Why Didn't GM Sell Us Its V8-Powered Australian Subaru Outback?
The Holden Adventra TVC was the Outback we needed, but apparently not the one we deserved.
In the mid 2000s, before GM entered what we can charitably call a dark period, the company wanted to make Pontiac live up to its 'driving excitement' slogan. The brilliant plan was hatched to bring in cars from GM's Australian Holden division and rebadge them as Pontiacs. The first, from 2004 to 2006, was the Pontiac GTO, a rebadged Holden Monaro. The second, from 2008 to 2009, was the G8, itself a rebadged Holden Commodore.
Neither one sold in exorbitant numbers, though they also didn't really have the chance. The GTO was immediately compared to the original and deemed "boring" by people who thought it should be called The Judge. The G8 was brilliant but died when the division was shut down in 2010, part of GM's bankruptcy reorganization. It later returned as the Chevy SS.
Thing is, maybe these were the wrong first Holdens to import to the US. Maybe the first one to be imported should have been a wagon. Hear me out.
The Subaru Outback was one of the first true crossovers. A tall wagon with the practicality of an SUV and the ease of a car, it was an instant hit and still is today. It had marketing campaigns featuring noted Aussie Paul Hogan and is still the $4000 car that millionaires love.
From 2003 to 2007, Holden had its very own Subaru Outback in the Adventra, a raised Commodore wagon. The difference? You could get it with a V8.
That's right. GM was building a V8-powered Outback-fighter in the southern hemisphere. The 2003 to 2005 models were only available with a 315 horsepower 5.7 liter V8 while the 2005 to 2007 Adventras had a base 250 horsepower V6 and an optional 340 horsepower version of the 5.7 liter V8. It was all-wheel drive and only available with an automatic, but it was a true off-road wagon.
The problem is that it didn't sell all that well in Australia compared to a direct wagon competitor from Ford Australia, the Territory, and it went out of production in 2007. Perhaps sales in the US could have made kept it around, since people who wanted both an off-road wagon and V8 were vastly underserved in the US. Please enjoy the below video of an Adventra driving in the Outback with some ZZ Top-esque guitar riffs in the background.
If Subaru was playing up the tough Aussie connection–based solely on a name–for its off-road wagon, could you imagine the marketing campaign that GM could have implemented in the US? It would have trounced the Outback.
Instead of having Paul Hogan–who just plays a tough Australian in movies–shilling for a car that isn't even a little bit from Australia, we could have had ads with Steve Irwin (RIP) powersliding a V8 Pontiac off-road wagon with crocodiles inside while AC/DC's Angus Young plays a wild guitar solo in a different Adventra, this one driven by Eric Bana. Real Australians selling a real Australian car to real American people.
I bet it would have sold like gangbusters. And then it would have paved the way for more great Australian performance cars in the US. But that didn't happen, and this Australian Pontiac wagon fever dream will have to continue to live on in my brain and my brain alone.