Smoother op­er­a­tor

Subaru’s tear­away SUV grows up, but doesn’t slow up

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - COVER STORY -

re­placed by a more sub­dued ap­pear­ance, one that you could take home to meet the par­ents.

For ev­ery cus­tomer who doesn’t like the new model be­cause it’s too un­der­stated, Subaru reck­ons there will be sev­eral more who pre­fer it. The new Forester XT re­leased this week has more power and per­for­mance than be­fore, de­spite putting on 104kg in its mid­dle-aged spread.

Subaru has gone to great lengths to hide the air-cooled plumb­ing that helps give the car its huff and puff. (For the tech­ni­cally minded, the cool­ing tract to the in­ter­cooler, still on top of the en­gine, is ducted out of view be­hind the grille.)

The only down­side to the big­ger, bet­ter, faster Forester is that the price has risen by about 10 per cent on both models. Ouch.

VALUE

The pre­vi­ous Subaru Forester XT could be had for less than $40,000. The start­ing price of the new model is $43,490 plus on-road costs. The price hike is due in part to the lack of a man­ual trans­mis­sion.

The XT comes only with an eight-speed CVT auto, re­plac­ing the old five-speed man­ual and four-speed auto. The start­ing price buys a sun­roof, cruise con­trol, re­mote en­try, a rear view cam­era, Blue­tooth phone con­trol and au­dio stream­ing, dual-zone air­con­di­tion­ing, pri­vacy glass, roof rails and 18-inch al­loy wheels.

The top-line XT model is $50,490 plus on-road costs — a $5000 rise. The ex­tra dough buys a re­mote-open­ing tail­gate, nav­i­ga­tion, Subaru’s ‘‘ eye­sight’’ crash avoid­ance sys­tem, leather trim with elec­tric ad­just­ment for the driver, and an eight-speaker Harman Kar­don sound sys­tem.

TECH­NOL­OGY

All models come with an ‘‘ Si drive’’ mode that en­ables the driver to switch be­tween ‘‘ eco’’, ‘‘ nor­mal’’ or ‘‘ sport’’ set­tings.

The first slows throt­tle re­sponse (for snow), the sec­ond acts nor­mally (for the daily grind) and the third re­acts sharply and un­locks a man­ual gear se­lec­tion mode (for those with a plane to catch), un­leash­ing all avail­able power with a dab of your right foot. For the ad­ven­tur­ous types, a crawl func­tion called ‘‘ X-mode’’ will help ne­go­ti­ate steep climbs or de­scents of­froad be­low 20km/h.

The top-line XT model comes with a sec­ond pair of eyes — tiny cam­eras ei­ther side of the rearview mir­ror de­tect cars, pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists. If it thinks you’re about to hit some­one or some­thing, it will slam on the brakes.

Radar cruise con­trol is stan­dard on the top-whack model, too. It has three pre­de­ter­mined dis­tance set­tings be­tween you and the car in front, which thank­fully can be dis­abled for those who find it leaves gaps for oth­ers to drive into.

An­other cool trick: the au­to­matic tail­gate can be pro­grammed to open to a cer­tain height, so it doesn’t bang on the garage roof or bump the kayak.

DE­SIGN

The new Forester XT has grown up and out, just like the reg­u­lar models on which it is based. A bor­ing fact: The cargo area of the top-line model with the au­to­matic tail­gate has 17 litres less cargo space than the stan­dard model, be­cause the elec­tronic giz­zards take up room be­hind the pan­els. But (drum-roll please) it still has a big­ger boot than the last one: 422 litres in the XT and 405 for the Pre­mium (with auto lift gate). That ex­pands to 1457 with seats down.

With five seats (each with ad­justable head rests), there is

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