In Japanese, the brightest stars shining in the sky are called Subaru; in te reo, Matariki.
Subaru's badge represents those stars – the Pleiades, maybe better known as the Seven Sisters – and now the formidable carmakers are introducing a new star to the Subaru range – the Limited Edition Outback X.
Perhaps it's no great surprise that New Zealand drivers feel a strong connection to the carmaker and especially its Outback SUV range. Subaru's customer research shows many Kiwi car-buyers are loyal to the brand because they believe it's ideal for New Zealand driving conditions – whether it's as the family or company runabout, or the vehicle of choice for those who live an active life and like to "do a little extra with their day".
Its Limited Edition Outback X arrives in New Zealand – or, as the company prefers to call it, "Subaru Country" – with a suite of creature comforts such as soft-touch interiors, increased visibility and loads of cargo space. It also arrives with class-leading technology and a price tag under $50,000 which includes features that would come as optional extras costing up to $15,000 on rival vehicles.
The SUV carries the heritage of its award-winning cousins, the Legacy station wagon and Forester SUV but this special edition vehicle puts quite a lot of space between itself and its predecessors.
Earlier versions of the Outback have proved popular with buyers who like the model and want to upgrade, including families and empty nesters; fleets and rural business customers looking for a vehicle that's smart and professional but can handle on- and off-road conditions; and people who use their vehicles for active lifestyle pursuits - surfers, boaties, mountain bikers, runners and skiers.
In short, people who like to be different and want a vehicle that's a little bit special and unlike anything else you can buy.
The price tag for the Outback X is $49,990 and for a highly-spec'd vehicle is a great deal on its own, but Subaru ramps up the value-for-money proposition with those special features. They include black 18" alloy wheels and grille, green accents on the grille, badge and interior seat stitching, along with water-repellent seats.
Whatever or wherever the owner's driving patterns, safety is always the prime consideration. The Outback X utilises advanced technology to support that – whether it's on a trip to the shops, cruising city streets and open roads or heading off the tar seal.
It introduces a far more sophisticated system than just providing all-wheel-drive, all the time. As soon as the vehicle senses a loss of traction in any of the four wheels it instantly transfers that power to the other wheels that still have grip, helping to maintain control.
It carries an ANCAP 5-star safety rating - the highest possible – and a suite of innovations. The prime new feature is Dual X-Mode. All Subaru vehicles are all-wheel-drive which is designed to deliver good traction on normal roads when conditions become a little slippery – like that city roundabout on a rainy night.
Dual X-Mode goes a whole step further. It helps drivers safely negotiate bad roads, slippery surfaces and inclines with confidence by constantly monitoring the traction available to each wheel and centralising control of the engine, transmission, brakes and other components.
When activated, electronic control of the engine, transmission, all-wheel drive system, brakes, vehicle dynamics control system, and other critical components, are optimised in off-road situations.
That helps reduce potential wheel slip on slippery surfaces, climbing steep inclines and navigating rough roads. It also includes a hill descent control that maintains a slow speed downhill without the driver needing to touch the brakes or accelerator, allowing a focus on steering.
Also in the toolkit: EyeSight Technology, a clever crash avoidance technology that offers pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, driver alerts and more; a reversing camera; built-in satellite navigation to help you explore and update in real-time; Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through USB connection.
To make life more comfortable and easier for the driver, controls include an electric-power rear gate, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, one-touch folding rear seats, an integrated infotainment system and dusk-sensing headlights. Passengers enjoy dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning and heated fronted seats.
As the Outback X is a limited-edition model, with only a few vehicles available throughout the country in 2020, would-be buyers need to contact the Subaru dealer network quickly - but safely.