Box Checker: 1988 Subaru XT6 AWD 5-Speed

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Most of the quirkiness is gone from the Subaru lineup but in the golden days of yore – as no Subaru owner has said, ever – they made some very unusual vehicles. One of the most unusual was a wedge-shaped car with either front-wheel-drive or AWD and this 1988 Subaru XT6 has AWD, not to mention a 5-speed and boxer-engine with six cylinders, a true box-checker. It’s listed here on craigslist in Bothell, Washington, just south of Everett. The seller is asking $3,400.

Some of you may remember that our own writer and editor, and major car guy, Jeff Lavery, had a car very similar to this one about three and a half years ago. He gave us a couple of updates on the work that he and his various preferred shops did to make it a really nice example and it wasn’t easy, or cheap. These are very complicated cars, they really pack a lot of technology into a small package.

The Subaru XT was made from 1985 to 1991 and the early cars came with a four-cylinder boxer engine. A turbo was available which boosted the power to a meager 110 horsepower or so, but from 1988 to 1991, the XT6 was available with a 145-horsepower Subaru boxer with two extra cylinders. The seller tells us that this car has been a work in progress over the last year after it had been sitting for a while. They have done a lot of work but as is usually the case, there is more work to do.

The interior looks good and having a manual transmission, it just checks yet one more box for most of us. It seems as if most of these cars in both four and six-cylinder configurations came with automatics. The seller has a perfect dash pad available and a lot of other parts. The body of the car has a few dings and chips and the paint needs help – or most likely, a new paint job.

The engine is Subaru’s ER27, a 2.7L boxer-six with 145 horsepower which at the time of introduction was the only water-cooled flat-six on the market. Jeff ended up writing one of those giant Price-is-Right-sized checks to have the engine in his XT6 pulled and resealed and to have a few other things done to it and they can cause heartaches as any Subaru owner knows. This one runs and drives well according to the seller and that asking price is $200 below Hagerty’s #3 good condition value. Have any of you owned a Subaru XT?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. alphasudMember

    I worked on one way back in the early 90’s these also had air suspension and electronic shock valving. Most were converted when things started to go wrong. They were quite strange when compared to the competition. I’m not sure who they were trying to follow. Personally driving one was not very rewarding. I apologize in advance for anyone who owns one or aspiring to own one I don’t mean to offend. I have wired tastes as well so there you go.

    Like 8
    • SubGothius

      Reckon they weren’t trying to “follow” anyone, aside from just having a sports coupe in their lineup at all; Subaru’s always preferred to do things their own way.

      These are also proof that aerodynamics don’t have to mean jellybean styling; the XT had 0.29 Cd, which is still impressive even today. Legend has it the engineers wanted a faster backlight for lower drag, while the stylists wanted more of a formal coupe roofline, so wind tunnel experiments with scale models resulted in this as the optimal compromise, giving up nothing in drag vs. a full fastback.

      The gauge cluster is also anchored to the steering column, so it moves up and down with the wheel just as the switchgear pods do.

      Like 5
  2. Jim

    I really miss this type of vehicle. Along with the Celica, Pulsar, etc., they provided fun sporty vehicles that were affordable. Same can be said for actual reasonably priced sports cars (such as the RX7).

    Of course, nowadays, just finding a car (as opposed to an SUV) has become a challenge.

    Like 13
  3. Matt in L.A.

    I agree with Jim in that we don’t have comparable cheap, fun sporty vehicles like that anymore. That said, Alphasud is right! These were finicky oddballs that weren’t rewarding to drive AND they were outrageous to insure because repairs were so expensive. They’re kinda cute, quirky and rare, would be fun at one of those 90’s Radwood meets, just buyer beware!

    Like 2
  4. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Buy it just for the I-wish-I-was-a-Cuda shifter.

    Like 2
  5. SirRaoulDuke

    10/10 would hoon. The body is already borked, might as well drive it like the rally car it wants to be.

    Like 3
    • RacinRob4

      Didn’t own one but had a buddy that had the same car but in silver. We drove his car home from Norfolk, VA to Charleston, WV and back one weekend and then my car the next weekend. Really liked his with the Boxer 6 and the 5 speed.

      Like 0
  6. Paul in MA

    Odd hubcaps, they go one way on the drivers side and another on the passengers side. The SVX had the slicer wheeled which were designed to slice forward. I love SVXs

    Like 0
    • SubGothius

      Those are alloy wheels; apparently they didn’t bother making directional variants for each side.

      Like 0
  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I remember when these were on the market. I loved its wedge shaped body. I found it more attractive than other Subarus sold at the time.

    Like 1
  8. Matthew Hafer

    I had one of the turbo 4 cyl models and absolutely LOVED the car. It looked like this one, black on back with a five speed. It was a bast to drive, you coukd kick in the 4 wheel drive with a button and at thee same time the car rose with the air system that I never had problems with.
    I totaled it twice, bought it back twice but only rebuilt it once to look new again. The second time everything that made it fun still worked on it and I drove it to almost 350000 miles before it gave up the goose.
    I’d love to own another one.

    Like 7
  9. Steven Thompson

    The only Subaru I have owned was a 1977 Brat loved that car – mini truck and I do miss it

    Like 1
  10. Denny

    Not sure for how long, but these had some wild video-game like digital instruments. I remember a 3-D effect. (?) Subie’s are still quirky, but in a mainstream sort of way..

    Like 0
  11. John

    i need this XT6, but it is way to far away and price is high…
    i had an xt6 loved the car but rust got to him and main support rotted out.. :(

    Like 0
  12. Larry

    I owned a 1989 XT-6 in 1991 and owned it till I traded it in, in 1998 for a 1993 Acura Aztec green Gs-R. I loved everything about this car. The only issue I ever had was that it used to blow timing belts all the time But I used to dominate the 1990 fox body mustangs. It had some amazing tech. The climate control was down by the emergency brake and the whole dash would lift up when u wanted to get out and then when u got in u pulled the whole dash down to def make the inside feel like a cockpit. It was small fast and handled everything I thru at it. This is one of the cars I wish I never got rid of ..

    Like 0
  13. Eric

    I owned a 1989 XT6, bought out used for $5k in 1994 or so. I was 19 years old and loved the look of the car. Drove it a couple years and it needed a new exhaust – I was quoted $1500 to replace so I traded it on a 1995 Escort GT 5speed, also a cool car.

    Like 0
  14. Gill

    Price is iffy. Not a bad car…
    If your a old owner of an XT, check out my build thread on Instagram.


    Like 0
  15. Dawn Aleksich Ramey

    I had one. Is this available?

    Like 0

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