It’s slick on any surface
Better to drive, the Forester is also kinder to trees
CHEAPER to run and a superior automatic open the door to Subaru’s fightback in the toughest new-vehicle segment. Prices for the Forester are kept low thanks to a new entry-level model with a smaller engine, while the feature list expands. Subaru’s hi-tech EyeSight driver assistance package is standard on the top model.
Pricing pencils need to be sharp. Honda punched out a new CR-V last month, Toyota is showing its new RAV4 at the Los Angeles show and it’s due here in February. There’s a new Mitsubishi Outlander next week and a bigger engine for Mazda’s petrol CX-5. But, as Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior says, the Forester is still the ‘‘ perfect city car for dirty weekends’’.
While most rivals are blacktop bullies, Subaru ups the Forester’s off-road ability. In place of the low-range feature lost in the manual gearbox versions, a new electronic program— called X-Mode— keeps the wagon in shape on the loose stuff.
Prices are announced next month before the February release. They should stay about par with the outgoing model— about $31,000 for openers.
But the spec is different. The new base model has the 2.0-litre petrol engine from the smaller XV and comes only as a sixspeed manual. Senior says a CVT auto is on the cards but just not yet. The 2.5-litre version will come in at about $35,000— slightly up. But though there’s been a bit of a price rise, the feature list is far bigger and the wagon is a much better ride.
The platform is basically the same as the outgoing wagon, crimped here and there to flatten the central tunnel bump and stretched to add 25mm to the wheelbase and 35mm to the length. It’s also 35mm taller, sits on a track that’s up to 20mm wider and, while body width remains the same, the doors are less bowed and the door trim is less obtrusive.
Add in the windscreen pillars that are punched 200mm forward and Subaru claims a much bigger, more airy interior and more room for rear passengers.
The cabin gets soft-touch plastics and improved material quality and the look of the interior is now much more upmarket, better reflecting the Subaru quality standard. There’s an electric tailgate option on some models.
Forester has a reputation for a high fuel thirst without delivering much in the way of performance. The old fourspeed auto is replaced with the CVT from the Impreza sedan, on which the Forester is based.
Fuel savings are dramatic— the 2.5-litre manual version’s 8.1L/100km is a big improvement on the current wagon’s 9.3L.
There are no changes in output— it’s still 126kW/ 235Nm in the 2.5-litre fourcylinder petrol and 108kW/ 350Nm in the 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol four gives 110kW/ 198Nm. But, like the turbo diesel model, it comes only with a manual gearbox for now.
The X-Mode off-road package works on the CVT models. It cleverly juggles power individually to any of the four wheels with traction, incorporates downhill assist and adjusts ESC and traction control. Stop-start is standard on all petrol Foresters and is one of the reasons for the improved fuel economy.
Subaru trumpets a five-star crash rating and brings in the big gun with its brilliant EyeSight camera-based forward vision aid. Introduced last year on upmarket Libertys, it’s standard on the ultimate Forester 2.5i-S and optional on the penultimate 2.5i-L.
It uses stereo cameras with 3D imaging to scan, identify and communicate with the vehicle’s brake system to avoid frontal collisions, lane