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Subaru Legacy X


Here's something you might not know: in the past, Subaru has dabbled with Outback versions of its Legacy sedan – mainly for the American market, which likes the whole crossover ethos but maintains a strong preference for the more traditional sedan body shape, especially in more upmarket models.

Sounds weird to us wagon-obsessed Kiwis, but why not? There's more to recreational all-road driving than just carrying bikes or heading up the mountain with a load of skis.

Anyway, that's the background to the new Legacy X sedan just launched here. It's a three-box sedan with all the bells and whistles, coming only with the top 3.6-litre boxer-six engine. It's also raised up 50mm, giving 200mm of ground clearance: the same as the pre-facelift Outback (the latest wagon, also just launched, has gained another 13mm).

The Legacy X isn't dressed up like a pseudo off-roader. It has the wider track and flared guards of an Outback, but everything is body-colour and really the appearance is supposed to be that of a premium sedan.

A premium sedan it is, with a pricetag of $67,990 and every piece of cabin equipment currently available from Subaru. It's still not quite the most expensive Legacy, though: that would be the $69,990 GT Spec.B turbo.

Who will buy the Legacy X? Not many people, admits Subaru New Zealand, which says it would be happy to sell 20 per year. After all, 90 percent of its sales in New Zealand are wagons.

But it sees the Legacy X as an alternative to high-tech European cars and reckons potential customers might be business people living in rural areas (or with rural clients) who want the dignity and presence of a posh sedan but also need to press on when the roads turn rough. Farmers even, who once upon a time might have driven a top-line Commodore or Falcon.

Or perhaps just city-bound executive buyers who want something a little bit different. It's certainly that.

I'd love to say I have fully evaluated the Legacy X on road, but in fact I've only had the opportunity to test it on a bumpy, muddy off-road course thus far. We never touched tarmac; that'll have to come later.

But the sight of a luxury sedan with its axles crossed up, or surging through mud high on a hilltop, was quite entertaining. We were following an Outback, which looked quite at home. The Legacy X certainly went everywhere the Outback did, which is just as you expect because they are the same underneath. Both light-duty off-roaders, but surprisingly capable.

In terms of rough-road ability, I think it's safe to say that the Legacy X will go anywhere a potential owner will dare to take it.

The Legacy X is also the vehicle for Subaru's new cutting-edge EyeSight safety technology. The system, which is also fitted to the Legacy GT and top Outback models, employs a pair of forward-facing cameras that 'see' in three dimensions and assess the driving conditions to provide a range of crash-avoidance and driver-assistance technologies.

For example, EyeSight offers a pre-collision braking and brake-assist function that is active all the way up to 160km/h. It can sense if you are approaching the vehicle in front too fast and can not only help you with braking pressure, it will also warn you of impending danger, then automatically take over and try to stop the car to minimise damage – or if you are going less than 30km/h, even bring the car to a halt before an impact occurs.

The same system can retard the throttle if you are about to accelerate into the back of another vehicle – that classic scenario where the car in front at an intersection moves, then suddenly stops without warning.

EyeSight also provides more conventional adaptive cruise control functions: it can 'lock on' to a vehicle in front and stay with it all the way down to a standstill, then automatically start again when that car moves away again. Lane departure warning is also provided.

None of these functions are firsts, but the technology behind them is: no other maker uses a twin-camera system in this way, sans radar or laser. It's intriguing.

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