If the Subaru Forester were a human timber-getter, he would be well past retirement age. However, the recently released popular Subaru all-wheel drive wagon, in its fifth generation, is confidently plugging away into the future.
Subaru Australia Managing Director, Colin Christie, says it is 21 years since first generation Forester was launched in Australia, establishing a whole new trend by becoming the original compact SUV.
“It was Subaru’s best-seller last year, with more than 12,000 vehicles sold, taking us close to a quarter of a million Foresters sold since launch. With the launch of this new generation, we see every opportunity to build on that success, thanks to the new model’s great combination of emotional value, practicality, and technology,” he adds.
Among the latest technology making its debut is the Subaru Driver Monitoring System, tagged as Driver Focus. It enables drivers to personalise cabin preferences, which according to the Subaru Oz, is a first for a mainstream brand in Australia.
Further improvements include a more responsive and efficient engine and added sportiness to the CVT transmission in manual mode, the roomiest Forester cabin, upgrades to X-Mode for added surefootedness, reverse automatic braking and the addition of digital radio.
Forester also becomes the third Subaru model, after Impreza and XV, to take on 12-month / 12,500 km servicing through efficiencies gained via the maker’s Global Platform.
Four variants are available; 2.5i, 2.5i-L, 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S, starting at $33,490, plus on-road costs, with the range-topping 2.5i-S at $41,490. On test was the latter.
Through the generations the Forester has morphed from a compact all-wheel drive wagon to a genuine off-road sports utility vehicle, the latest version capping off the elevation with the ground clearance (220 mm) of a genuine go-almost-anywhere vehicle.
Along with this comes the bold styling of bumpers, muscular guards and a shoulder line emphasising this height. A variation on Subaru’s classic hexagonal grille, with astronomy-inspired motif, is joined by C-shaped headlights, repeated in the rear light design. LED lights help reduce power consumption and therefore improve fuel efficiency.
All models roll on new design 17-inch (2.5i and 2.5i-L) and 18-inch wheels (2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S), while added loopholes in the roof rails of the 2.5i-S, enable ropes and straps to be tied down onto the rails.
With outer dimensions increased in all cases, occupants benefit from more shoulder, hip and leg room all round. Cargo space is expanded to 498 litres in models with or without sunroof.
The spacious look inside is highlighted by rounded design, incorporating high quality materials, silver framed displays and controls, while white LED map lights improve night-time visibility and complement the wide-body interior ambience.
The elevated centre console adds substance to the look, offering plenty of storage space in front of the gear shifter.
A Multi-Function Display is situated at atop the centre of the instrument panel, showing outside temperature and clock at all times. The 6.3-inch colour screen can be changed by using the steering wheel control switch, providing the driver and all passengers with useful and entertaining information, with easy-to-understand visual cues.
The widescreen full colour MFD provides a wealth of information including vehicle dynamics control and fuel efficiency. Embedded navigation is available in 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S models.
A liquid crystal display in the instrument cluster, between the gauges, includes driving and graphical information for driving and control. The unit shows information including rear-view camera display and entertainment information.
Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto feature popular apps in the infotainment system via voice recognition. Forester 2.5i-S features Harman Kardon premium audio, with eight speakers, plus subwoofer.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 2.5-litre direct injection four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engine is 90 per cent new and offers increased combustion efficiency. Power and torque are up to 136 kW (+7.9pc) and 239 Nm (+1.7pc), respectively. Weight is down 1.9 kg, while noise is also reduced.
A Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with manual overrides puts power to ground through all four wheels.
A Forester variant was the first Japanese-made vehicle – and first compact SUV – to receive a five-star ANCAP rating in early 2003.
Every Forester features the latest generation EyeSight driver assist system. Stereo camera images are in colour and the recognition is optimised, enabling ‘vision’ of multiple items simultaneously.
Added to existing EyeSight functions is emergency lane keep assist that can help prevent crashes if a stupid driver starts drifting into another lane.
With generations of development, the roomiest Forester yet, in 2.5i-S spec, has no trouble in offering a spacious, comfortable and modern ambience for driver and passengers.
For the first time, SI-Drive features in normally aspirated Foresters, in the 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S variants. It is designed to improve fuel efficiency in ‘I’ mode and increase engine speed in ‘S’ mode. SI-Drive control is enhanced for greater responsiveness.
In ‘I’ mode, the test 2.5i-S fuel consumption tipped over 10 litres per 100 kilometres in city and suburbs and 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres when let free on the highway.
Forester 2.5i-S has two switchable modes, controlled using an easy-to-check dial. When D.Snow / Mud is selected, engine torque control allows the unit to generate maximum torque more quickly, producing moderate wheel slip, making it easier to unstick the vehicle, in deep snow or mud. We had to take the maker’s word for this.
The amount of information available to the driver is as comprehensive as found on many far more expensive vehicles. On the downside, the use of three separate screen displays has the eyes scanning over a large area when maybe they should be concentrating the road ahead.
Our test vehicle apparently suffered a tailgate fail as it refused to lift. A Subaru tech put a finger (literally) on it straight away. A locking button on the lower dash near the steering wheel had been pushed right in accidentally, probably by the driver’s knee and was preventing the tailgate from responding.
The Forester has been around long enough to have built up a large fan base and there’s no reason this should not only become bigger with the latest super-specced top dog, the 2.5i-S.
AT A GLANCE
Forester 2.5i AWD $33,490
Forester 2.5i-L AWD $35,490
Forester 2.5i Premium AWD $38,490
Forester 2.5i-S AWD $41,490
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Forester 2.5i-S 2.5-litre Boxer 4cyl direct injection petrol, Lineartronic CVT AWD)
Capacity: 2.498 litres
Configuration: 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed
Maximum Power: 136 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 239 Nm @ 4400 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.4 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 168 g/km
DRIVELINE: Lineartronic CVT with manual mode, AWD
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4625 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Width: 1815 mm
Height: 1730 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Tare weight: 1577 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 63 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Three years / unlimited kilometres