Why the XT/Vortex/Alcyone?


A perfectly restored XT TurboObviously you can’t discuss the XT without immediately considering its unique styling. It is, after all, one’s first interaction with the car - the visual experience. Both inside and out it looks like few other cars ever made. For some this is off putting. I think those people have no imagination or sense of style… I almost pity them for not seeing how the styling alone makes the car appealing. I’m not saying it’s necessarily beautiful. No. I’m saying it’s distinct styling sets it apart from all other vehicles of its time and even today.

When every car in traffic is a lozenge-shaped exercize in conformity and high tech, and a look at a parking lot yields a see of vehicles nearly indistiguishable at first glance, the XT is an immediate focal point; it is a relief to the eye to see something out of the ordinary. One of the great things about the XT’s exterior styling is the fact that you will almost never see another one in traffic. It is, as I’ve said many times, “a poor man’s exotic”. Soon after I’d bought my first XT6 brand new back in 1989, my sister-in-law commented that it looked like it was moving just sitting there. It does have a certain “I’m purpose built to carve through the air” look. The aerodynamics are plainly evident the first time you see it… the low hoodline, the smooth rear wrap-around glass, the aircraft style door handles, single recessed wiper, the semi-detached mirrors, the subtle rear spoiler formed in the trunk deck… it all contributes to a “jet fighter car” look.

But the exterior beauty goes beyond mere aesthetics of course. The XT is a “form follows function” design. Those aerodynamic aspects are both intentional and purposeful. We owners are all aware of the car’s great “drag coefficient” figure of 0.29, which is essentially that of a current model Corvette. True aerodynamics may not be at the top of every car owner’s features list, but it generally results in stunning looks and improved performance and economy, so why not take a momen to appreciate the visual and physical benefits? Especially on a car that, in some cases, is almost three decades old! This is one of the fantastic things about the XT’s styling appeal - it’s both exciting to the eye and intelligently applied with complete purpose. Form follows function.

Vortex/Alcyone Turbo cockpitOn the inside the car is just as unusual but, again, laid out with direct intent. Everything is within reach. This is evident from the control “pods”, which keep key functions at the driver’s fingertips while still allowing both hands to remain on the wheel. The instrument cluster is always visible to the driver despite any adjustments to the steering wheel’s position - GENIUS! Even the climate control temperature and fan speeds may appear “out of place” at first because they’re down on the center console near the driver’s thigh, their placement is understood once you realize you don’t have to lean forward or reach out to make any adjustments. They are intuitive and fully adjustable without a single glance (or even much of a thought) away from the road. What looks odd to the non-owner, is immediately understood and appreciated by the owner. “Ergonomics” was a huge buzzword when the XT was on the showroom floor, and clearly there was some thought put into such matters in placement of the controls. Even the two spoke steering wheel leaves a thumb rest where a third spoke might be expected.

Sure some of the interior is indeed a simple exercise in 80s “futuristic” awesomeness. The jet fighter control stick shifter, the often “loud” upholstery patterns, the aforementioned asymetric two spoke steering wheel, the “everything’s on an angle” dash trim - it’s all what Subaru thought forward thinking aesthetics was back then. Nowadays it’s truly odd looking, but that remains part of the XT’s appeal. Climb inside and you’re in a well laid out 80s time machine. If you’re lucky enough to still have the original cassette deck, pop in your copy of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and enjoy the journy back in time.

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