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Most car-makers are a very risk-averse bunch, electing to swim safely with others rather than against the tide or in unchartered waters.
Look at how conservative they are in Australia with colours, electing to offer umpteenth shades of silver over the brighter green, blue, orange and yellow hues available elsewhere in the world.
The same also applies to certain, interesting versions of model ranges already here, which for whatever reason are deemed off-limits to Aussies. A performance SUV? Off-road focused crossover? Plug-in EV that’s waterproof? Absolutely not. That would be far too scary to contemplate!
Here we expose the beaut grades offered in overseas markets in already-popular or established models that we reckon would find a ready and willing market in Australia.
Toyota owns the hybrid space in Australia. At it now for 20 years, nobody deserves every single sale more because no brand demonstrated the courage, faith and foresight to persist with petrol-electric vehicles.
So, why can’t we have the RAV4 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)? On sale since mid-2020 in North America as the evocative RAV4 Prime and elsewhere wearing the PHV badge, this goes one step beyond the wildly successful Hybrid versions.
Key differences are a 62kW power boost to a heady 225kW, thanks to a 129kW 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that’s paired to 134kW front and 40kW rear electric motors. The result is a 0-100km/h sprint time of six seconds flat. Look out, Supra!
More importantly, you can drive this RAV4 on pure electricity for up to 75km (WLTP) before the combustion engine kicks in, thanks to an 18.1kWh battery (versus the regular RAV4 Hybrid’s 1.6kWh number). As such, the Prime’s claimed fuel consumption average is around one litre per 100km against the Hybrid’s 4.8L/100km equivalent, while carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rated at just 22 grams per km (instead of 109g/km). Impressive.
What’s not to love here? With Mitsubishi paving the way since 2014’s Outlander PHEV (and more recently the smaller Eclipse Cross PHEV) and MG following suit with the HS PHEV (the latter two kicking off from $50K-driveaway), Toyota better act fast or it will lose the opportunity to own the plug-in space, too.
However, although the switch to an all-new platform, body and interior represents the biggest change to the midsizer since the original’s 1989 debut, the 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine continues through. Yes, it’s said to be 90 per cent new, but only slightly higher outputs are all the 138kW/245Nm FB25D boxer has to show for it.
Australia, in fact, is reportedly one of the few markets with an Outback 2.5 atmo, as other destinations for the Japanese crossover offer the much-more interesting FA24F – a 2.4-litre boxer turbo offering up to 194kW and 375Nm. These are numbers that match the 2009-2014 fifth-generation model’s 191kW/350Nm 3.6-litre ‘H6’ six-cylinder unit.
As with all Subarus bar the BRZ sports coupe, the Outback Turbo channels all that power and torque to all four wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
We’re not talking STi levels of hot performance or driver intensity with these numbers, then, but the latest Outback’s newfound refinement and civility deserve the reassuring thrust of a smooth turbo. In contrast, the FB25D 2.5-litre atmo is a little devoid of personality, if not response.
Come to think of it, why stop at an Outback Turbo? A Forester Turbo would be a very welcome return, after over three years without the forced-induction XT tearaway and its GT performance predecessor before that.
Now, there’s some speculation that the 2.4T will eventually make it in Australian-bound Outbacks, so maybe all brand importers Inchcape need is a bit of public enquiry to make it happen.
And tell ‘em CarsGuide sent you!
With some 221mm of ground clearance even in its humblest 2.0i form, the Forester is crying out for a ‘I’m a Subaru/get me outta here’ jungle makeover – and the Shibuya-based company has finally obliged with the aptly named Wilderness.
More than just extra plastic bits and a few tree decals applied across the sides, the Forester Wilderness gets jacked up an extra 14mm (to 234mm), scores beefier suspension components including longer springs and retuned dampers, and adopts all-terrain tyres surrounding suitably tough 17-inch matt alloys.
