So cool…This Subaru XV loves to get dirty

This Subaru XV likes to get dirty

Inspired by modified soft-roaders in the US, Aussie car shooter, Crisitan Brunelli has fitted a few mods and turned his Subaru XV into a real rough roader.

The Subaru XV will go further off-road than any of its soft-road competitors and just as far as some full-size 4x4s. Yep, it’s rugged, safe and well-equipped and that’s what appeals to Subaru die-hards…but for the rest of us it might seem a little, well, dull. 

Not this one. Well-known automotive snapper and all-round petrolhead, Cristian Brunelli, was after a new family car and wanted to downsize from a Volkswagen Amarok. After looking at plenty of vehicles online, he settled on this 2012 Subaru XV. And the plan, he tells MotoFomo was to leave it stock as a rock.

Subaru XV likes to get dirty

But a trip to SEMA last year (2019) changed everything. “There were lifted Subarus everywhere, Honda CR-Vs, RAV4s and Hyundai Tucsons, too. “Everywhere I looked, there was a soft-roader jacked up in the air on muddies and looking all Safari-spec,” Brunelli says.

“I picked up a four-wheel drive magazine before leaving the US and checked it out on the plane flight home. Sandwiched between lifted Wranglers and Tacomas was a feature on a lifted XV. It looked awesome and it gave me an idea.”

Subaru XV likes to get dirty

Brunelli’s never been one to sit on his hands for long when it comes to modifying cars and has owned everything from modified WRX and Forester XTs through to a Jeep Wrangler and even a VW Country Buggy. So, his family runabout was never going to stay stock for long.

Once back in Australia, Brunelli tells us that finding local companies that could supply parts to modify his XV took a bit of hunting around with only a handful of local mobs offering parts. In addition, to the local businesses, Brunelli reached out to US brands where the practice of modifying soft-roaders and turning them into weekend warriors is big business.

Subaru XV likes to get dirty

Needing to keep his XV legal and not wanting to ruin its road manners, Brunelli says he couldn’t go as hard with it as those in the US do. “I did my research and decided on a lift (spacer), wheels and tyres, exhaust, lighting mods and some wrapping work.”

There are precious few full suspension lifts available for the Subaru XV, although we do know that one 4×4 accessories brand is working on a kit (stay tuned) and spacer lifts are a popular way to go for soft roaders. Brunelli settled on Aussie company, Subie Lift Oz for his 1.5-inch spacer lift. He went with this kit, he says, because it lifted the car but retained the stock suspension travel and ride as well as stock geometry and angles.

While these spacer kits can generally be installed by an experienced DIYer, we reckon you’re better off having them professionally installed, and Brunelli went with the legendary Melbourne suspension mob, TruTrack. At the same time, TruTrack gave the lifted XV a wheel alignment and dialled in some negative camber. “It now turns in way better than it did before,” Brunelli told us.

The wheels were swapped out too, with Brunelli picking 15 x 7-inch Black Rhino Boxer Gunblack wheels. These were sourced through Fuel Autotek in Sydney. These Boxer wheels are specially designed by Black Rhino for Subaru XV, Forester and Outback. These are a strong, lightweight wheel featuring a rally ring which the company says, serves to protect the valve stem while enhancing strength and prevents deformation of the wheel from outside forces.

Brunelli wrapped the Black Rhinos in BF Goodrich KO2 all-terrain rubber in 215/75 R15 ratio. “I’ve had these tyres on Jeeps and an Amarok and they are my go-to tyre for off-roading. BF makes a size that fits the XV perfectly. I went from the standard 17-inch factory wheels down to a 15-inch wheel. This lets you run a tyre with more sidewall 55 to 75. The overall circumference stays roughly the same and there are no issues with rubbing. Yes, the BFG is louder on the highway but it’s miles ahead when you go off-road.”

Once the lift, wheels and tyres had been sorted out, Brunelli switched the rear muffler for a Borla Exhaust unit. The reason for this is because it’s lighter and sounds better. Here’s how Borla describes it, “Each system is built from premium T-304 austenitic stainless steel, superior to T-400 series knockoffs (such as 409), to give you the absolute best in performance and durability. Ultra-smooth mandrel bends ensure maximum flow and power, and precision computer-controlled CNC manufacturing ensures an accurate fit”.

Lighting was a big part of the project and Brunelli engaged the lighting gurus at iilumo in Melbourne to swap all the lights on the XV to LEDs. That included everything from interior lights to brake lights, indicators, headlights and even number plate lights. iilumo sourced the DRLs and fog lights from Diode Dynamics in the US and installed them.

Wanting to get rid of all the chrome on the XV, Brunelli got Magneto Industries to custom wrap the roof rails, rear bar, top brake light, door handles and badges. And for the XV and AWD badge, Brunelli grabbed a can of Plasti Dip.

On the inside, Magneto Industries covered all of the silver bits and pieces around the cabin with a 3M carbon-fibre-look vinyl. A small amount of blue digital wrap was applied to the steering wheel and sunroof spoiler. The grille was painted satin black.

To finish off the interior, Brunelli sourced a set of flappy paddle extenders from Subispeed in the US. At the same time, he grabbed an Apexi air filter and a Perrin off-set number plate mount from them.

So, is Brunelli happy with his blacked-out, lifted XV? “I’m really happy with the way it turned out. The XV is a great car in standard form but now it stands out from the pack.

“I really enjoy driving it and I even find myself staring at it in a carpark, as I think it looks cool now – and I get a lot of people asking me about it.

“The wheel arches are filled, it has a flat-four burble and to me seems like it could have just come from a rally stage, but there’s just one last thing I’d love to do to the XV…add a turbo to the engine or a supercharger, or drop in the engine from an STi…”

Subaru XV likes to get dirty

Here at MotoFomo we’re big fans of modding soft-roaders and reckon it’s a trend that’ll filter down to Oz from the US. Stay tuned, because we’ve got another modded Subaru we’ll share with you in the next couple of weeks. And, if you’ve got a modified soft-roader, for rough roading or you’ve lowered it, let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.