With the loudest cooee coming from the bush, Subaru has answered the call by adding a diesel automatic to its model year ‘15 Forester range, as well as chopping prices by up to $3500, the latter on top of the $1000 trim announced at the beginning of this year.
At the launch of the realigned range, Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior, said: “We know through our dealer network there is significant pent-up demand for Forester auto diesels, not least in regional and rural areas, where the benefits of fuel efficiency in long-range driving really come to the fore.”
Mr Senior said the addition of the continuously variable automatic transmission was a huge boost to the range and he predicted sales of around 200 Forester 2.0D automatics per month.
For 2015, improvements have been made to the Forester’s horizontally opposed turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel boosting power output to 108 kW at 3600 rpm and 350 Nm of torque between 1600 and 2400 revs.
It complies with strict Euro 6 exhaust emission standards, fuel efficiency is improved and vibration reduced. The high torque is taken care of with the Subaru Lineartronic CVT featuring a step-shifting control method linked to engine speed.
The system switches between continuously variable operation to step shifting. With the transmission in D mode, if the accelerator is depressed by more than 65 per cent, a seven-speed step shift activates. If the movement is less than 65 per cent, stepless CVT operates.
Unlike many of its rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage, that have gone in for a slick profile, the MY15 Forester errs on the side of tradition, leaning more to the original squared off wagon shape.
Inside, it’s a different matter. Across the range there has been a lift in attention to detail, with particular reference to the most used components such as centre panel and steering wheel controls, and air vent grilles.
Silver and contrasting piano black surrounds make for a sumptuous yet striking appearance, while the instrument panel combines upgraded audio display and, in the upper-spec models, factory-fitted satellite navigation in the central dashboard.
The multifunction display incorporates both digital and analogue clock, while the fuel efficiency display is now designed to make occupants more aware of economical driving.
Depending on model, infotainment is boosted by more intuitive functions for media playback, including Pandora connectivity, and information access, with smartphone-style 7-inch touchscreen incorporating flick, pinch and double-tap functions, list selections using steering wheel switches, plus voice recognition.
The entry-level Forester 2.0D-L packs all the features of its petrol-powered counterpart, adding 17-inch alloy wheels. The top-of-the-range 2.0D-S adds automatic cargo door, electric sunroof, leather upholstery with heated eight-way powered front seats, and door mirrors, Xenon low-beam dusk-sensing headlamps with pop-up washers, sat nav and 18-inch alloys, and full-size spare wheel.
Safety is five-star with dual front and side airbags, full-length curtain airbags and similar knee protection for the driver. ABS anti-skid brakes are augmented by electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. Vehicle dynamic control includes traction control and reversing camera keeps an eye on closely positioned obstacles.
According to the manufacturer, Subaru’s innovative EyeSight driver assist system is in the process of being calibrated for use in Forester diesels in Australia.
On an extensive drive programme in country Tasmania, the entry-level 2.0D-L CVT and top-specced 2.0D-S CVT, the pair proved worthy examples of the advantages of combining automatic transmissions with diesel engines. This included frugal fuel consumption of 7.6 litres per hundred kilometres and 7.9 litres per hundred kilometres respectively.
Whether in continuous mode or stepping through its seven ratios the Lineartronic CVT remained unhurried and quiet at all times, the Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive adding handling stability in even the sharpest of manoeuvres.
The Forester’s suspension was particularly impressive, ironing out the wrinkles on stretches of dirt road many other SUV’s would have baulked at.
While the Forester has never been short of supporters, the addition of an automatic to the range has opened up the SUV to a new group of potential buyers.
Forester 2.0i-L: $29,990 (manual),
Forester 2.5i-L: $32,990 (automatic)
Forester 2.5i-S: $39,490 (automatic)
Forester 2.0D-L: $33,490 (manual), $35,490 (automatic)
Forester 2.0D-S: $39,490 (manual), $41,490 (automatic)
Forester 2.0XT; $40,990 (automatic)
Forester 2.0XT Premium: $47,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices