Lat­est Subaru Forester is bet­ter than ever

Suv re­view: 2019 subaru Forester

Tillsonburg News - - DRIVING - Graeme Fletcher

subaru can le­git­i­mately lay claim to hav­ing started — or at least been one of the ear­li­est en­trants into — the red-hot cross­over seg­ment. now comes the fifth-gen­er­a­tion Forester, and it’s the sharpest to date for many reasons.

To be­gin, it now rides on subaru’s new global plat­form and has a 30-mil­lime­tre longer wheel­base than the out­go­ing Forester. This brings no­tice­ably more in­te­rior room; the rear seat is spa­cious enough for two adults — and a third if needed — with plenty of head and leg room. it also has lots of cargo space: With the seats up­right, the ca­pac­ity is 935 litres, which ex­pands to 2,008 when the seats are folded down. The let­down is the mod­est 680-kilo­gram tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

more im­por­tantly, the new plat­form is 40 per cent stiffer tor­sion­ally than the out­go­ing model. When of­froad, this helps to elim­i­nate an­noy­ing body creaks. When back on the road, it works won­ders for the ride and han­dling. even when pushed — and crossovers typ­i­cally do not like to be pushed — the Forester re­mains flat and un­flus­tered, with the steer­ing be­ing nicely weighted and quick to re­spond. con­sid­er­ing the long-travel sus­pen­sion, the Forester’s on-road com­port­ment is as good as, if not bet­ter than, many of its peers.

part of the rea­son for the way it hugs a cor­ner is down to subaru’s trade­mark all-wheel-drive sys­tem. it has been — and re­mains — one of the best around, sim­ply be­cause it is both proac­tive and re­ac­tive. un­der nor­mal driving con­di­tions, it sends 60 per cent of the power to the front wheels and 40 per cent to the rear. The proac­tive part sees it di­rect the power to the wheels with grip be­fore un­wanted wheel­spin surfaces. How­ever, if the con­di­tions change mid-cor­ner, it acts quickly to re­dis­tribute the power as needed. it also works with a brake­based torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem to sharpen turn-in re­sponse.

The aWd sys­tem on the test car worked with a two-mode ver­sion of subaru’s X-mode. There is a set­ting for snow-covered or dirt roads, and another for deeper snow or mud. The lat­ter turns off the trac­tion con­trol to help to main­tain for­ward mo­men­tum by al­low­ing some wheel spin. The all-wheel abil­ity and the elec­tronic as­sists work­ing in the background give the Forester bet­ter than av­er­age off-road abil­ity. no, you’re not go­ing to chal­lenge the ru­bi­con Trail, but a jaunt off into the hin­ter­land can be tack­led with con­fi­dence.

The lat­est Forester gets an up­dated 2.5-l four-cylin­der, now push­ing out 182 horse­power — up 12 over the out­go­ing model — and 176 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. aside from the usual flat-four grum­ble, the en­gine is quiet and re­fined.

The Forester’s con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (cvT) mim­ics the shift char­ac­ter­is­tics of a reg­u­lar au­to­matic trans­mis­sion un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, which does away with most, but not all, of the “mo­tor­boat­ing ” racket so many hate. se­lect­ing the man­ual mode then al­lows the driver to bump up through seven pre-se­lected ra­tios. com­pared to most, it’s a civ­i­lized unit that re­ally only re­veals its cvT roots when forced to work hard.

it also fea­tures ad­justable drive modes. For most sit­u­a­tions, the in­tel­li­gent mode is the right choice, favour­ing fuel econ­omy but still leav­ing a lively re­sponse when the gas is ham­mered. sport mode ramps things up with sharper throt­tle re­sponse, de­liv­er­ing the best per­for­mance. That said, the per­for­mance level never makes the heart pound; it takes the Forester 9.8 sec­onds to get from zero to 100 km/h. The plus with the 2.5-l en­gine proved to be an av­er­age fuel econ­omy of 10.1 l/100 km. com­pared to most all-wheel-drive rides, that verges on fru­gal.

The lam­en­ta­ble part of the per­for­mance quo­tient is the pre­vi­ous 2.0-l tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine, with 250 horse­power and 258 lb-ft of torque, has dis­ap­peared from the lineup. un­like the 2.5-l flat-four, that en­gine did make the heart pound.

The Forester’s cabin is marked by its qual­ity; it has top-notch ma­te­ri­als, com­fort­able seats for long-haul drives, and all the ex­pected con­ve­niences. They in­clude a nine-speaker Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem and a good in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with an eight-inch touch screen that sup­ports ap­ple carplay, an­droid auto and the built-in gps nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem. it’s an easy sys­tem to grasp, com­plet­ing any given task quickly and with­out the lag ev­i­dent in some sys­tems.

subaru gets mixed re­views for the safety equip­ment list. The good is eye­sight, which in­cludes for­ward­col­li­sion warn­ing with au­to­matic brak­ing, adap­tive cruise con­trol and lane-de­par­ture warn­ing with keep as­sist are avail­able on all but the base model. The stan­dard rearview cam­era has a washer to keep the lens clean, too. The bad is only the higher-end trim lev­els get blindspot mon­i­tor­ing and au­to­matic high beams. For many driv­ers, hav­ing a sec­ond set of eyes on blind spots is the one safety fea­ture viewed as most ben­e­fi­cial on a daily ba­sis; it’s nice to know that the car will stop if the driver nods off, but hope­fully this is a very rare oc­cur­rence.

all in all, this lat­est Forester is the best to date. There’s more lux­ury, bet­ter base power, sharper han­dling and it still comes with one of the best aWd sys­tems around. if only that tur­bocharged en­gine was still avail­able, it would have been even bet­ter.

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