Crosstrek Body. WRX Soul.
What do you get when you mix a WRX with an XV Crosstrek?
Vermont SportsCar Technician Shaun Jacobs had to find out.
Shaun Jacobs knows a thing or two about pulling apart Subaru vehicles and putting them back together again. As Senior Technician at Vermont SportsCar, he’s helped strip vehicles, pull engines, rewire, fabricate parts – you name it. He’s also owned one of the most deeply coveted of modified Subaru vehicles, an Impreza 2.5RS two-door with a WRX STI engine swap. “That was ridiculously fast,” he says, “but it really didn’t fit my lifestyle.” Translation: He couldn’t fit his mountain bike inside.
He was in the market for a new vehicle, and loved the design and all-around utility of the XV Crosstrek. On the other hand, he also loved the turbocharged power of the WRX. “I was torn,” Jacobs admits. And then a WRX engine became available at the shop. Why not do a crossbreed version of both?
“At that point, we were building the 2015 rally cars at work, so I ran the idea past Lance (Vermont SportsCar President Lance Smith),” Jacobs recalls, “and he was intrigued.” Vermont SportsCar built a prototype for the shop, confirming that it could be done. So Jacobs decided to make one on his own.
Tearing Apart a Perfectly Good Vehicle
“I bought a brand-new XV Crosstrek and stripped it,” Jacobs says. “There were a few moments when I thought, ‘What am I doing to a perfectly good vehicle that I bought with my own money?’” But the drive for WRX-level performance and the itch to build a unique vehicle runs deep in Jacobs, so he dug in.
Piece by Piece
“The process wasn’t all that difficult,” Jacobs says modestly. “We strip brand-new vehicles at work for the rally team. I was able to source a lot of parts from Vermont SportsCar and from my other contacts, too, including a near-new WRX engine. So that was a great start.” Some parts were more difficult to source than expected. Some had to be modified or fabricated from scratch. “It was really a matter of taking the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then making it happen.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Maybe for Jacobs, that is.
Miles of Wire
All modern vehicles have miles of wiring for all the electronic controls. The engine, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamics Control, the power steering – all rely on electronics – so sorting out the wiring was “the biggest issue. I had to extend some wiring harnesses and shorten others,” he recalls. “And of course the brakes on the XV Crosstrek are different than on the WRX, so that also took some work.” His project vehicle is running STI brakes and the WRX ABS as well as the complete engine, transmission, and drivetrain. “Again,” Jacobs assures us, “it’s just a matter of figuring out what works.”
A Touch of STI Inside
Since the interior dimensions of the XV Crosstrek are “very similar to” the WRX sedan, Jacobs sourced STI seats and door panels. “The engine and drivetrain are WRX, interior is WRX STI, and rest is XV Crosstrek ... except for what I’ve modified.”
Those changes are pretty significant. It’s got a “gravel” suspension with adjustable compression, rebound, and ride height, plus 17-inch racing wheels. “I won’t keep tinkering with it forever,” he says. “But there is a short list of stuff I’d still like to add, like an aluminum skidplate and some composite pods up front with HID lights.”
It was really a matter of taking the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then making it happen.
The Inside Scoop
Accommodating the large WRX intercooler is yet another challenge for Jacobs. “I would like to get a hood scoop from a 2014 or 2015 WRX STI to replace the stock XV Crosstrek hood,” he muses. “I could do the basic cutting, fitting, and welding, and then I’d ask the body shop to make it look like new.” The Dark Gray Metallic exterior and black wheels give the vehicle a stealthy look, not really attracting too much attention from the uninitiated. Of course, the hood scoop might make the Subaru performance crowd do double-takes.
The Obvious Question
With all the sweat equity, money, and time put into this project, why not just start with a WRX? “I really like the look of the XV Crosstrek,” Jacobs enthuses, “the body, the functionality. My mountain bike fits inside, and I like having the room and utility of a five-door. Now I also have the high performance of the WRX – not just power but braking and handling, too.” So, what’s it like to drive? “It’s a lot like driving a stock WRX in terms of power, but the ride is softer than a WRX,” Jacobs explains. “The suspension is still raised, too. Not as much as a stock XV Crosstrek but probably about an inch taller than a WRX – just right.”
Now I also have the high performance of the WRX – not just power but braking and handling, too.
Around the Block or Up the Trail
Jacobs uses his vehicle both as a daily driver and for weekend trips. “I go camping in it,” he laughs. “My girlfriend and I ride mountain bikes four or five times a week when I’m in town. I’ve got a hitch-mount for both bikes in back, so we’re set.” Jacobs has high praise for the Vermont Mountain Biking Association. “It’s a great organization! They maintain all the trail networks, probably about a dozen different ones around here, everything from intermediate to hard-core trails.” Given his love of pushing the envelope, it’s easy to guess which trails you’ll find Shaun Jacobs riding on.
Torn between Crosstrek and WRX? Take a test-drive to decide.