Hobart to Launceston - the hard way

Going off-road through the slush and snow in Subaru’s SUV trio.

How does 500+ kilometres – much of it off-road, along gravel roads and forestry trails – up Tasmania’s east coast in mid-winter sound as a road trip?

Welcome to the Subaru SUV Experience, where invited members of the motoring media recently got to re-acquaint themselves with the company’s holy trinity of Outback, Forester and XV models and updated safety tech, including X-Mode (explained below).

Our drive took us through the historic village of Richmond, Orford, Triabunna and along the east coast to Swansea and an overnight stay at Coles Bay. Day 2, we headed further north, through Bicheno, St Mary’s Pass, continuing inland to Ben Lomond National Park, before a short run into Launceston.

In building and selling four-wheel-drive models only (with exception of its BRZ sports coupe), Subaru has, of course, long set itself apart from other car makers. In terms of grip and traction, their Symmetrical AWD system is among the best there is, a point emphasised in the slippery going that Tasmania on a succession of wet and snowy days can throw up.

The most testing moment was a drive in convoy up the fearsome Jacob’s Ladder (pictured), a veritable dirt mini Stelvio Pass. At the top, it was minus-5 degrees and snowing at midday. Going up was one thing, coming down another, but thanks to X-Mode, the various ‘Soobies’ proved as sure-footed as if it was a dry summer day.

(Working through the Engine Control, Traction Control and Vehicle Dynamics Control units, X-Mode eliminates sudden torque changes and modulates differential rotation between front and rear wheels to improve driveability in tough going).

There are easier, shorter and more comfortable ways to go from Hobart to Launceston, but if you’re up for a challenge, try this route in the heart of winter. Make sure you’re well prepared like we were, though.