When only a Subaru will do

No longer look­ing like a shrunken SUV with green­house glaz­ing, the lat­est Subaru Forester is the best 4WD for ‘real coun­try life’ in its price bracket, says Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son

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The lat­est Subaru Forester may be the best 4WD for ‘real coun­try life’, says Charles Ran­ge­ley-wil­son

IHAVE a deep af­fec­tion for Subarus in gen­eral, the Forester in par­tic­u­lar, al­though, with each new ver­sion I try, I’m in­creas­ingly sure that, just un­der ‘heavy met­als’ on the or­der forms that keep those fac­to­ries in Ja­pan’s Ota in Gunma Pre­fec­ture on the roll with raw ma­te­rial, there must be a line for ‘epic amounts of ganja’. How else to ex­plain the be­wil­der­ing bes­tiary of ma­chin­ery that emerges from the place?

If one engi­neer­ing con­stant unites more or less ev­ery­thing Subaru makes—its fab­u­lous Boxer engine mated to per­ma­nent all­wheel drive (Awd)—it’s all Wacky Races meets Last of the Sum­mer Wine af­ter that. You could line up the Justy, the Brat, the Al­cy­one, the Sumo, the Tribeca, the Baja, the Im­preza, the Out­back and the BRZ—TO name just a few of the often weird, al­ways sur­pris­ing and mostly won­der­ful ma­chines Subaru has con­ceived—and never guess they all came from the same sta­ble, let alone what Subaru’s de­sign­ers were on as they drew them.

And that’s the case with the Forester. I’ve owned two in my time. The first was a Turbo S, which was so bat crazy when I tried it, I had to have one. It was like a shrunken SUV, with green­house glaz­ing, Farmer Palmer comes to town sus­pen­sion and an engine out of a rally car. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, Subaru gave a 70bhp boost to the next in­car­na­tion XT and I had to have that one, too. I tried and nearly bought the 350bhp STI, but it re­ally was a teeny bit too bonkers.

Thus it was with some trep­i­da­tion that I fired up the lat­est model de­liv­ered to my drive­way: a diesel. The re­al­ity of not many miles to the gal­lon and higher CO2 emis­sions than a 747 have put paid to the ra­bid Foresters of yes­ter­year. You can still buy a mildly crazy 241bhp petrol ver­sion (with a re­formed drink habit), but you won’t find too many on the road. In re­al­ity, it’s all about the diesel these days. Still Subaru. Still do­ing things its own way: it’s a flat-four diesel, mated to the same sym­met­ri­cal AWD.

From the point of view of the ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics, the set-up is hard to fault. The Boxer engine has per­fect balance, a high sump and a low cen­tre of grav­ity. Al­though the sym­met­ri­cal AWD ex­erts a heav­ier toll on the drinks bill, it’s re­ally the best and sim­plest way to achieve the trac­tion, grip and sta­bil­ity that you want in a 4X4 you in­tend to use as a 4X4. I doubt there are many places you can take a Land Rover that you couldn’t take a Forester.

‘In Aus­tralia, these things are ev­ery­where. Nuff said

For the pur­poses of get­ting the ve­hi­cle muddy, I did try a few very rut­ted and slip­pery tracks round Nor­folk and it sailed up them all.

The sus­pen­sion is as pli­ant as ever, noth­ing like the fash­ion­able-firm of the Euro­pean op­po­si­tion. It feels weird at first, but magic car­pet af­ter a while. Then again, ev­ery­thing about the Forester feels weird at first and rather fab­u­lous af­ter a few days. The situp-and-beg driv­ing po­si­tion. The amaz­ing all-round vis­i­bil­ity: still like driv­ing a green­house. The way you sim­ply step in and step out of the car: so dig­ni­fied! The

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