THE stench of burning rubber is unmistakable. Acrid and sulphurous, and filling the Subaru Impreza’s cabin, pulled in by the air conditioning system.
Moments before, I’m travelling along the freeway at 80km/h. Traffic is heavy but moving well as everyone tries to get home at the end of another busy week.
Suddenly, without warning, the dash lights up red and the car beeps urgently as it automatically jumps on the brakes, quickly bleeding speed as the car in front slows hard. The brake pedal, when my foot reaches it but a heartbeat later, feels wooden under my foot, but still the Subaru keeps pulling up, coming to a complete stop with a good half a car’s length of extra stopping room remaining.
Welcome to my first-ever real-world demonstration of Subaru’s EyeSight.
It’s the Japanese car maker’s autonomous emergency braking system and has just done for me exactly what it’s designed to do. The reason the Impreza reacted soon becomes clear; four damaged vehicles are stalled in the fast lane, the drivers out and exchanging details as they survey the aftermath of the peak-hour nose-to-tail conga line.
The Impreza was able to register the flash of brake lights in front of me and grab the brakes more quickly than I could. But what I liked about the autonomous braking was that it pulled up smoothly, the Impreza bleeding off speed calmly and giving the car behind enough time to do the same. I don’t know if
I could have done it with the same calmness and control as the EyeSight system.
It’s an electronic safety net I really appreciate. To set the cruise control and let the Impreza handle the tension of keeping a safe distance to the car in front makes a big difference to my long daily commute.
In contrast, though, I’ve kept the lane-keep assistance system off. I find it way too sensitive, beeping even if I stray slightly off centre. Combine it with the beep from the cruise control every time a car jumps in or out of its range, and it can become irritating.
More helpful, though, is the system that watches out for passing traffic as you reverse out of a parking space. A trip to Bunnings, where there’s a sea of SUVs and trade utes, highlighted this.
But why is it a feature only on the most expensive Impreza?
Five into four won’t go
The top-spec Impreza sedan comes with four USB ports as standard; two located awkwardly deep in the centre console and another pair in the storage space under the front seat armrest.
The front two link up to the multimedia head unit, while the rear ones just provide juice for hungry electronic devices. So what do you do when there are only two charging points and three kids in the rear quarters?
It’s somewhat traditional that the youngest, sitting in the worst seat in the house – the middle – misses out.
Read part one of our 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0I-S long-term review here!