ON THE ROAD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive Subaru Forester -

THE Forester is no­tice­able larger inside, the cargo bay and rearseat leg squeeze that plagued pre­vi­ous mod­els is solved and back-seat pas­sen­gers are even treated to re­clin­ing seats.

The swoop­ing dash lines that are spread­ing across the Subaru range smarten up the cabin, but we ques­tion the wear-and-tear re­sis­tance of some trim choices. And will young fam­i­lies ap­pre­ci­ate the vodka-bar-blue am­bi­ent light­ing?

There is good vis­i­bil­ity, par­tic­u­larly to the rear, a rar­ity with most ve­hi­cles in this class. And, with reach join­ing the tilt adjustment on the steer­ing col­umn, it’s now eas­ier to find a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion.

The ver­sa­tile cen­tre con- sole in the auto ver­sions can be switched around for a range of stor­age needs. They hap­pily take large drink bot­tles, though nor­mal-sized ones tended to rat­tle in the caddy.

Though the turbo (as ex­pected) spat out plenty of en­ergy for the job with a flat torque de­liv­ery across the range, the nat­u­ral breather was no slouch ei­ther when hitched to the five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion.

Smaller wing mir­rors mean less wind rush, though one of the test cars de­vel­oped an ir­ri­tat­ing whis­tle in the pas­sen­ger-side mir­ror.

There is also less wind noise from the re­designed roof rails around the A-pil­lars and full-frame doors, mak­ing for a qui­eter cabin over­all.

De­spite be­ing larger and heav­ier, the Forester is a good drive.

It doesn’t be­have ex­actly like a sedan, but it is not as slug­gish as true bush-bi­ased four-wheel drives.

The en­gines and trans­mis­sions are mounted slightly lower, pro­vid­ing a bet­ter cen­tre of grav­ity, and what you get is sig­na­ture Subaru grip and bal­ance.

It was in­ter­est­ing to see how the var­i­ous mod­els coped with gravel-road driv­ing be­cause elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol of­ten in­ter­vened in the auto XT but was trig­gered only twice in the man­ual XS. That’s some­thing Subaru says is down to the dif­fer­ences in sus­pen­sion bush­ing and tyres.

We did not en­counter any ter­rain that begged for the low-range man­ual gears, but the pre­vi­ous model was al­ways ca­pa­ble on a beach fish­ing track and the like.

And, hon­estly, most Foresters will be ur­ban dwellers.

Grow­ing on us: the Forester X (above) is big­ger and has an im­proved cargo bay (be­low).

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