KING of the four-wheel-drives Subaru is aiming to force up sales with updated versions of the sporting estate, the Levorg, and the racy BRZ coupe.
The Japanese firm, that turns out more all-paw models than even Land Rover, is renowned for its advanced technology and fine engineering but is currently punching below its weight as far as sales go.
Last year the highly rated BRZ clocked up just 132 sales in Britain - that compares with 681 registrations for the mechanically and visually similar Toyota GT 86.
All its models are powered by flat four ‘Boxer' engines and the biggest sellers in the range are fitted with the firm's own symmetrical four wheel drive system.
Changes to the BRZ are widespread but subtle and cover most areas including external tweaks, cabin improvements and increased engine responsiveness. But the greatest transformation most drivers will notice is the much improved ride standard.
The original BRZ - a joint venture with Toyota - was rightly praised for its back-to-basics sports car approach partly thanks to the low centre of gravity provided by the 2.0litre boxer engine and the rear drive layout. Roadholding and handling was exemplary, even being compared with that of a Porsche Boxster.
But to say the ride was hard would have been a severe understatement. .. over poor surfaces I felt likely to lose any loose fillings from my teeth!
Not so, in the 2017 version. Redesigned dampers have banished the jarring effect of the occasional pothole without in any way increasing roll angles or impairing the dynamics. The ride, while still firm, is more compliant and more comfortable.
Noise levels while travelling slowly or in high gear have been reduced but there's still a sporty rasp when the accelerator is floored.
With 198bhp extracted from the 2000cc four cylinder engine, the BRZ is hardly under-powered, but behind the wheel its general composure and agility make you wish for greater power. As it is, the two-plus-two coupe covers the 62mph dash in 7.6seconds and goes on to 140mph.
Most models are sold in six-speed manual form, but a six-speed automatic is also available which reduces emissions from 180g/km to 164g/km.
Price is £26,050 for the SE Lux, the only version now available.
This year's Levorg - a contrived name made up from Legacy, revolution and Touring - comes equipped as standard with a safety feature called EyeSight which is an assistance system that acts ‘a second pair of eyes' for the driver.
Pre-collision braking alerts the driver of a potential collision using visual and audible warning. If he or she doesn't take evasive action the brakes are slammed on to prevent the accident or at least reduce impact. It operates at speeds up to 28mph.
The system also includes adaptive cruise control to maintain the same safe distance to the car in front, and a lane departure warning.
With an aggressively styled nose and large air-scoop protruding from the bonnet, the Levorg is a driver-focused estate car that brings back memories of Subaru's rally conquering days. Yet it is very much a refined family hold-all which, with full-time four wheel drive is capable of traversing a muddy gymkhana field or towing a boat from a slippery river bank.
Powered by a 1.6litre direct injection turbo boxer engine, it knocks out a respectable 168bhp and reaches 62mph in under nine seconds. Just one version is sold, the GT priced at £29,680, which comes with six-step Lineartronic transmission.
It's a form of CVT (continuous variable transmission) but works better than most I've tried and is relaxing and satisfyingly responsive.
It is worth noting that 99 per cent of Subarus bought in the last decade are still on the road, according to the firm. And on average they travel the distance equivalent of eight times around the world in their lifetime.