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
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.
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.
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.
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.