Given that the Subaru Forester virtually started the trend to SUVs years ago, the New Zealand motoring public’s assigning to it the label ‘wagon’ was woolly.
It stepped into the void left by the exit of the Legacy wagon in 2015.
But there’s a surprise in the number of people who believe they need a bigger SUV despite not towing anything and not needing seven seats.
Your reviewer lived with an Outback for a week -- the 3.6RS, hero of the range -- driving it in Waikato and around the Coromandel Peninsula, discovering how good this vehicle really is.
It’s available in 2.5 or 3.6L, with the iconic flat-four or flat-six Boxer engine; both machines rev freely, are quick off the mark, sure of foot and eat up rural kilometres.
The 3.6RS pushes out 191kW at 350Nm torque, quickly hitting the 100km/h legal limit and just as quickly making speeds it’s best not to brag about.
This is coupled with Subaru’s well set-up Lineartronic CVT which allows the vehicle do its own thing in Auto, or you can drive it in manual mode using the steering wheel paddle shifters.
You have a car that is fun to drive, with the option of a little tweaking of throttle response via the SI-Drive engine management system.
Well-known for its Symmetrical AWD system, the Subaru is equally capable on- or off-road; the system feeds power to all four wheels simultaneously, offering grip, better handling through the twisty stuff and overall greater control.
Add to this the integral vehicle dynamic control and braking systems that combine to monitor the vehicle’s movement, and make sure things stay upright and under control.
A long list of functions includes ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, TCS limited slip control, electronic brake force distribution and active torque vectoring that uses the brakes and engine torque to promote better cornering.
Passenger safety is enhanced by the maker’s Eye Sight system of two cameras mounted high in the centre of the windscreen; these scan ahead and work with a central processor to provide adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, pre-collision brake assist and throttle management, and lane sway and departure. It uses colour recognition to detect brake lights, so triggering the autonomous braking function.
Subaru’s safety system is among the best available; it really only needs a head up display for even safer driving.
In the cabin, leather seating is comfortable and supporting, particularly in twisty or rough stuff.
Ahead of the driver is a multi-function display of the vehicle’s functions, and in the central console an 8-inch LCD touch screen. Add to this keyless entry, push button starts, electric sunroof, powered tailgate, rear camera, front and side-view monitors, rain sensing wipers, adaptive headlights, and then you get to understand why for just under $60,000 the Outback is out-front in the macho-wagon stakes.