Given that we already know already the Subaru Forester is a great SUV – after all it won the 2018 New Zealand Car of the Year Award – we were keen to get to grips with the latest e-Boxer Hybrid.
Subaru is pushing the line of Symmetrical Four-Wheel Drive and a low-slung Boxer engine.
Favoured by the outdoor types, the brand also has a strong and loyal following from those living or working in the rural sector.
The Outback, now in its fifth generation, is still Subaru NZ’s most popular seller. So, the introduction of the limited edition “X” for 2020, is likely to reinforce that position.
Pitched between the 2.5 Sport and the range topping 2.5 Premium, the Outback X takes most of its spec from the latter – except for leather upholstery. In their place are water repellent fabric seats, that should prove ideal for those outdoor/rural types, who arrive back at the vehicle complete with wet or muddy clothing.
In addition, the new arrival also features Dual X Mode four-wheel drive. This builds on the staple of automatic adaption of engine output, throttle, torque distribution and braking to aid traction. All this is geared to further improve performance in deep mud or snow, should the user want to wander beyond the berms of Jaffaland.
Living with the Outback X for a wet and windy week in a wintery Waikato, the vehicle imparts a sense of safety. However, it also proved to be exceptionally sure-footed on both sealed and gravel surfaces.
Add in the excellent EyeSight safety suite, that looks after lane change warnings, blind spot detection, adaptive headlight control and side-view cameras, then you feel very secure. Point it where you want to go – then it goes there. So, don’t listen to those urban journo’s who mumble… “it certainly doesn’t corner like a Porsche.”
Powered by the well-known, 2.5 litre flat four Boxer engine, the Outback won’t break any performance records. However, with 129kW and 235 Nm on tap, it readily gets on with the job.
Mated to Subaru’s Lineartrionic Transmission (SLT) – the company’s take on a CVT, but with chain rather than belt drive. The engine needs a “good poke” to get things happening, but once moving sees a smooth transition as speed builds and proves very easy to live with.
Helping drivers get in the right frame of mind, the SI drive function allows the choice of Normal, or a more aggressive Sport setting for throttle response to suit terrain or conditions.
In the cabin, the cloth seats offer plenty of adjustment, even for those that are longer or have a wider beam. It proves to be comfortable on a longer run and supportive in more rural situations. Fit and finish is right up there with nicely placed controls. An 8-inch, touch screen, colour monitor takes care of settings, sounds and navigation – with the seemingly obligatory Apple Car Play and Android Auto also installed.
Outwardly, a range of subdued colours are given a bit of bling with some lurid green badging, that is countered by blacked out 18-inch alloys, grille and wing mirrors.
Access is SUV-like, helped by a 213mm ground clearance.
The stand-out for any switched-on buyer is the high level of standard equipment that includes Satnav, electric sunroof, a power tailgate smart key – and a “must” for any outdoorsman or woman looking for adventure – a set of roof bars.