The Subaru SVX was like nothing else that came before it or after it. It was a 2+2 personal luxury coupe full of oddities. Launched in 1991 during the height of Japanese sports car boom, the SVX was designed to compete with the likes of the Toyota Supra, Mitsubishi GTO, Nissan 300ZX and Mazda (Eunos) Cosmo.
Power came from a 3.3-liter Boxer six-cylinder engine making 231 hp, which put it right on par with many of the naturally aspirated competitors mentioned above. Being a Subaru, it of course featured standard all-wheel drive but was sadly only available with a four-speed automatic transmission. But hey, it did have a rudimentary manual mode that allowed the drive to keep it in first or second gear.
The coupes were low slung, and headroom was at a premium, but leg and hip room was generous, at least for the front seat passengers. The rear seats were mere suggestions for the smallest of children. The interior was finished in a combination of leather, faux-suede and plastic. It was quite a premium interior for its day and one of the nicest on the market.
The overall shape and design of the car was unique and funky. The headlights, taillights, rear spoiler and pillars all had a distinct look to them. The seatbelts on early models were motorized and retracted when the car was turned off. But the biggest oddity to the car was the window in window design.
The front and rear windows were fixed in place and wrapped around, covering the A, B and C pillars to meet the windshield and rear glass. Each front and rear window had a smaller window inset within it that could be lowered and raised like a more traditional window.
The goal of this design was to allow the windows to be open at highway speeds without excessive wind or buffeting inside the cabin. It did work, but the tiny openings were a nightmare at the drive thru.
I suppose I could have also titled this article Biggest Regret as I did own a 1997 SVX for a very brief period of time in 2012. I had returned my 2010 Subaru WRX to the dealership as I was now a fulltime automotive writer and was piloting various press cars on a weekly basis. I only needed my own car to get from one automotive manufacturer to another once per week.
I had a limited budget and a short list of cars I was interested in. After a bit of searching, I was amazed to find a one owner 1997 SVX for sale at a local dealership. 1997 had been the year I was looking for as it had the grille I preferred, most of the early model transmission issues rectified, and the problematic motorized seatbelts were gone by then.
I went there, drove it, and fell in love. The interior was in near perfect condition. The mechanics in fantastic shape (minus a faulty O2 sensor). The exterior was great all things considered, with just a bit of clear coat peeling and a small rust spot on the rear quarter panel.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
I bought the car and drove it home. I loved (almost) everything about it. The smooth, surprisingly powerful engine, the low-slung driving position, the interior design, the looks it got as I drove around. The handling left a lot to be desired, but I could have corrected that, and this was more of a cruiser than a racer anyway. I was excited about the car every time I drove it.
But nothing lasts forever, and sometimes, it only lasts for two months. It’s amazing that in that short period of time I bought new wheels and summer tires, installed crappy HID lights, LED fogs and did some minor body work. But after owning this car for only a few weeks, a neighbour put up their 1990 Miata for a steal of a price and I couldn’t resist.
I bought the Miata and now had two cars, which was one too many for a guy who drove his own car once a week. After some deliberation, I sold the more expensive SVX. I had a blast in my two years with the Miata and will write about it in a future article. But I still feel I was too hasty in my decision. Selling that SVX is my biggest automotive regret.
The Bright Side
On the positive, I sold the SVX to a true automotive enthusiast who had a real soft spot for this funky coupe. I have run into it a few times since and he keeps improving the car’s already impeccable condition. In hindsight, it is probably best such a great specimen of a car went to someone who could properly care for it instead of it being in my hands, where it would have sat week in and week out in a random parking lot.
But things have changed for me and if that car ever comes up for sale again one day, I’ll be first in line.