Eyes have it for auto Outbacks, top Forester

EyeSight active safety technology has become standard to the Subaru Outback – for no change in price, for now.


AN impressive active safety system has now implemented into every version of Subaru’s best-selling Outback and also found its way into the smaller Forester.

Wholesale adoption of EyeSight, an impressive advanced stereoscopic camera technology that enables a smart cruise control and is the key ingredient of crash detection and avoidance systems, avails in the Outback immediately.

The introduction has been notified hot on the heels of a record January sales result for Subaru, driven largely by the sports utility wagon.

A year-starter high expected to be replicated in a yet-to-released February result is fueling confidence that the brand’s 2016 performance might equal, if not surpass, a strong 2015 outcome for a marque that is fast-tracking back to the forefront as a sports utility specialist.

The EyeSight implementation is just part of a technology upgrade; another element being the incorporation of a Vision Assist package, initially only to the high-end Legacy for now.

The upgrades do not alter current model pricing, though Subaru New Zealand managing director Wallis Dumper has signaled prices will rise in June to maintain pace with exchange rate fluctuations that the Auckland-based distributor has withstood until now.

For the past year only high-end Premium-badged petrol 2.5-litre and 3.6-litre Outbacks, and Legacy sedans, have had EyeSight, and it was not provisioned at all in the Forester and Outback diesel, which share a 2.0-litre four-cylinder.

Now all Outback models have the added safety net of adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking and steering assistance for avoiding collisions, lane-departure warning and front vehicle alert, which prompts the driver if they have failed to notice the car ahead pulling away. The Forester Premium also adopts it, however Dumper believes it is only a matter of time before cheaper editions also benefit. That decision, however, is in the hands of Japan headquarters.

Meantime, Dumper believes the diesel Outback might benefit most from the EyeSight implementation.

“At least, that’s the hope. Our diesel is still not selling quite as well as we had thought it might, perhaps because of the low price of fuel and the fact that our petrols have become so efficient.”

He also wonders if the engine – the world’s only boxer configuration diesel – has been caught up in the backlash over Volkswagen’s well-publicised emissions scandal. “Maybe there’s a general wariness about diesel engines which, if that’s the case, is a bit unfair.”

The Forester facelift is likely to enhance interest in the current model in what has been confirmed as its last full year of sale, and Subaru volume is expected to grow mid-year when the Levorg small wagon arrives.

However the Outback is expected to maintain as the brand’s best seller, with sales now at a point where the delivery time for some variants is stretching to four months.

The enhancement doesn’t stop there. All Outbacks save for the base have rear cross-traffic alert, once the preserve of bigger spenders. Blind-spot detection and an enhanced lane warning seem set to implement more broadly, too.

An Emergency Stop Signal, which flashes the hazard lights when the braking system detects an abrupt application of brakes, has become standard to Legacy.

Meantime the Forester is adopting embracing new safety and comfort gear plus light styling tweaks while both both models – which started as wagons but are now classified as sports utilities – have adopted chassis tuning, the result of work undertaken in Australia, that aims to improve suspension compliance without compromising dynamic qualities.

All other equipment and performance figures are unchanged for Outback, and there are no styling changes, whereas 216 Foresters have been mildly facelifted with a new re-sculpted front bumper to all but the top-spec variants, a new-look grille, headlights with C-shaped LED daytime running lights and fresh foglight surrounds for the higher-end versions.

At the back end, the update is limited to a new tail-light design, which incorporates C-shaped LED lighting to match the new headlight design.

Some editions also take Steering Responsive LED headlights to focus the whiter beam around corners as the steering is turned, there’s a fresh paint option - Sepia Bronze Metallic - and new 17-inch and 18-inch alloy wheel designs.

Subaru has promised noise, vibration and harshness levels have dropped due to interior noise suppression changes. These include quilting on door trims, thicker seat cushioning and window glass, and padding added to either end of the instrument panel. Subaru estimates the NVH reduction to be in the region of five percent.

The 2016 cars have gone to different damper and spring rates, as well as new mounting bushes, and the rear suspension geometry has been redesigned for better straight-line stability. A new steering box has reduced the Forester’s rack ratio down from 15.5:1 to 14:1 for greater feel and reduced turns from lock to lock, but also reduces felt vibrations, says Subaru.

The flagship updates to Vehicle Dynamics Control (VCD) torque vectoring, which applies inside wheel brake force in fast cornering to mitigate understeer, but otherwise it is business as usual with the powertrain and variant line-up unchanged.

The count of 256 Subaru registrations last month was the brand’s best January result, with Outback achieving 135 of those sales.