In two weeks we have just racked up almost 2000 km in a new Subaru Forester XT in Western Australia. On long, straight outback roads with a sprinkling of city driving, gravel roads and a few windy bits thrown in this was our big test in the west. Our conclusion: the new Forester XT sets new standards for the medium SUV segment in performance, comfort and handling.
The Forester has always been a capable vehicle with well thought-out design and excellent build quality. The XT badge also tells you that it has performance. This Subaru AWD felt at home, chewing through kilometre after kilometre and providing passenger comfort on long-haul trips equal to or better than many luxury cars.
Indeed, the Subaru Forester XT exhibits many traits of the highly renowned European marques: small engine with big performance, excellent handling and a solid feel. This is a vehicle that has been engineered for the driver and is extremely well suited to Australian conditions.
The Forester XT is nothing really special to look at. It’s what you can’t see that makes a difference from the previous XT. The aerodynamics have improved by 11 per cent thanks to, among other things, a turbo guard under the engine bay and a rear spoiler. The lower body is also flared and the bonnet is now aluminium. The rear bumper corners have been designed with aerodynamics in mind.
We initially had doubts about Subaru’s decision to make CVT the standard transmission (there’s no manual shifter) in the high-performance XT Forester. Our opinions changed at the launch of the vehicle in northern Victoria in January.
The CVT is linked to a new 2.0-litre Boxer engine that has Direct Injection Turbo-charging technology that Subaru claim significantly improves acceleration, fuel and environmental efficiency. The engine belts out 177 kW of power, with 350 Nm of torque between 2400 and 3600 rpm.
This is a terrific engine that is at its best when it is needed most: accelerating for high speed overtaking, particularly the B-doubles on WA’s Great Eastern Highway. At times we were surprised at just how fast we were going when passing slower vehicles and the stability of the vehicle when making the manoeuvre.
Subaru has not tried to re-invent the new Forester, but has made subtle changes throughout the vehicle to improve every aspect of the car. The cab is wider and has slightly more passenger space, the A-pillar has been moved forward by 200 mm which opens out the cab to feel more spacious and improve visibility.
The front seats are all new and give more support, something which we found to our advantage on our long-haul trips around the WA wheat belt country. The interior is practical more than princely, but with the use of quality materials is has an all-class feel. Sound intrusion into the cabin is minimal and virtually none of it is engine/transmission generated.
What we do like is the overall comfort level that meets the needs of passengers. For instance the doors have water bottle holders that mean even the driver can find the bottle and then replace is easily without taking their eyes off the road. The steering wheel controls are particularly easy to use including the cruise control, a handy feature for long distance travel.
The cargo area has four metal tie-down points as well as grocery bag hooks on either side, stopping the dreaded spill of bottles and cans. Auxiliary and USB port and power sockets are all conveniently located. We also like the sun visor extensions – a small but important feature for early morning or afternoon driving in the bush. We used them often during this road test.
All Subarus imported to Australia have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
This is really an SUV with dual personalities. By deleting the bonnet scoop that formerly adorned Forester XT models Subaru has located the new XT in the mainstream.
When you combine Forester XTs long-leg performance with superb handling, along with the practical benefits of being a nicely proportioned wagon and AWD for safety and reasonable off-road ability, the Forester XT has just about created it’s own niche. At 110 km/h Forester XT’s engine is idling over at just 2000 rpm. We like it, a lot.
Forester 2.0i: $30,990 (manual)
Forester 2.5i: $32,990 (automatic)
Forester 2.0i-L: $33,490 (manual), $35,990 (automatic)
Forester 2.5i-S: $43,990 (automatic)
Forester 2.0D: $35,490 (manual)
Forester 2.0D-L: $37,490 (manual)
Forester 2.0D-S: $43,990 (manual)
Forester 2.0XT: $43,490 (automatic)
Forester 2.0XT Premium $50,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for driveaway prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Forester 2.0XT)
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Head Design: DOHC
Compression Ratio: 10.6:1
Bore/Stroke: 86.0 mm x 86.0 mm
Maximum Power: 177 kW @ 5600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 2400 – 3600 rpm
Driven Wheels: AWD
Manual Transmission: N/A
Automatic Transmission: CVT
Final Drive Ratio: 4.111
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4595 mm
Wheelbase: 2640 mm
Width: 1795 mm
Height: 1735 mm
Turning Circle: 10.6 metres
Kerb Mass: 1629 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Towing Ability: 1800 kg
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: MacPherson struts
Rear Suspension: Independent, double wishbone
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated Discs
Wheels: 18 inch alloys
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 7.5 seconds
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 8.5 L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10
3 years/ 100,000 km