Twice The Fun

11 min read
Our car reviewer got to test drive two modes of road transportation, a car and a motorcycle.

The all-new Subaru Outback defies categorisation. Just take it that this all-rounded all-wheel-drive meets your every need.I’ve always been in two minds when it came to deciding on a car. As someone who regularly needs to lug stuff (golf bags, bicycles, plants, furniture, etc) around, boot space holds top priority. That leaves me with choosing between station wagons and SUVs for the most part.

I enjoy the space and convenience of an SUV, but dislike the customary roll of its road handling. I’m impressed by the performance of recent wagons, but they’re often unattractively designed.

That’s why the Subaru Outback has always fit the bill for me.

Neither wagon nor SUV, this flagship model from Subaru in Singapore benefits from the advantages of both with few, if any, of their bugbears.

Taking one out for a spin had me anticipating like a kid in front of a toy shop. It’s been a while since I sold my mid-2000s three-litre Outback, and was keen to see how the car had grown up since then.

What a difference a decade and a half make.

Just visually, it looks like a totally different car. The 213mm ground clearance gives the new Outback a statuesque stance that can withstand all manner of terrain. The heavy-duty crossbar roof rails are more pronounced, and the sturdy bumper guards and body claddings all offer a rugged touch.

As much as the exterior alludes to the car’s ability to take you to the ends of the earth, the interior makes me feel as if the Outback will do just as well when it comes to sending me to the opera. Luscious Nappa leather adorns the seats, a first for Subaru, and extra plush cushioning and trims surround driver and passengers with unabashed luxury. The 2,745mm wheelbase has been carried over from the previous model, but meaningful increases in length (+50mm) and breadth (+35mm), coupled with significant improvements in packaging, have created a more spacious interior.I’ve always been in two minds when it came to deciding on a car. As someone who regularly needs to lug stuff (golf bags, bicycles, plants, furniture, etc) around, boot space holds top priority. That leaves me with choosing between station wagons and SUVs for the most part.

I enjoy the space and convenience of an SUV, but dislike the customary roll of its road handling. I’m impressed by the performance of recent wagons, but they’re often unattractively designed.

That’s why the Subaru Outback has always fit the bill for me.

Neither wagon nor SUV, this flagship model from Subaru in Singapore benefits from the advantages of both with few, if any, of their bugbears.

Taking one out for a spin had me anticipating like a kid in front of a toy shop. It’s been a while since I sold my mid-2000s three-litre Outback, and was keen to see how the car had grown up since then.

What a difference a decade and a half make.

Just visually, it looks like a totally different car. The 213mm ground clearance gives the new Outback a statuesque stance that can withstand all manner of terrain. The heavy-duty crossbar roof rails are more pronounced, and the sturdy bumper guards and body claddings all offer a rugged touch.

As much as the exterior alludes to the car’s ability to take you to the ends of the earth, the interior makes me feel as if the Outback will do just as well when it comes to sending me to the opera. Luscious Nappa leather adorns the seats, a first for Subaru, and extra plush cushioning and trims surround driver and passengers with unabashed luxury. The 2,745mm wheelbase has been carried over from the previous model, but meaningful increases in length (+50mm) and breadth (+35mm), coupled with significant improvements in packaging, have created a more spacious interior.The cockpit is an exercise in both sensibility and style. The centrepiece is the 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen with high-definition LCD screen. As can be expected, the system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you to maintain connectivity and customisation to your preference. The audio system is worth mentioning here, particularly if you’re an audiophile. I couldn’t remember when I enjoyed Miles Davis’ ‘Round Midnight’ as much as when it came through the Harman/Kardon setup, with its 11 speakers and eight-channel amplifier!Of course, I had to check out how much space there was in the boot. The 522-litre luggage compartment didn’t disappoint. Larger than the previous model (10 litres more, to be exact), the rear gate also features a hands-free opening feature that can be activated by going close to the Subaru badge near the handle. With my hands full, all I needed to do was to point my elbow to the badge and — “open sesame!” — the door opens!When it came time to take the car out on the road, I was impressed that the car drove as well as it looked. Built on the latest Subaru Global Platform, it come with a full inner frame structure and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. What this translates to is that the road handling is responsive and leaves little to be desired when you take the Outback anywhere around the island. The new 2.5-litre direct injection boxer engine is no slouch too, and lets you go from 0 to 100km/h in 9.6 seconds.

What I was totally blown away by is the suite of safety and driving assistance features available in the Subaru Outback. I tried the Adaptive Cruise Control, and it worked like a charm, allowing me to increase or decrease speed with a simple toggle of a switch on the steering wheel. I could even change the distance between the car and that in front so that the ACC could keep me at a safe distance through the drive.

When I veered away from my lane, the Lane Centering Function of the ACC would steer the Outback to keep it in the middle of the lane, whether the road is straight or slightly curved. ACC has the added benefit of helping drivers in traffic jams by keeping drivers at a safe distance from the car in front, helping a driver to slow down or speed up automatically in these situations. I found this particular feature especially useful for our roads.

The car has the latest version of EyeSight, Subaru’s award-winning safety feature system, now with new bells and whistles. When I drifted off my lane, the EyeSight 4.0’s Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention kicked into action. I could feel a nudge on the steering wheel whenever I crossed the lane markings at 60km/h or more.

