It's not hard to believe that the Subaru Outback accounts for about 45% of all the Subarus sold in New Zealand each year.
Rural News Group will have a full review of the new vehicle in January 2015. Meanwhile, the launch drive revealed a car that is an evolution of a Kiwi favourite rather than a clean-sheet design. The new model is stronger. It is also bigger in many dimensions and the styling is less controversial, more contemporary than the outgoing model, but it feels very similar to the old car. That's a good thing; it has been a global sales success for a reason.
Subarus are popular in New Zealand, particularly in towns like Queenstown where all-wheel-drive (AWD) is useful. Subaru of New Zealand is keen to capitalise on this, marketing the Outback as the ideal car "for the greatest Subaru drivers in the world".
For the Outback, they are also keen to claim the title of the original crossover vehicle "which has led to dozens of imitations". As Wallis Dumper, the managing director of Subaru of New Zealand says, Subaru has always been an AWD brand; over time the SUV trend has brought the market to Subaru.
"SUVs have been the growth story of the motor industry recently," says Dumper. "But many don't stack up, only offering 2WD. At best they can be termed "crossovers" between conventional cars and real SUVs. Many are just jacked up hatches!"
He says SUVs traditionally offered four wheel drive and some form of off road driving ability. "Subaru's SUVs provide the opportunity to get to out of the way places where conventional 2WDs can't go. The 2015 Outback can provide a genuine SUV experience and provide a dynamically superior performance on tarmac compared to its rivals."
The new Outback has proper off-road ability. Enhancing this is the X-Mode feature that aids traction and hill descent in steep and slippery terrain. The system works well, but wasn't really needed on the launch drive over the rugged Nevis Road near Queenstown, such is the ability of the Outback.
On road ability is also strong, with good steering feedback and an absorbent ride perfectly matched to Kiwi roads. Commuting, touring or charging through the umpteenth ford on the Nevis, the Outback is comfortable and effortless.
Outback's extra cabin space is noticeable, even though the increases don't look big on paper. It builds on the old model which already offered generous rear legroom and a big boot.
The 2015 Outback will go on sale in February at prices to be announced on 2nd February.
There will be a choice of three power trains, all with the fuel saving Subaru Lineartronic Transmission (CVT), including the 3.6RS model for the first time.
There are two 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol boxer-engine models with power and torque at 129kW and 235Nm respectively. A single 3.6RS six-cylinder petrol boxer motor variant has 191kW and 350Nm, the identical torque produced by the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder boxer diesel which has 110kW and will be available in two models including a Premium variant with higher specification.