“Hey Neal, you have got to show me that car you’re testing this week,” one of my co-workers from the production department said as he made a point to flag me down in the newsroom.
“That’s one kickin’ ride. What is it?” he asked.
“Are you talking about the one parked in the lot that I just got today?” I asked.
We walked to the door and he pointed to the test vehicle parked in my parking space.
“That one,” he said, opening the door for me and literally pushing me outside.
“That’s the new Subaru Outback wagon. It’s been redesigned for the 2008 model year,” I said, as I pushed the key fob to unlock the doors so he could look inside.
“You mean this is the Crocodile Dundee car?” he asked.
It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about, and then I realized he was thinking of the former Subaru spokesman Paul Hogan, who played Crocodile Dundee in the movies.
“He’s not the spokesman for Subaru anymore, but he used to do the commercials for the Outback,” I explained.
“Since when?” my co-worker asked, opening the passenger door and climbing into the front seat.
“About five years now,” I answered.
“No kidding?” he asked.
“Maybe more,” I said.
“Man, he was cool. I saw him on TV driving one of these and it made me want one. That’s too bad. You ought to have them get him back,” he told me, as if I could call up Subaru and had the influence to make them bring back Hogan.
I started the car for him and showed him the new instrument panel with the electroluminescent gauges.
“Whoa! That’s awesome!” he said, running his hand along the revised dash featuring new materials.
“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to the dial for the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) system.
“It gives the driver more control over the turbo engine,” I started to explain.
“It’s got a turbo?” he asked.
“Yeah, a pretty good one, too,” I said. “The SI-DRIVE lets the driver maximize engine performance, control and efficiency by choosing from three modes — Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp.
“You dial in the setting and it regulates engine control based on what you dial in. In ‘Intelligent’ mode, the system reduces engine torque and maximum power by switching to a more relaxed throttle response — mainly used in stop-and-go driving situations. It helps improve fuel economy.”
“We all could use that,” he said.
“‘Sport’ mode provides quicker throttle response and faster acceleration,” I resumed my explanation. “While ‘Sport Sharp’ is ideal for those twisty roads in the country when you really want to open it up.”
I also went over Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, telling him it provided outstanding handling in all types of driving situations.
I told him it came in three trim lines, and the top-of-the-line Outback L.L. Bean Edition was powered by a 6-cylinder turbo.
We went through the long list of standard features, including some of the optional features, such as the navigation system that was equipped on the test vehicle.
“Man, Neal. You got the best job in the world,” he told me. “I need to get me one of these. This new Outback is kickin’.
“It’s too bad about the Crocodile man, though,” he said, running his hand over the leather seats.
Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org.