Remember Dick Tufeld? No, come on, you do. Dick was the voice of the robot in the 60s TV series Lost In Space. “Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!”
If Dick were alive today, I might have suggested to Subaru they use his voice as part of their EyeSight® Driver Assist system. Every time I see that dashboard light up and an alarm sound, I think of Robot.
Subaru’s recent leading 96% rating for Safety is all about a fundamental principle of safe driving: situational awareness. There is no substitute for an alert driver, but that driver needs help. Cabin visibility is better than ever, for example. The way your side mirrors tilt to make sure you don’t miss objects or people close to the ground when reversing*. They call that Primary Safety – the first of the four pillars.
But where Subaru has made extraordinary progress is in Preventative Safety. EyeSight®, a pair of cameras located behind the windscreen are seeing things you often cannot.
Also, importantly, it’s watching you. The Driver Monitoring System*.
The one I really like is the “Keep Your Eyes On The Road” signal. I couldn’t help it. On a very quiet rural back street, I deliberately turned my head away, without losing focus, until it lit up.
Come on car, I was still looking!
Years ago, I joked with a mechanic as he plugged his laptop into the car management software that one day, we’ll get behind the wheel and cop a critique of our clothing. “Don’t like that tie.”
Says the flashing dashboard. “Pink’s not your colour.” “And those wide lapels – so 90s.”
Well, we’re not quite there, but I admit to feeling offended if my Outback doesn’t say “Hello Bill”.
The other one I like is when it tells me I left something in the back seat. Oh, that would be my mother-in-law. Did you have to remind me?
Given the nature of today’s road accidents, EyeSight® is so much more than a nagging robot. The really cool stuff is evident when you encounter obstructions that pop up during roadworks. That’s where you realise your Outback can see things that are not supposed to be there and gives you a gentle tug on the steering wheel, or a flashing signal and alarm.
“It’s alright ,” I find myself saying, “I’m on it.”
But the day will come when you are not. We all like to think we’re better drivers than we really are. Even great drivers make mistakes, lose concentration, or face unexpected incidents. EyeSight® is there to help manage those moments.
Mind you, I’m yet to take up the suggestion from another Subaru owner to drive at a brick wall, knowing the car will stop itself. It’s not a trust issue. It just seems like a stupid thing to do.
But for once, those salespeople weren’t kidding when they said, “this baby has all the bells and whistles!” Most of them are telling you when there’s danger, Will Robinson.
I confess, and I’m not ashamed to talk about it now, I had a real thing for the six-cylinder Outback of the past decade or so. I’m sure the feeling was mutual. The way it comforted me in its warm seats and tranquil surrounds, guided me through those high-speed corners without a hint of doubt, carried all my stuff faithfully to camp sites and lugged timber and tools from the hardware store.
The love just grew naturally over time, as all great relationships do.
Subaru has always been clever at producing cars that are immensely enjoyable to drive without compromising their practical features. It’s simply the Symmetrical All Wheel Drive philosophy.
Everyone who makes the transition gets it. There has never been a better example than the Outback. When a car handles so well without sacrificing luxury, space and versatility, that six hour run down the coast with the family and luggage actually becomes part of the holiday, not just a means to get there.
Anyway, this year, my loyalty was tested. With a wink of its EyeSight® and the siren call of a Harman Kardon sound system, it seduced me. The 2021 Outback.
Surely, I couldn’t be happier than I was with my liberated 3.6?
Wait till you get hold of that cheeky 2.5, they said.
Well, confession number two, and what goes on the road, stays on the road. I was unfaithful.
2021 Outback dazzled me with a new array of preventative car safety features. It talked to me. No, I mean talked to me. Look, call me fickle, but that kind of intimacy is hard to reject. I felt like it knew me from the first “hello.”
But here’s the thing – aside from an amazing sound system with unrivalled separation and clarity – I’ve never felt safer in a Subaru, and that’s a big deal for the brand that tops car safety ratings in Australia .
They have taken the handling and power delivery to new levels. This engine is tuned differently to the previous 2.5s. No-one is pretending it has the outright numbers the six produced, but it’s how the power is transmitted, down below, just when you need it, with a throaty, reassuring voice.
I also couldn’t believe how they upped the ante with handling. I’ve tested all Subaru models for years on racetracks, dirt roads and winding, climbing highways. The new Subaru Outback has amazing grip for a wagon – especially when it also offers the clearance to take its talents off road. The suspension tuning is remarkable, and the horizontally-opposed Boxer engine provides a low centre of gravity.
The Subaru Global Platform has delivered a versatile, luxurious drive coupled with exceptional responsiveness to give you that all-important confidence.
Not that I’m the controlling type, but let’s say that I’m totally committed, and when you get it on the road, so is the 2021 Outback.
It’s a sad but common sight in Australia – our national symbol bounding into your vision as you travel at high speed on a dark, lonely road. What happens next depends on so many factors, each holding your life, and others, in the balance.
Aside from the obvious distress of killing the animal, this all-too-common scenario is one of the reasons why Subaru’s world-leading car safety ratings are so important.
I can’t stress enough the value of advanced driver training – the type that emphasises safety. Your vigilance, concentration and skill cannot be compromised even when you’re driving Australia’s safest car.
The best, most cautious drivers must expect the unexpected. What the Car Safety Ratings do is give you confidence to make better decisions.
Subaru was the first brand in Australia to achieve 5-star safety across the range . Since then, it has applied the latest technology to four “pillars” of protection: Primary, Active, Preventative and Protective.
The Protective strategy is the last resort, for the stuff you have little control over. Kangaroo territory.
A lot of roos can be spotted in the reach of Subaru’s extraordinary steering responsive headlights – just another of their cool ideas – but some roos have a nasty habit of racing up to a road just as a car passes, without pausing to give you a sighting.
A few years ago, my wife and I had a heart-stopping experience in our Outback late at night on the Princes Highway, just north of Batemans Bay. I was at the sign-posted speed of 100km/h on a long straight and suddenly, leaping from dense roadside bushes, not one, but two kangaroos landed in front of us.
Armed with All-Wheel Drive, I figured that with a slight turn of the steering wheel under hard braking I could stay in my lane and probably avoid the first, much larger animal. Passive safety would have to take care of the rest. A sad outcome for the young roo trailing behind, but Subaru’s impact protection enabled us to keep driving to our destination with only the front bumper assembly needing to be replaced. The impact bar had done its work.
Every case is unique. Sometimes you don’t have any time to respond. You brace and let the Subaru Global Platform do its thing: the shock-absorbing ring-shaped passenger safety cell that protects the cabin, crumple zones, multiple airbags, headrests and safety belts. Faced with an unavoidable collision, Subaru’s top-scoring performance in the latest ANCAP* testing gives you a the best chance of living to talk about it.
ANCAP* safety score of 91% for Child Occupant Protection. 84% for Vulnerable Road User Protection.
Subaru is proud of its most important safety vision yet – working towards zero fatal road accidents in a Subaru vehicle by the year 2030.
Of course, the best way to survive a collision is to avoid it. In that department, Subaru’s 96% rating is way ahead of its rivals. But that’s another, rather unusual conversation…with your car.