Plus, the roof rails have been strengthened to withstand 363kg worth of tent and occupants, the matt-black grille is unique to the series, the wheelarch cladding is more prominent, a front skid plate is fitted, waterproof trim is used inside and those foglights are hexagonal in shape. However, there are no mechanical upgrades, so the 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre atmo boxer four continues unchanged.
Unlike the Outback Wilderness released in North America earlier in the year, the Forester Wilderness actually improved its donor car’s styling, since the latter is a blocky utilitarian design while the former is a sleek crossover wagon.
That said, Australians would surely flock to both Subaru Wildernesses, given our penchant for all-things lifestyle and outdoorsy.
Predictably, Subaru Australia is publicly playing it cool, but we understand that ‘Wilderness’ has been trademarked for this market, so perhaps it’s only a matter of when rather than if.
Even the $29,990 opener – which is actually well-equipped – is a hoot, thanks to nimble handling and a feisty 92kW/170Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol firecracker. So involving and athletic is the Puma that it’s a pity Ford doesn’t offer it with a manual gearbox in Australia. We’re lumbered with a dual-clutch transmission instead.
Elsewhere, however, is an ST version of the Puma, just like the famous Fiesta ST that it is so closely related to, complete with a 147kW/320Nm 1.5-litre three-pot turbo, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. 0-100km/h is over in just 6.7 seconds, just 0.2s shy of the hot hatch.
To help it corner even better than the regular Puma, the ST also scores a unique torsion beam rear end, retuned dampers and anti-roll bars as well as 25 per cent quicker steering, 17 per cent larger brakes and quality Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Buyers can also option up a Quaife mechanical limited-slip differential as part of a performance pack, wearing.
You won’t miss it in the crowd either, thanks to some wild colour options, a body kit, 19-inch alloys and active exhaust system, while a flat-bottom steering wheel, Recaro sports seats and racier interior trim complete the transformation.
Ford reckons the lack of auto will stymie Puma ST sales, but we believe that a properly performance-orientated small SUV is exactly what this incredibly underrated series needs to put the Blue Oval on buyers’ short lists. There’s nothing else like it anywhere.
By all accounts overseas, it’s a slam-dunk winner.
Can you imagine attempting to cross a river in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV?
Clearly Jeep has, since it’s fused a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with a pair of waterproof electric motors in the go-anywhere Wrangler 4xe (“four-by-electric”) for just such an adventure.
Offering gob-smackingly high combined outputs of 280kW and 637Nm, the 4xe’s 17kWh battery provides 40km of pure electric driving range, as well as a 4.7L/100km fuel consumption average. That’s less than half of what the thirsty V6 petrol can offer. There’s even a Rubicon version for hardcore off-roaders. All the performance, all the economy, for going all over the planet.
Little wonder then that Jeep cannot build enough of these eco Wranglers to satisfy North American demand. Europe and China are also getting in on the act. But, inevitably, Australia is sidelined as per usual, for reasons we cannot even fathom.
The popular, award-winning CX-30 is many things, but properly fast… no.
That’s because we Australians are denied the 2.5-litre turbo flagship enjoyed by the Americans (who else!) that can deliver in excess of 185kW and 430Nm, to all four wheels for added traction. Pinched from the CX-9, CX-5 Turbo and Mazda6 Turbo, the forced-induction system would give the suave crossover the speed and response that we know the chassis could handle.
But, alas, the answer remains a firm no, since Mazda refuses to engineer this powertrain combination for right-hand-drive, even though CX-30 sales are strong and we’re a performance SUV loving nation.
Perhaps the local distributors are worried that a CX-30 Turbo AWD would step on the coming CX-60’s toes, since the latter will offer an all-new 3.2-litre in-line six-cylinder engine?
It isn’t just the crossover turbo that we’re missing out on, since the Mazda3 Turbo AWD is a no-show in Australia for exactly the same reason. If ever there was a hot hatch to really scare the VW Golf GTI, surely the one from Hiroshima would be it.