It’s taken some time but Subaru has finally ventured into the alternative propulsion field with petrol / electric hybrid versions of its Forester and XV SUVs. We’ve tested both vehicles and will look at the smaller XV in a future review but start off with the hybrid version of the Forester, a vehicle that we’ve been familiar with since it arrived here back in 1997.
Although petrol / electric hybrids have been around for 20 years the Forester hybrid is just the second mid-sized SUV to come here, arriving not long after the Toyota RAV4 hybrid.
Two models are offered: Forester 2.0e-L and 2.0e-S priced at $39,990 and $45,990 respectively.
Apart from the ‘e-Boxer’ badge on the rear the Hybrid is identical externally to the conventionally-powered fifth generation Forester models that arrived here in September 2018.
The classic Subaru hexagonal front grille has the ‘family’ design, the bumpers are bold with more muscular guards and a wide shoulder line that emphasises the vehicle’s height.
The 2.0e-L comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and the 2.0e-S with 18-inch.
Interior space within the Forester is as good, if not better, than any vehicle in its class.
The longer wheelbase in the Gen-Five provided additional headroom in all seats as well as enough rear seat leg, hip and shoulder room for all but the tallest of occupants.
The elevated centre console provides plenty of storage space in front of the gear lever.
Rear-seat passengers get a drop-down centre armrest with two drink holder, two USB sockets and large map pockets in the back of the front seats.
At 509 litres with the rear seats in place the Hybrid has 11 litres of extra cargo capacity than the petrol Forester although that has been achieved by getting rid of the spare wheel and replacing it with a puncture repair kit. Not a feature that’s likely to appeal to anyone thinking of taking advantage of the car’s AWD and 220 mm ground clearance qualities and going off-road.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The petrol engine in the Forester hybrid is not the standard 2.5-litre 136 kW / 239 Nm as fitted to the petrol-only Forester but rather a 2.0-litre unit with outputs of 110 kW and 196 Nm. Termed e-Boxer the engine links via Motor Assist to a high voltage lithium ion battery which adds 12.3 kW of power and 66 Nm of torque.
The battery is self-charging using kinetic energy captured by regenerative braking and coasting.
Transmission is through a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with seven manual overrides.
Unlike most of its competitors which offer both two and four-wheel drive Forester is exclusively AWD with the added safety and roadholding benefits that it provides.
As it has for the past 16 years the fifth generation Subaru Forester gets the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
In addition to the standard safety features such as multiple airbags (seven), enhanced ABS braking and stability / traction control both the L and S Hybrid variants comes with Subaru’s Driver Monitoring and Vision Assist systems.
The Driver Monitoring System includes automatic mirror and driver’s seat adjustment as well as using facial scanning technology to provide distraction and drowsiness warnings.
We are pleased to report that the latter worked when this reviewer gave a long extended yawn at an overly long red light stoppage and was given the appropriate alert. Interestingly an attempt to replicate the warning with a non-genuine yawn didn’t trigger the same alert. Clever technology indeed!
The Driver Monitoring System can be set to recognise up to five individual drivers and adjust the cabin environment to their preference.
The Vision Assist System includes automatic high beam; blind spot monitoring; front and rear (reversing) autonomous emergency braking; rear park assist; lane departure warning; rear cross traffic alert; pedestrian detection; and side view monitoring.
Subaru’s well-established EyeSight system monitors traffic movement for unanticipated risks and can activate pre-collision throttle management to reduce speed or pre-collision braking where necessary. It also has adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and sway warning.
When driving in fully electric mode (both forward and reverse), the Pedestrian Alert system emits a sound when the vehicle speed is 24 km/h or less to reduce the risk to inattentive pedestrians.
In what is a bit of over-kill Forester uses three separate screens which, while they do provide a plethora of information, can take the driver’s attention away from the road ahead.
The largest is a central 6.3-inch Multi-Function Display that’s located at the top centre of the instrument panel that can be changed by using a steering wheel control switch. Its contents include vehicle dynamics control and fuel efficiency. Embedded navigation is only available in the 2.0e-S model, the 2.0e-L relies on a paired smartphone for directions.
Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto and Digital radio (DAB+) are all now standard while the S gets Harman Kardon premium audio, with eight speakers, plus subwoofer.
There’s also a small liquid crystal display in the instrument cluster, between the gauges that provides driving and graphical information as well as the display for the rear-view camera.
Entering and exiting Forester can be done without too much bending and scraping and once inside there’s a spacious, comfortable and modern interior feel for both driver and passengers.
The tall roofline combined with large and upright windows provide excellent all-round visibility although the largish box at the top centre of the windscreen that houses the Eyesight system can be a bit distracting.
The e-Boxer logic adjusts the power split between petrol and electric to match driving conditions. It automatically changes between three modes: Motor Assist EV driving; Motor Assist electric (EV) + petrol engine driving and petrol only.
From standstill or at low speed, the vehicle is powered by the electric motor only, for quiet, zero-emission driving. Depending upon driving environment, vehicle and battery condition, it can operate in fully electric mode up to 40 km/h.
At high speed, the petrol engine exclusively powers the vehicle, while regenerative braking or coasting with foot off the accelerator, recharges the lithium ion battery.
Under certain driving conditions above 40 km/h, when decelerating or coasting and the battery is charging, the petrol engine can turn off, achieving fuel saving. As soon as the accelerator is pressed, the engine will re-start.
Ride comfort is nicely balanced between comfort and grip. Noise and vibration levels are kept to the sort of levels that normally are found only in large sedans. Handling is very competent thanks to the all-wheel-drive system.
Fuel consumption is listed at 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged 7.4 L/100 km during our week-long test.
The downside to this otherwise excellent variant of the tried-and-proven Subaru Forester is that it really only pays lip service to the ‘hybrid’ title with relatively poor fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
At a factory-tested 6.7 litres per 100 km it is only marginally below the 7.4 L/100km of its 2.5-litre petrol-only sibling and well above the 4.8 L/100 km of the RAV4. In our week-long test we averaged in the mid eights.
Likewise the Hybrid’s emissions of 152 g/km aren’t much below the 168 g/km of the standard Forester and well above RAV4’s 109 g/km.
Having said that Subaru buyers are amongst the most loyal of any brand and many will welcome the opportunity to make even this modest contribution to the environment.
AT A GLANCE
Forester 2.0e-L Hybrid: $39,990
Forester 2.0e-S Hybrid: $45,990
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Subaru dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Subaru Forester 2.0e-L Hybrid five-door wagon)
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
CO2 Emissions: 152 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
Ground Clearance: 220 mm
Tare weight: 1603 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres