The location for photographs accompanying this article may seem a little unusual, given that the vehicle in question is a highly specified sedan that one would think would be more at home parked outside some corporate office - not in a field overlooking the Hauraki Gulf.
But, in fact, fields and muddy tracks are the perfect environment for this new addition to Subaru's Legacy sedan range.
SUBARU LEGACY 3.6X SEDAN
POWER PLANT: 3.6-litre DOHC six-cylinder boxer engine, 191 kW at 5600 rpm, 350 Nm at 4400 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Full-time all- wheel drive. Five-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift manual mode. Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI- Drive). MacPherson strut front suspension, double wishbones at the rear.
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.3 L/100 km, CO2 emissions 242 g/km.
HOW BIG: Length 4745mm, width 1780mm, height 1555mm, wheelbase 2750mm. Ground clearance 200mm.
HOW MUCH: $67,990
WHAT'S GOOD: Very highly specified Subaru sedan with solid offroading capability. The Eyesight is a revelation.
WHAT'S NOT: The on-road ride feels hard.
OUR VERDICT: A luxury sedan that's also an SUV? That concept does have strong appeal.
Subaru new Zealand has taken a 3.6-litre model and given it the SUV treatment via increasing ride height by 50mm so the ground clearance is now 200mm.
Not only does that instantly make it more suitable than a standard Legacy for use in the rural areas, but it also gives it the higher seating hip points and ease of entry and exit that is so appreciated by SUV owners.
And just to prove all of that, last week Subaru New Zealand sent the motoring media on a jaunt across some very wet and muddy farmland above Kawakawa Bay south-east of Auckland.
The Legacy 3.6X sedan runs on ordinary road-going 18-inch wheels and tyres, but it still easily slipped and slithered its way across the route, its full-time all- wheel-drive system keeping things on track and the 200mm ground clearance allowing the vehicle to pass over some rough terrain.
Subaru NZ managing director Wally Dumper described the 3.6X, which enters the market at $67,990 and carries the highest equipment levels of the entire Subaru range, as the adventurous executive.
"It is ideal for rural and regional areas, and also for those who need extra clearance - such as in negotiating those typically long green centre-strip driveways common in rural New Zealand."
Dumper added he "truly respected" the ready acceptance of the SUV-style vehicles in this country and the current market dominance of these vehicles - as well he should, given the success of the Subaru Legacy wagon and Outback models here.
"But we feel there is an opportunity for the buyer who does not want an SUV wagon. The 3.6X sedan provides that choice."
The Legacy 3.6X sedan is available exclusively with the 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, and it comes stacked with specification - including Subaru's innovative EyeSight driver assist system.
This is a driver safety technology system that is similar to some exclusive European vehicles, but which uses twin cameras, like eyes, to help do everything from keeping the vehicle on the road to reducing the severity of or even prevent collisions.
It's a new standard feature on all six-cylinder Legacy and Legacy GT models.
Interior detail changes that the 3.6X has over other Legacy models include brushed gun-metal grey centre panel, centre console and steering switch panel, while the electronic park brake and SI-Drive switches have been relocated for easier use - the SI-Drive is now on the steering wheel instead of the centre console.
Arrival of the 3.6X coincides with a facelift of all Legacy and Outback models.
This has given them some visual changes including larger front fog lamps and different grille, bumper and headlights, new-design 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels, and the introduction of three new paint colours.
Inside, a major change is the introduction of electro- luminescent liquid crystal display instrumentation on the 3.6-litre and GT Premium models.
The 2.5-litre Legacy and Outback models have been fitted with a latest quad-cam version of Subaru's boxer engine that we first saw in the Forester last year - and a 2.0-litre version of which is under the bonnet of the new Impreza and XV models launched earlier this year.
In the Legacy/Outback, the new engine offers four kilowatts more power and six Newton metres more torque than the SOHC engine it replaces.
The new engine also now has chain-driven camshafts, which reduces servicing costs because the 100,000 km cambelt change which costs around $700 is not longer required.
Subaru NZ says the new DOHC engine's more efficient operation means there is now more mid- range torque from around 2500 rpm.
Fuel economy has also been improved, and is now averaging 7.9 L/100km in the Legacy 2.5 sedan and 8 L/100km in the wagon and Outback - those are improvements of 6.3 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.
Some of this better economy has been achieved via improvements to Subaru's Lineartronic automatic transmission, which is now lighter and more compact, with less internal friction.
Minor changes have been made to suspension to improve ride and handling. The diameter of the front anti-roll bar has been increased by 3mm to 26mm, and there have been changes to shock absorber settings for better damping at lower speeds.
The Outbacks have lighter rear suspension upper arms for less unsprung weight, and the electric power steering has been given more feel. Suspension bushes have been revised to improve stability and to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
At last week's media function, Wally Dumper said perhaps the biggest benefit from the facelift is the improved fuel economy. It proved that Subaru is meeting the need for increasingly economical vehicles in a changing world.
"There is a perception that all- wheel drive is a fuel consumption penalty," he said.
"But the engineering of our Lineartronic powertrains make our cars, which are among the largest in the medium-sized segment, among the most economical in the class."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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