Pro­tect your turf

Subaru’s sta­ple SUV main­tains its cred with sus­pen­sion up­grades and a qui­eter cabin. Mar­cus Craft re­ports

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -

FAC­ING a wave of new ri­vals, Subaru has given its stal­wart Forester SUV a mid-gen­er­a­tion tweak that in­cludes a qui­eter cabin and sus­pen­sion up­grades to boost sta­bil­ity.

Pricies are un­changed, start­ing from $29,990 for the Forester 2.0i-L man­ual and climb­ing via $39,490 for the 2.5i-S CVT auto. Top of the range is the $47,990 2.0XT Pre­mium auto.

Subaru Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Nick Se­nior de­scribes the changes to the Forester, now in its fourth gen­er­a­tion, as “ex­ten­sive” for a midlife up­date and cites “a raft of tech­ni­cal im­prove­ments”.

Deft touches in the cabin of the 2.5i-S run to leather trim (in­clud­ing steer­ing wheel and gearshift), colour in­fo­tain­ment screen and heated front seats. Pre­mium vari­ants get driver’s seat mem­ory func­tion

Ex­te­rior styling changes in­clude a grille that has been tweaked across the range to fit in with a classier look­ing front end. There are new de­sign 18-inch al­loy wheels, re-pro­filed front bumper, LED headlights that turn with the steer­ing and day­time run­ning lights.

This model also has Subaru’s com­pre­hen­sive Eye­Sight driver as­sist, with safety fea­tures such as lane-de­par­ture warn­ing, as well as an au­to­matic tail­gate and Siri com­pat­i­bil­ity.

Se­nior ex­pects Forester to

main­tain its monthly sales av­er­age of 1000 ex­am­ples de­spite the ar­rival of new or re­vised ver­sions of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tuc­son and Toy­ota RAV4 in re­cent months.

He re­gards the re­duc­tion in cabin noise and vi­bra­tion as among the Forester’s most sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments. To achieve this, Subaru used thicker glass in the side win­dows, amended the body struc­ture and door seals to re­duce wind noise and even added cush­ion­ing to each end of the in­stru­ment panel.

Subaru claims a 5 per cent re­duc­tion in cabin deci­bels; we can’t con­firm that but it was im­pres­sively quiet. Over back­coun­try bitumen, dusty back­roads and pot­holed tracks, noise in­tru­sion was not an is­sue.

The sus­pen­sion and steer­ing im­prove­ments are con­spic­u­ous. The steer­ing feels well­weighted, light and re­spon­sive, al­low­ing the driver to punt the Forester along dusty roads at some pace with no fear of over­do­ing steer­ing in­puts.

Subaru has been giv­ing its SUV sus­pen­sion the Aussie real-world treat­ment for ages, so it’s no sur­prise that when you drive a Forester on a bush track here, the ve­hi­cle feels com­fort­able and com­pli­ant.

Thanks to the al­tered damp­ing and spring set­tings, the Forester dis­plays safe and set­tled be­hav­iour at all times on test, through fast sweep­ing dirtroad cor­ners, sur­prise un­du­la­tions and with a few emer­gency brak­ing tests (to sim­u­late coun­try kan­ga­roo pop-ups) thrown in for good mea­sure.

As the sun drops, we take this Forester, at more con­sid­ered pace, on washed-out log­ging tracks. We go slow to avoid real kan­ga­roos, of which there are plenty at this stage of the day.

The Forester am­bles along, with X-Mode en­gaged, over nu­mer­ous sub­stan­tial ob­sta­cles with no wheel-slip, all paws smoothly in ac­tion. It’s lots of fun.

Back out on the road and at speed, how­ever, there’s a lack of re­spon­sive­ness in this petrol Forester as the CVT, while try­ing to save fuel, busily holds it back.

The Forester is not quite a bona fide off-road tourer and not quite a com­pletely gen­tri­fied city-goer, which leaves it in its own SUV niche-within-a-niche.

But above all it’s a fun drive, al­ways has been and now there are more rea­sons to en­joy it.

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