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