Forester hones act
Subaru pushes for sales with a new model that’s larger, fresher and cheaper, writes KARLA PINCOTT
THE moment the all-new Subaru Impreza landed in showrooms across the country, a queue formed for the next Forester.
They are twins beneath the skin, but the Forester wagon has taken a more extreme direction than the cityfocused Impreza.
The Forester goes up against the hottest new compact four-wheel drives, from the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 to the funky Nissan Dualis.
Sales of these cars are booming, with Australian deliveries up 19.4 per cent last year, thanks to the rush of new models and the general downsizing in showrooms.
The car-based Forester helped lead the revolution 10 years ago, and has been a huge success for Subaru Australia, which has sold more than 100,000 in that time.
Now Subaru is pushing for sales leadership with a new Forester that is larger, fresher and cheaper than before.
The bottom line — as Subaru has cashed in everything from exchangerate wins to parts sharing with the Impreza and local buying power with Subaru in Japan — means cuts of $1000 to $2500 on outgoing models.
So the basic Forester X has shed $1500 and the five-speed manual now costs $30,490, though the fourspeed autos are $2000 extra across the range. The biggest cut is $2990 on the top-level XT Premium auto, though it still comes in at $46,990.
The Forester is tougher than before, and looks more like a serious four-wheel drive than just a highriding wagon. It has a strengthened body that answers customer calls for more space.
It is 110mm taller, 60mm wider and 75mm longer on a 90mm larger wheelbase, most of which as been given to the rear passenger and cargo area, though larger openings make for easier access.
Overhangs have been shortened slightly for better manoeuvrability and ground clearance has been raised 20mm to take the X and XS to 220mm and the XT to 225mm, which gives a smidge more leeway but still keeps the Forester in the light off-road category.
The 2.5-litre ‘‘boxer’’ four in the X and XS models brings a 4.1 per cent power boost with 126kW and a slight rise in torque with 229Nm.
Outputs for the WRX-sourced 2.5-litre turbocharged four in the XT models — which Subaru is positioning as a ‘‘stealth Rex for lad dads’’ — remain unchanged at 169kW, but its 320Nm of torque kicks in 800 revs earlier at 2800.
There is no sign of a diesel in the new generation and, though one will arrive in the new Outback next year, there are no plans for it to move into the Australian Forester line-up yet.
The Forester is a Suby, so drive goes to all four corners and is infinitely variable: changing from 95-front/5-rear bias to 50/50 depending on throttle, load and speed inputs.
Transmission choices are a fourspeed sequential auto or a five-speed manual with low-range gearing.
A five-speed auto is not available here yet and there is no firm word on its future, for Forester or Impreza but Subaru says the four-speed is ‘‘significantly different’’, with improved shift response and timing.
The basic level of equipment runs to four-speaker audio with controls on the steering wheel, 16-inch steel wheels with a full-size spare and the usual electric bits. Standard safety equipment includes vehicle dynamics control, anti-skid brakes with assist for extreme braking, hill-start assist and a six-airbag cabin.
Subaru says the ANCAP result for the Forester is five stars for occupant safety and three for pedestrian protection.
On the creature comfort lists, the XS gets front fogs, 16-inch alloys, automatic airconditioning, CD stacker and two more speakers with the MP3 audio system and a retractable rear tray with cupholders.
The XT gets a bonnet scoop, integrated rear spoiler, 17-inch alloys and auto-levelling xenon headlights with pop-up washers. The Premium pack on XS adds leather upholstery with power driver’s seat and sunroof and on the XT you also get touchscreen nav system with DVD/CD player and Bluetooth compatability.
THE new Forester is 80kg heavier as an X and XS, and the XT has gained 30 to 35kgm, depending on fit-out.
This has probably undermined fuel economy improvements, but the manual turbo still manages a significant 7.8 per cent benefit (and the auto 5.4 per cent) at 10.5 litres/ 100km each. The base engine with manual trims 3.1 per cent at 9.3 litres and the auto comes down 1 per cent at 9.6 litres.
Towing capacity remains at 1400kg, which is still useful for boats and horse floats.
The larger cargo capacity will be attractive for families who want more space.
The Forester’s best sales month was 1688 in June 2005, about the time a deal was done with rental agency Europcar, but it generally averages about 1000 a month.
With the newcomer, Subaru hopes to lift sales to 1100 a month.
Stepping out further: the Subaru Forester is tougher than before, and looks more like a serious four-wheel drive than just a high-riding wagon.