SUBARU FORESTER HYBRID – GREEN SHOOTS FOR BRIGHT FUTURE

Subaru has set out to introduce electric power to its vehicle range by giving it its best shot by adding a petrol-electric hybrid to its two best-selling models, the Forester and XV.

Ranked first and second for the brand’s sales in Australia, the pair are seen as part of a long-term strategy for a variety of power plants and technologies in the coming years.

Subaru says the Forester offers a fuel efficiency improvement of 19 per cent in the urban cycle and more than 9 per cent in the combined cycle, compared to 2.5-litre petrol-only variants.

The mid-size hybrid SUV comes in two variants – L and S – with an entry-level price of $39,990, plus on-road costs, the S $45,990, respectively. This compares with $36,940 and $42,990 for the corresponding 2.5i-L and 2.5i-S petrol models.

Both feature e-Boxer power – a 2.0 litre horizontally opposed petrol engine linked via Motor Assist to a lithium ion battery, offering fuel economy benefits, particularly in congested city driving.

STYLING
Originally a compact station wagon when it first appeared in the late 1990s, Forester has since grown to mid-size and taken up the crossover mantle with sloping roof while still hanging on to traditional wagon features of generous headroom and extra cargo space.

Forester L hybrid has 17-inch alloy wheels, black rear garnish, chromed coloured door handles, power, heated folding door mirrors with matte silver finish, front, side and rear silver cladding and wheel arch and side cladding over 17-inch wheels.

To this the Forester S hybrid adds chrome-look window moulding, automatic folding door mirrors with passenger-side dipping mirror and e-Boxer badging. There’s a power tailgate with automatic switching control front and back, and smart lock, making for friendly luggage space access. The tailpipe is finished off with a smart cover and the car rolls on sporty 18-inch alloy wheels.

INTERIOR
The L has premium cloth seats, air ducts for rear passengers, bottle holders in each door, plus two cup holders in the centre console and rear armrest. Climate control air-conditioning has dual zone with rear vents.

A driver monitoring system includes a distraction warning, doze / drowsiness warning, and last-use air-con and multifunction display setting. Heated front seats have three-level adjustment and the driver?s is height adjustable, there?s a height and reach adjustable steering column and leather finish steering wheel and gearshift.

MY20 Subaru Forester Hybrid S

The S boasts alloy sports pedals, leather trim, auto driver’s seat adjustment, auto door mirror adjustment, one-touch electric folding rear seats and electric sunroof.

SI-Drive has steering wheel controls and X-Mode a two-mode rotary dial with silver highlights, while eight-way power driver and front passenger seats have position memory.

INFOTAINMENT
Forester L has a 6.5-inch infotainment display and is Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto compatible, digital radio (DAB+), six speaker audio, steering wheel controls, Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition.

The S includes 8-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, Harman Kardon premium audio, with sub-woofer and amplifier.

Factory-fitted satellite navigation powered by TomTom Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition are incorporated.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The e-Boxer hybrid system is a combination of four-cylinder 2.0-litre engine producing 110 kW of power at 6000 rpm and 196 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm linked via Motor Assist to a high voltage lithium ion battery.

The electric motor produces 12.3 kW of power and 66 Nm of torque, and is self-charging, via kinetic energy from regenerative braking and coasting. The system automatically changes between three modes – Motor Assist EV driving, Motor Assist electric plus petrol engine driving, and petrol engine driving.
Subaru’s Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission is mated with the e-Boxer system.

SAFETY
Both Forester Hybrids have earned a five-star ANCP rating, with curtain airbags – full length (front and rear), driver’s knee airbag, dual front airbags, dual front side airbags and child seat anchorage points. Front seatbelts have pretensioners and load limiters, plus height adjustable anchors.

Active safety features include ABS anti-lock brakes with four-wheel ventilated discs, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake vectoring. Also contributing are adaptive cruise control, auto vehicle hold, blind spot detection, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert.

Subaru’s EyeSight system is a welcome help to the driver, as are front seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, and height adjustable top anchorages.

DRIVING
The direct injection petrol engine, Motor Assist and battery combination produce smooth, linear and responsive acceleration,

The e-Boxer logic adjusts the power split between petrol and electric to match driving conditions, automatically shifting between three modes – Motor Assist EV driving; Motor Assist electric, EV plus petrol engine driving, and petrol engine only.

From rest or at low speed, the vehicle is powered by the electric motor only, for almost silent, zero-emission operation. The distinctive Boxer engine growl is evident under load, or hard use of the accelerator pedal.
Depending on driving environment, vehicle and battery condition, the maker claims the Forester Hybrid can operate in fully electric mode up to 40 km/h. On test, the S came nowhere near this, switching to combined power hardly past the 10 km/h mark.

At cruising speeds, the Boxer petrol engine takes over completely, while regenerative braking, or with foot off the accelerator, recharges the lithium ion battery.

Subaru’s EyeSight system uses stereoscopic cameras mounted on either side of the interior rearview mirror and offers a raft of technologies including pre-collision braking and throttle management, adaptive cruise control, plus lane departure and sway warning. The system can be manually turned on or off.

Being an optical, instead of radar-based system, it has a downside in limited visibility, such as when driving into the sun, fog, or where the windshield is not cleared of snow, mud, and so on.

Should one or more wheels lose traction, X Mode applies brakes to the affected wheel resulting in a transfer of power to the opposite wheel. Switched on by a push button on the centre console X Mode stays engaged up to 40├┐km/h then disengages.

Our Forester S test vehicle posted fuel consumption of 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres in suburban conditions and 7.5 on the open road.

Forester Hybrid L and S AWD come under Subaru?s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with the lithium-ion battery covered for eight years or 160,000 kilometres. A 12-month / 12,500 km capped price service plan also applies.

SUMMING UP
The latest Forester can best be described as a mild hybrid. The petrol engine battery back-up negates fears of range anxiety, a problem with electric-only vehicles; the electric mode comes into action sparingly, hence there?s only a limited advantage in fuel economy.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE

Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Forester Hybrid S 2-litre 4cyl Boxer petrol, CVT, AWD SUV)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.995 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders, horizontally opposed
Maximum Power: 110 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 196 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.7 L/100km
Emissions: Euro 6

Electric motor: Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor
Power: 12.3 kW
Torque: 66 Nm

DRIVELINE: Lineartronic continuously variable with 7sp manual mode, AWD, X-Mode

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4625 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm
Width: 1815 mm (2065 mm including mirrors)
Height: 1730 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1643 kg (L AWD)
1682 kg (S AWD)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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