The EyeSight 4.0’s Pre-Collision Braking covers more traffic scenarios at intersections where the Outback is making a turn, thanks to its better stereo camera and angle of coverage. It helps the driver look left and right, covering more scenarios to prevent collisions (eg, vehicles travelling in the opposite direction and pedestrians crossing the road at a discretionary right-turn junction).

I also liked the EyeSight Assist Monitor, which gives visual warnings on the windshield to warn of potentially dangerous situations. And while I feel assured knowing that these features are present — eight airbags, Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection, Reverse Automatic Braking, and Post-Collision Brake control — I am thankful I didn’t have the ‘opportunity to try any of them out during the test drive!

There are other aspects of the Outback that I found rather useful, if a little whimsical. I could set it up so that the car recognises my face through the Driver Monitoring System. Each time I enter the car, the system scans my face through infra-red facial recognition technology, remembers the unique settings for my seats, mirrors, climate control and display preferences, among others, and automatically adjusts them for me. This can be done for up to five drivers. The system also warns me when I inadvertently look away from the road when driving. Think of it as a co-driver that doesn’t sleep.

When it came time for me to return the test drive unit, I was reluctant, to say the least. As a driver who likes space, good handling, decent performance, and extreme comfort, the Subaru Outback ticked all my boxes.

The Subaru Outback is available at $165,800, inclusive of COE, from Motor Image Enterprises.

Don’t let the sweet-looking Ducati Streetfighter V4 fool you. Voted “most beautiful bike”, this sophisticated piece of technology turns into a corner-devouring monster on the road.Just looking at the Ducati Streetfighter V4 sets your heart racing. This “super-naked”, stripped-down machine from the Italian motorcycle maker bares its soul when taken to the roads — and has nothing to hide.

Firstly, lets focus on the 1,103CC Desmosedici Stradale engine. At just 178kg (S version), the V4 engine pumps out 208 horses with the ease of an MMA fighter snapping a chopstick. And if this weren’t enough, Ducati offers the full-racing Ducati Performance exhaust by Akrapovič, which raises power to 220hp and reduces weight by 6kg.

Straddling the somewhat tall Streetfighter, the seating position is not as aggressive as the Paginale V4, from which this bike takes much of its technological features. Still, at 178cm, I’m unable to have the soles of both feet touch the ground. Despite this height, the bike’s agility comes alive when on the move.

Steering is lively, and it’s so easy to bank into and out of a turn. Body architecture is one thing, but the Streetfighter also has a slew of technology to help keep it nimble. The electronics system is Ducati’s latest, and the six-axis inertial measurement platform detects the bike’s roll, yaw and pitch angles as it manages acceleration and braking, handle traction, and even lends a hand through and out of corners.The Streetfighter just wants to go fast. A slight twist of the throttle and acceleration is mind-blowing. It goes from a cruising 60 to 100 faster than you can say “whoa!”, all with such smooth stability that you can even balance a cup of espresso on the 16-litre tank while cruising down Orchard Road.

This bike is smart enough to anticipate your moves. When I took it on a winding stretch, the Ducati Traction Control (DTC) EVO 2 ensured I pulled out of corners with the greatest of ease. The Ducati Quick Shift up/down (DQS) EVO 2 had me going through the gears in a jiffy, while allowing sportier high-rev gear shifts (over 10,000rpm) while boosting shift stability if I ventured towards the aggressive.I love the full TFT, 5-inch digital display found on the Streetfighter V4. The white background makes the digital speedometer so easy to see, and the large tachometer to the side tempts you to redline the bike when conditions allow. The bike has three different riding modes to choose from — Street, Sport, and Racing — and you can toggle between them on the fly with the dedicated mode-change switch on the left handlebar. With another selector switch on the left, you can search through several other facets of info, such as fuel consumption, and trip.

Customisation is a dream with this bike, and you can even change the settings of the Dual Traction Control to suit your circumstances on any given day. The bike even offers eight different settings for the Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), just in case you have that unabashed urge of abandon. Other customisable details include suspension, engine power, and ABS. And if you just want to keep things simple, just hit Default, and the bike goes back to its factory settings, which is just about everything you need for our roads.I’ve left the best bits about the Streetfighter V4 for last: its awe-inspiring looks. Ducati didn’t hold back when it threw away the covers and revealed the bike for what it is — a powerful, road-hugging street bike that is as comfortable on city roads as it is on an open highway or switchback country lane. The lines of the bike are so well coordinated that it creates a package that seems created from a single mould. From the minimalist V-shaped LED headlights and its narrow waste to the upward tilt of the hornet-tail rear, the silhouette is sensually alluring, tempting you into its fold. Being able to handle her is another thing, though!

Yet, there is function in its stylish form. The “biplane aerofoils” on each side of the bike, designed by Ducati Aerodynamicists, not only protect the engine in the unfortunate event of a drop, but also provides 28kg of downforce at 270km/h, mitigating front-wheel float and the tendency to wheel-up at high speed. The upturned, hornet-like tail houses a perfunctory pillion seat pad that has holes designed into its side for air flow. And the rear wheel seems to float behind the gorgeously balanced engine block, connected magically by the backward-rotating crankshaft.The Ducati Streetfighter V4 was voted “most beautiful bike” at the 2019 EICMA (Milan Motor Shows), with more than a third of all voters picking it as the winner. The accolade helped Ducati to 10 of the last 15 awards given, stamping its authority in the category.

The Ducati Streetfighter V4 and V4 S is available from Ducati Singapore from $61,900 with COE.

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