Above its sta­tion

Be­fore you splash out on a Volvo SUV, try a Forester

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

SEV­ERAL brands claim to have in­vented the soft-roader but Subaru prob­a­bly has the best case. The off­shoot of Fuji Heavy In­dus­tries has been mak­ing pas­sen­ger-car-based 4WDs since the late 1970s, well be­fore the RAV4 en­tered the fray in the mid-1990s. Yes, Suzuki was mak­ing lit­tle off-road­ers in the early 1970s but not based on a pas­sen­ger car.

So the Ja­panese brand that started off mak­ing air­craft com­po­nents five decades ago has had plenty of time to get the for­mula it right and the new Forester XT is the cul­mi­na­tion of that.

VALUE

The tur­bocharged Foresters— in XT and XT Pre­mium guise — come only with con­tin­u­ously vari­able automatics. Each vari­ant is cov­ered by a three-year un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty.

The XT, from $43,490, has six-speaker sound with USB and Blue­tooth in­puts, cloth trim, trip com­puter, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, a slide-only sun­roof, man­ual seat ad­just­ments, cruise con­trol, 18-inch al­loys, split-fold re­clin­ing rear seats, full-size spare, the SI-drive sport mode sys­tem and reach and rake ad­justable leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel.

Step­ping up to the Pre­mium adds $7000 but buys auto head­lights, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, Eye­Sight safety sys­tem, leather trim, Har­man Kar­don eight-speaker au­dio, heated seats and ex­ter­nal mir­rors, key­less en­try and start, rain-sens­ing wind­screen wipers and power front seats and tail­gate.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The pair shares a driv­e­train. The ca­pac­ity of the forced-in­duc­tion mod­els has dropped to 2.0 litres but Subaru fet­tles the flat-four with di­rect in­jec­tion, pro­duc­ing 177kW and 350Nm, the lat­ter spread use­fully from 2400rpm to 3600rpm.

Th­ese out­puts ex­ceed those of the out­go­ing turbo 2.5 yet fuel use has been cut by al­most 20 per cent for a claimed 8.5L/100km (on test, about 11.0L/100km).

Con­trolled by two but­tons on the steer­ing wheel rather than dial on the con­sole, the SIDrive sys­tem changes the power de­liv­ery char­ac­ter­is­tics and puts the clever CVT into a mode that mim­ics a sport­sori­ented con­ven­tional auto.

The grunt goes to ground via a new-gen­er­a­tion ac­tive torque split all-wheel drive sys­tem that de­faults to a 60-40 front-drive bias.

DE­SIGN

Styling is less likely to cause of­fence than some of Subaru’s re­cent ef­forts.

The new Forester has a chunky, pur­pose­ful look from the front, mi­nus the scoop that has long sig­nalled forced-in­duc­tion be­low.

The body is longer thanks mostly to ex­tra wheel­base, from which the rear pas­sen­gers gain the greater ben­e­fit. It eas­ily ac­com­mo­dates four but the boot depth is com­pro­mised by the raised floor over the full­size spare. But then we’d kick Soob if there was a space-saver.

Pre­vi­ously the roof-mounted child-seat tether an­chor points com­pro­mised the rear com­part­ment— now they’ve moved to the seat backs.

SAFETY

Subaru has long boasted of the five stars for its en­tire range and the Forester does plenty to keep that track record in­tact.

The ‘‘ Eye­Sight’’ driver as­sis­tance sys­tem re­minds us such in­no­va­tions are not the pre­serve of Swedes.

Subaru’s ver­sion adds adap­tive cruise con­trol, lane de­par­ture warn­ing and pre-col­li­sion warn­ing and auto-brak­ing sys­tems to a fea­tures list that al­ready has all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes, sta­bil­ity con­trol, seven airbags, re­vers­ing cam­eras (but no sen­sors) and xenon head­lights.

DRIV­ING

Cars­guide doesn’t love CVTs but the testers who have driven this one agree the Subaru boffins have come up with a gear­box that’s well-cal­i­brated with the turbo four.

It doesn’t flare, it revs to­wards the red­line un­less the right foot truly de­mands it, and it makes the most of the meaty midrange. In Sport# mode the trans­mis­sion takes on a sport­ing bent, to good ef­fect.

In com­mut­ing and cruis­ing the Subaru is quiet and smooth, the sus­pen­sion and seats pass­ing the back­side test. That said, the Forester shows ev­i­dence of a bias to more en­thu­si­as­tic cor­ner­ing— where it is com­posed and holds its line un­der duress.

A bug­bear was the in­fo­tain­ment’s ar­gu­ment with the iPhone— de­spite dis­played con­nec­tions it didn’t feel the need to play any songs through the USB con­nec­tion, mut­ing the mu­sic as if there was an in­bound call. Switch­ing to Blue­tooth in­put al­le­vi­ated the prob­lem.

VER­DICT

Subaru’s blood­line is strong and the new Forester has done its pre­de­ces­sors proud. It’s the class leader.

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