001)


  1. ^ "Audio pronunciation for " Alcyone "". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  2. ^ Tom and Ray Magliozzi (24 November 1989). "'89 Tokyo Show proves that Japanese cars have come long way, baby-san".CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ Brian Long (2006). Subaru Impreza: The Road Car & WRC Story. p. 24. ISBN 1-84584-028-3.
  4. ^ Mayersohn (1991), p. 72.
  5. ^ "Future cars". The Post and Courier. 11 January 1992. p. 1F. In Los Angeles, Subaru displayed a prototype called Amadeus that looks like its SVX sports coupe in station wagon form... Subaru has not decided whether to build the Amadeus for sale.
  6. ^ "Subaru resumes production of SVX". Orlando Sentinel. 2 September 1993. p. F8.
  7. ^ Dan Jedlica (14 September 1991). "Japan can do sports cars and sedans, too". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 27. It's a shame this Porsche-fighter isn't sold with a manual transmission, but Subaru has none to handle the power
  8. ^ Subaru SVX and Isuzu Piazza [Japanese language]
  9. ^ Mayersohn (1991), pp. 36, 95.
  10. ^ Burry, Jeff (May 7, 2008). "Modern Classics: Subaru SVX". Canadian Driver. Archived from the original on 2012-05-27.
  11. ^ a b c Motorweek Road Test of the SVX, 1991
  12. ^ Brian Long (2006). Subaru Impreza: The Road Car & WRC Story. p. 66. ISBN 1-84584-028-3.
  13. ^ "1991 Subaru Alcyone SVX Ad". Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  14. ^ "Subaru SVX specifications". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Subaru Drive Performance Magazine : A Peek in the Performance Attic – Part Three". Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2009-05-01.