The Subaru XT, XT6, Vortex, and Alcyone is a 2-door coupé that sold from 1985 to 1991. The name Alcyone was used in Japan, the Vortex name was used in Australia and New Zealand, and the name XT (with the four-cylinder EA-82 engine) or XT6 (using the ER-27 six-cylinder engine), was sold in North America and Europe. All were available in front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, depending on the year.

The Subaru XT was launched in February 1985 in the American market, followed by a June debut in Japan.

The Alcyone name comes from the brightest star in the Pleiades star cluster, on which the Subaru logo is based.

The XT range was replaced by the Subaru SVX in 1992.

XT series (1985–1991)

By the time the XT was launched, Subaru had already produced vehicles with very different styling compared to other vehicles of the time period. The XT, first introduced in February 1985 in the United States (June 1985 in Japan), was a wedged-shaped departure from the 1970s-influenced curves of the previous models, aimed directly at the styles emerging in the 1980s. When introduced, the New York Times called it "the ultimate in jazzy design", in contrast to Subaru's older "cheap and ugly" offerings. The XT was the first Subaru to stray from earlier models that offered a practical application, in that the XT wasn't designed to carry loads or for commercial uses. The 2.7 L flat 6 sold in Japan was the first Subaru to exceed government engine displacement regulations due to the engine being over 2000cc, and as such was regarded as a luxury vehicle. It also incurred a separate, annual road tax due to the engine's size.


The extreme wedge body shape was possible due to the engine's flat horizontally opposed cylinder layout shared by all Subarus in 1985. Extensive wind tunnel testing was used to lower wind resistance and even "aircraft type" door handles were used that were totally flush with the outside of the door. To open the door, it was required to push a hinged panel out of the release mechanism's opening. There is one 22 inch windshield wiper, when not in use tucks under the hood, and rubber spoilers before each wheel well opening doubled as "mud guards" but really acted to direct airflow smoothly past the tires and wheels. The result was one of the most aerodynamic production cars of its time with a coefficient of drag or Cd. of 0.29, improved fuel economy, and a quieter ride due to reduced amounts of wind noise.

Aircraft-inspired cockpit

The inside of the car had many aircraft-like features such as pod mounted lighting, climate control and wiper controls. The standard tilting-telescoping steering moved the instrument panel to keep it lined up with the steering column when tilting. The shifter was joystick-shaped and had a thumb trigger interlock and "on-demand" four-wheel drive button. The approach to steering wheel adjustment was also seen in the Isuzu Piazza introduced earlier in the 1980s. Turbo models featured a sort of artificial horizon orange backlit liquid crystal instrument display with the tachometer, boost indicator, temperature and fuel gauges seen as three-dimensional graphs tilting back out to the horizon. The aircraft cockpit approach reflected influences from Subaru's parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, which also manufactured aircraft, such as the Fuji FA200 Aero Subaru.

The XT was loaded with features rarely found on small cars, such as a turbocharger, a computer-controlled engine and transmission, adjustable height suspension and an optional digital instrument cluster. The air suspension was inspired by various manufacturers who used Hydropneumatic suspension, such as Citroën, and Mercedes-Benz. The XT also had some features found on few other cars, such as an electronic in-dash trip computer, retractable flaps covering the door handles, and a single wiper blade for the entire windscreen. Pass-through folding rear seats and racing style front seats were standard equipment.


The 1985 XT was fitted with two engines:

  • EA82: 1781 cc H4 producing 97 hp (72 kW) at 5200 rpm and 103 ft·lbf (140 Nm) at 3200 rpm (9.5:1 compression ratio)
  • EA82T: 1781 cc turbocharged H4 producing 112 hp (83 kW) at 4800 rpm and 143 ft·lbf (194 Nm) at 2800 rpm (7.5:1 compression ratio) (Some sources say 7.7:1.) In Europe the power of the xt turbo was raised to 136 hp (100 kW) Starting in 1987, power increased to 115 hp (86 kW).

These engines shared the following equipment and specifications:

  • 1781 cc (108.7 in³) displacement (92×87 mm/3.62×3.425")
  • Multi-port fuel injection
  • Single overhead camshafts (note that because these are flat engines, all are equipped with two such camshafts)

The XT was available with both manual and automatic transmissions. 85-87 XT Turbos were available as either front-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive, while the 85-87 XT nonturbo cars were only available as front-wheel-drive. The part-time four-wheel-drive system was selectable by a push button atop the shifter. In 1988, the turbo model was discontinued and replaced by the XT6. The part-time four-wheel drive then became available only on manual-equipped XT nonturbo cars made in the 1988 and 1989 model years (1991 XT nonturbo models were front-wheel-drive only). The full-time four-wheel-drive system, very similar to the AWD system that Subaru still uses today, was used on the automatic-equipped XT nonturbo models, and on XT6 models as well. However, front-wheel-drive XT nonturbo models were still available, and the front-wheel-drive XT6s were automatic only. Peculiarly, virtually no XT models were produced in the 1990 model year. Some of the four-wheel-drive models only had four-wheel drive when the windscreen wipers were turned on.

Features and options

As mentioned above, the XT was loaded with periodically unusual features. Included on all models were:

  • Retractable door-handle flaps
  • Single front wiper blade (common on supercars and purpose built race cars and older E-series Mercedes Benzs)
  • Steering wheel with a single vertical and a single horizontal spoke
  • Pistol-grip shifter
  • an ECU for engine and transmission management (common on current vehicles)
  • Steering wheel with both tilt and reach/depth adjustment (common on current vehicles)
  • Instrument cluster that tilted with the steering wheel

Furthermore, some models were equipped with additional features:

  • Digital instrument cluster that tilted with the steering wheel
  • Headlight Washers (seen on various luxury cars of the last decade)
  • Trip computer with range/fuel management facilities (common on current vehicles)
  • Pneumatic suspension with height control (common on some current vehicles, supercars and purpose built race cars)
  • Push-button four-wheel drive (later changed to all-wheel drive)
  • Hill holder brake system, prevented rolling on hills in the manual transmission version.

Like other Subaru models of the same vintage, the XT was sold in three models: the base-model DL, the better-equipped GL, and the top-of-the-range GL-10. Many of the options mentioned above were available only on the GL-10.

Two H4-powered derivatives were sold in Japan: the turbocharged Alcyone VR, and the non-turbocharged Alcyone VS.

The XT received a minor update in 1987 for the second half of the 1987 model year, roughly corresponding to the 1988 launch of the XT6. Early XTs are easily distinguished from later models by inspecting the taillight and reverse light configuration - early models had reverse lights in the rear bumper, while 1987½-up models had the reverse lights in the center taillight panel. All wheel drive turbo and six-cylinder models can be distinguished by the shape of the headrests; base models had solid headrests, whereas the turbo AWD and six-cylinder models had a large rectangular hole through the center.

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