ROAD TEST: Seeing is believing

Subaru’s Eyesight technology in the driver’s seat

December 7, 2012
by Emily Atkins

Nobody likes a backseat driver, especially when they tell you things you already know. But when it comes to useful warnings about potential problems, having one built into your car might turn out to be a lifesaver.

The technology that’s incorporated into the 2013 Subaru 3.6R Outback Eyesight is pretty remarkable. The car has stereoscopic ‘vision’ thanks to two cameras, mounted on either side of the rear view mirror. Using this vision, the car can tell you when you have left your lane without signaling, when there is an object in front of you, when you may be drowsy, when the car in front of you has started moving and you haven’t, and it will help you keep a set distance from the car in front while using cruise control.

At a Glance
Specs as tested:

Body Style: Five-seat wagon

Engine: 6-cylinder 3.6L with 256 hp

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 8.2-litres/100 km highway; 11.8-litres /100 km city

Price: $39,995 MSRP (Prices start at $28,495 MSRP)

The collision avoidance feature will restrict the throttle and help you apply the brakes when it detects an object that the car is approaching too quickly. In practice, the car is quite good at identifying hazards and alerting the driver before urgent action needs to be taken. Pedestrians crossing the road a considerable distance away activated the earliest warning chime, as did cars backing out of driveways and following too closely on the highway. It’s a good reminder for all drivers about keeping a safe distance.

Eyesight technology aside, Subaru has created an accomplished vehicle in this Outback. It handles like a much smaller vehicle, exhibiting unexpected nimbleness and maneuverability. The steering is precise and the car transmits good road feel without being hard-riding. On the highway it is a smooth operator, and cruises along quietly and efficiently. There’s enough power available in the 256hp boxer engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission to handle passing and high-traffic city driving.

All-wheel drive and great ground clearance also add to the wagon’s practicality, making it a good choice for rural and northern areas where snow and dirt roads are commonplace.

It is big on the outside and beyond roomy inside, making it extremely practical for business users who need to carry large loads without needing a truck or SUV.

Inside, the cabin is understated, with a compact dash and easy-to-find controls. The leather and woodgrain trim in the version tested look great. One passenger commented on how luxurious the car feels and how comfortable the seats are. The driver’s seat is extremely comfortable, and easily adjusted. Passengers are carried in comfort, and nobody, front or back, will find themself cramped.

Visibility in this Outback is excellent. There is almost no blind spot, and it sports nice big side mirrors to help out with lane changes.

The car is practical in so many ways, from the rubber-lined cargo compartment, to the (optional) back-up camera, to the automatic headlights. The Bluetooth connectivity was a snap – intuitive and quick. The Outback also has an auxiliary plug-in and power supply in the centre console that’s easy to get at, and it supports older versions of popular MP3 players, not just the latest models.

Put that together with the Eyesight option and it all adds up to a car that’s roomy, sturdy, smart and stylish.