Subaru: It's almost all about the car

By Matt Greenop

Matt Greenop survives one or two technological difficulties to drive Subaru's new Outback

The 2013 Legacy sits slightly higher than the previous model. Photo / Ted Baghurst
The 2013 Legacy sits slightly higher than the previous model. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Technology can easily make you a bit complacent - in some cases, bone idle. Cars are being packed with so much of this complacency-complicit gadgetry that there will soon be no excuse for crashing, apart from stupidity or lack of ability.

Here's one example: parking sensors. Firing backwards into a carpark the other day, pre-coffee, I nearly demonstrated the aforementioned stupidity. I waited for the telltale beeps indicating the concrete wall was getting close. Closer. The truth was, it was getting very close indeed and the car I was driving wasn't fitted with parking sensors.

Subaru has long been an enabler for the tech-savvy, and it has extended its clever-clogs offering in the latest Outback with the new dual-camera EyeSight system.

It works with two large cameras fitted either side of the rear-view mirror that, Subaru says, emulate human vision. None of its tricks are proprietary - many other manufacturers have similar doohickeys built into their cars - but EyeSight does tie it all together in a neat package.

The system assesses what's going on ahead, and a braking car ahead, for instance, will get the system beeping. If you don't jump on the brakes quickly enough, it will do so for you.

Adaptive cruise control is a particularly useful tool, and operates at speeds of up to 145km/h. Using it in flowing motorway traffic proved to be an excellent way of de-stressing the drive to work - set it to 60km/h and it will brake and accelerate to maintain position in the traffic flow, even coming to a complete halt when the car ahead does, albeit with a lot of beeping and red warning graphics flashing up on the dash.

The only part of EyeSight - which is available on the six-cylinder variants of the Outback and Legacy - that I found slightly irritating was its lane departure system.

This doesn't seem suited to areas where there are a lot of road markings - like the CBD - and beeps its warnings with monotonous regularity. Streets with cars parked in a way that continually forced driving over the centreline set off so much It's (almost) all about the car

The Legacy comes with EyeSight - dual cameras around the rear view mirror. Photos and cover / Ted Baghurst

beeping that I needed to turn it off - thankfully, a simple switch.

On the motorway it was far more effective, although testing did probably give the impression of drunkenness as I tried to set it off on different types of road marking, mostly with success.

Aside from beep-related anger, for which there will be support groups popping up as these technologies are more widely adopted, it is an excellent safety suite and well suited to a vehicle the size of the Outback that is, in all likelihood, carrying a good-sized complement of passengers much of the time.

Like its predecessor, the vehicle is a slightly confused being - essentially a giant wagon - and the 3.6L boxer petrol version equipped with EyeSight is at the very top of the heap, priced at $69,990.

As you'd expect, the equipment level is high - McIntosh audio system, reversing cameras, leather interior, sat-nav - and it is well worth considering alongside any high-end SUV that's going to spend the bulk of its life on everyday road duty.

It has been lifted slightly for the 2013 model year, to 213mm, which means it does have more than enough room underneath for some off-road manoeuvring. But let's be honest, most Outbacks have a far lighter workload than they're ever going to be subjected to.

Styling has been tweaked, a new grille defining it from the 2012 model, and while it's not exactly what you'd call a beautiful design, it is more focused on functionality.

Switch the SI Drive system into its eco-drive mode and response is softened significantly; engage the go-fast mode and it can be easily pushed along, especially when using the manual shifters mounted on the steering wheel.

While the Outback is a towering machine, its handling is not destroyed by body roll, and quick cornering ably demonstrates that it's a big car, with a heavy six-cylinder engine - and it's a long, long way off the ground.

- NZ Herald

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