The late Possum Bourne placed a lot of emphasis on being comfortable at the wheel. He had what he called a “dickey back” and he wanted the best driver’s seat he could get.
“It might be the way I’m built, but in some seats you tend to slide forward and have to keep shifting to get comfortable. You end up with a sore back,” he said.
Possum and I were in the second-generation Subaru WRX on a short, sealed race track in Queensland. It was in November 2000 and the WRX would soon be in Christmas stockings in New Zealand.
The champion Kiwi rally driver reckoned the driver’s seat was the bee’s knees. Possum was Subaru’s star Asia-Pacific driver and Subaru’s people in Japan valued his input, both on standard WRX and rally-prepared STi models.
“The new seats seem as if they’re designed more for a European person and you don’t slip forward in them,” he said.
“I’ve done more than 170 laps and I haven’t had a hint of back pain. The driver’s seat is superb – it’s the best Subaru seat yet.”
He was just as insistent about correct seatbelt tension as he was about a good driver’s seat. We swapped places a couple of times that day in Queensland, me behind the wheel, he in the co-driver’s seat.
Possum didn’t just jump in the passenger seat, he waited by the driver’s door until I had set up the seat to suit and fastened the seat belt. Then he checked it for tension. “Could be a bit tighter,” he said.
A little more than two years later, Possum was gone, dead from head injuries sustained in an accident during preparations for the Race to the Sky event near Queenstown.
The all-wheel-drive WRX is in its fifth generation now – three generations on from that day in Queensland almost 17 years ago and 25 years on from the first WRX in 1992.
Subaru has won several World Rally Champions in those 25 years, including back-to-back wins in 1995, ’96, ’97.
“While we were winning,” says Subaru NZ managing director Wallis Dumper, “we were fine-tuning our unique technologies to make each WRX better than the last.”
To celebrate 25 years of the WRX, Subaru NZ has landed five ‘Black Edition’ models, each priced at $57,490. There will only ever be five – two for dealers in Auckland, one each for Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.
They get carbon-fibre-style bits and pieces, special WRX badges, 18-inch black alloys, tinted front windows, along with hi-tech goodies the Premium WRX gets.
“The Black Edition celebrates both the heritage of the WRX and also its new direction as a refined, classy, performance car,” said Dumper.
The driver’s seat in the Black Edition is the same as that in the $54,490 Premium model . It’s the best yet. Possum would probably have said so, too.