Savvy XT less hoon, more fun

Subaru’s Forester is the mar­que’s big­gest seller and the lat­est is best, re­ports mo­tor­ing ed­i­tor Nick Dal­ton

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - COVER STORY -

AL­READY sales are up with a healthy 27.4 per cent rise last month and 41 per cent for the year.

The third gen­er­a­tion is third on the sales charts be­hind the Nis­san X-Trail and the Mazda CX-5 and of­fers a mix of petrol and turbo petrol and diesel pow­er­plants.

There are six lev­els of trim. Prices start at $34,700 drive away for the 2.0i man­ual en­try model and rise to a hefty $54,800 for the tur­bocharged 2.0-litre petrol XT Pre­mium range­top­per.

Of course, it is all-wheel drive like all Subarus, ex­cept the rear drive BRZ sports car.

DE­TAIL­ING

It’s packed full of gear with a Harman Kar­don en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem and eight speak­ers, a cargo se­cu­rity blind, re­mote con­trolled cen­tral lock­ing and key­less en­try, cruise con­trol, dual zone cli­mate­con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing, height and reach ad­justable steer­ing col­umn, height ad­justable driver’s seat, an en­gine im­mo­biliser, power steer­ing, mir­rors and win­dows, 18-inch al­loy wheels, a full size spare, DataDot se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy, au­to­matic and pow­ered rear door, au­to­matic head­lights and wipers, satel­lite­nav­i­ga­tion, radar cruise con­trol (Eye­Sight), front wipers with de­icers, heated door mir­rors and front seats, push-but­ton start, eight-way ad­justable power front seats, leather trim and a sun roof.

On the safety front there are ABS anti-lock brakes with four-wheel discs, Elec­tronic Brakeforce Distri­bu­tion (EBD) and Brake As­sist, three child seat an­chor points, seven airbags, a re­vers­ing cam­era, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trols.

The XT is more ma­ture, grown up, and less of a hoon. It’s more re­fined and sub­dued with chunky looks.

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

The first slows throt­tle re­sponse for wet off road­ing, the sec­ond acts nor­mally for the daily drive and the third re­acts sharply and un­locks a man­ual gear se­lec­tion mode for a bit of mis­chievous fun, un­leash­ing all avail­able power with a dab of the right foot.

For the ad­ven­tur­ous type a crawl func­tion called ‘‘X-mode’’ helps ne­go­ti­ate steep climbs or de­scents off-road be­low 20km/h.

The top-line XT model as driven comes with a sec­ond pair of eyes, tiny cam­eras ei­ther side of the rear view mir­ror to de­tect cars, pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists. If it thinks you’re about to hit some­one or some­thing, it will hit the sticks.

Radar cruise con­trol is stan­dard too. It has three pre-de­ter­mined dis­tance set­tings from the car in front which can be dis­abled if the gaps are too big.

The au­to­matic tail­gate can be pro­gramed to open to a cer­tain height so it doesn’t bang on the garage roof.

The Forester XT has grown up and out. It has a big­ger boot than the last one with 405 litres for the Pre­mium (with the auto rear door), ex­pand­ing to 1457 with seats down.

There is plenty of room for heads, shoul­ders, knees and feet. The qual­ity of in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als has stepped up a notch, although the dash is softer than the el­bow pad area on the doors.

DRIV­ING

I love the throbby note of the boxer flat four en­gine which seems to be en­hanced in the Forester turbo.

It also has the best Con­tin­u­ously Vari­able Trans­mis­sion (CVT) I have driven and mar­ries well to the en­gine.

I’m not a fan of CVTs, mainly be­cause of that aw­ful drony con­stant revvy sound when you floor the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

The sys­tem is bet­ter now but the turbo flat four is ide­ally suited to this gear­box.

There’s a smooth­ness and an ea­ger­ness to the com­bi­na­tion and it doesn’t get sewing ma­chine-like as the revs rise.

Subaru ap­pears to have ad­dressed most con­cerns with the pre­vi­ous model. The new Forester XT is qui­eter, more re­fined, bet­ter balanced and smoother to drive.

Per­for­mance is about the same even though the car has put on 104kg. It now weighs up to 1647kg.

The old model with man­ual trans­mis­sion reached 100km/h in 7.1 sec­onds, or 7.9 with the ar­chaic four­speed auto.

With its new eight-speed CVT, the XT splits the dif­fer­ence with a claimed 7.5 sec­onds.

It still feels brisk enough and the small levers be­hind the steer­ing wheel add to the fun.

The XT was sure-footed up and down the Ku­randa and Rex range roads but pushed hard it will run wide at the front or un­der­steer.

On the slip­pery Car­avon­ica round­about it did slide a fair bit at the front end in the wet.

The Black Moun­tain Road run be­tween Ku­randa and Ju­lat­ten was a piece of cake.

The Si Drive, which ad­justs throt­tle sen­si­tiv­ity, may seem a bit gim­micky, but served its pur­pose, es­pe­cially in over­tak­ing.

The radar cruise con­trol was too sen­si­tive, ap­ply­ing the brakes too se­verely.

DE­CID­ING

I really liked the new Forester XT. My only beef is the price, which is too high, and the cruise con­trol, which is too sen­si­tive and finicky to op­er­ate.

The air­con­di­tion­ing also cut in and out a lot, pre­sum­ably as it tries to save fuel.

There was a an­noy­ing rat­tle in the rear which I could not iso­late.

I achieved 10.4L/100km over the week­end mix of sub­ur­ban run­ning, high­way cruis­ing and moun­tain climbs on and off the bi­tu­men. Subaru’s of­fi­cial fig­ure is 8.5.

Un­less you must have the lat­est gad­gets I’d for­get about the Pre­mium and opt for the stan­dard XT to save $7000.

If you don’t need a turbo then the 2.5 is cheaper again and there’s a smaller 2.0 too. The diesel is only a man­ual at this stage.

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