Forester has a lot to offer. Subaru has gone for a middle of the road on the outside. It’s neither super sexy, nor mega cutting edge so it will appeal to a wide range of buyers.
The looks are conservative. The two box design doesn’t allow much in the way of freedom, so keeping it boxy makes the interior spacious, and spacious it is, but more about that later.
Depending on the model, you’ll find LED head and tail lights and smart start/entry. It’s a long time since I had to get a key out of my pocket to unlock a door so I would always go for the top model, or tick the option for the buttons on the door. Rather amusingly, a couple of girls I know didn’t realise they had smart entry on their top model Forester until I showed them. They were delighted and have used it ever sincet. Funnily enough there are many motoring journos who use the key fob buttons even when they have smart entry, and they know who they are.
You get 17” or 18” wheels depending on model, but all get the symmetrical AWD Subaru is famous for. The only Subaru without AWD is the delicious BRZ drift-machine. This AWD system has a centre differential with a viscous limited slip differential. It gives you max grip by making sure the wheels aren’t spinning in the breeze. It comes in handy in nasty weather. While you could do a little light off-roading because there is plenty of ground clearance, but I suspect most of you won’t.
Inside, the cabin feels positively cathedral like. Not only is the interior spacious, but the standard of the finish is something you’d only have found in an expensive Euro brands only a short time ago. The knobs and switches are all in easy reach and the infotainment system is standard across the brand.
Depending on the model, the system also includes Satnav and premium speakers.
I prefer this touch screen input. Although in some lights, you notice finger prints all over the glass, it is much easier to point and press. We don’t yet have Apple Carplay/Android Auto.
The top model gets all the goodies with a host of comfort/safety features like Eyesight. “Eyesight” is Subaru’s proprietary safety system using two cameras and fancy software to look ahead and make sure you’re not doing something silly. If you fail to notice a person in front, it beeps and carries on like a pork chop. If you still do nothing, slams on the anchors. It seems an extreme way to get your attention, but with everyone paying more attention to their mobiles than the windscreen, perhaps it’s a good thing.
Most models come with a CVT auto transmission with SI mode with either 2 or 3 settings. SI modes alters the throttle response to give the performance a bit of extra pep, especially at the traffic lights.
The 2.0 turbo petrol was given a highway drive and some light city work, while the 2.5 did the “Pie in the Sky” run up the old Pacific HWY, then down to the Berowra Ferry. The picturesque Galston Gorge offers a scenic route though field and farm, then twists through the tightest of turns with sheer stone walls on all sides.
The standard of the road surface is little better than 14th century Europen goat tracks in some places, but it gives the suspension a taste of what it can expect under conditions of ownership.
She scampered over the moonscape masquerading as a road, and changed direction like a capering mountain goat. I’d describe the handling as somewhere between SUV and sedan. The platform is shared with Impreza so I expected the handling of a detuned WRX, but they feel quite different.
Some of the hairpins have a speed limit of 5kph, more akin negotiating a carpark than a mountain side. After crossing Berwora Waters, we stopped for fish and chips in the marina. With the water lapping at your feet, the only sound you can hear is the ferry as the diesel engine winds across the cable from one side to the other. Berwora Creek looks more like a very wide bay at this point. It is a great place to rest a while with the wide shallow inlet and boats bobbing about at their moorings.
We set off for the steep climb and another impressive set of hairpins. Remembering the nasty speed camera at the top of the gorge, we kept the excitement down a bit. Bikers love the drive for the same reasons we do. It is always a pleasure to share a road with people focused on enjoying the experience. It’s something we do too little of now.
Back at 80kph, we raced through the deep green of rural Australia. Forester feels at home and takes on a certain bucolic charm of its own. The road, of course, is appalling. Hard suspension such as that of my fabourite BRZ feels almost unbearable on this surface but the Forester has an almost-luxurious ride. The bumps were soaked up very well.
Just as I was getting into the swing of the afternoon, a Landcruiser towing a horse float crossed the road into our path. That’s the second time this week my life passed before my eyes. I blame the current obsession with Pokemon. There were beeps of all sorts, but it highlighted an important fact: fancy gadgets and a suite of safety devices is no substitute for careful driving. Even with all the active and passive safety, all drivers should complete an advanced driver training course. It teaches you to keep a cool head even if there is a slightly raised heartbeat.
The 2.0 L comes with a glass sunroof but I could do without it and save myself $2,500. Sadly you can’t option it out.
The auto climate control was standard in all models and works well. There is just a little wind noise around the A pillar but otherwise there is very little noise.
It took few days to get the electric driver’s seat comfortable. I decided in the end to use 2 memory positions to suit the different moods. I often find the drivers seat needs to be closer to the peddles than I’d like so that the steering wheel reach is in the right spot. Even with the wheel pulled out, the seats feels too close. It’s one of those things you’d get used to over time.
I like Forester. I liked the spacious cabin and the quality fittings. I also liked the feeling that, like every other Subaru, the construction was sturdy and the safety first class. I’ve heard many a car industry CEO say, “people won’t pay extra for safety,” so I’m slightly sorry to hear the EYESIGHT is only standard in the top model. Reversing camera is standard though, and Satnav can easily be added with an aftermarket job. I’m waiting for dashcams to become standard. That’d put the cat among the pigeons.
Subaru has other SUVs too, but I have my eye on the Levorg sports wagon.
It is horses for courses. The very tall roof looks slightly out of proportion to me. None the less, it is an activity vehicle and extra space is always welcome. You have AWD for a little light towing, up to 750 without brakes. You could get that jet ski wet perhaps. You might even throw a bike in the back and head for a mountain track. I got a full sized bike in by taking the front wheel off. Who’d have thought it? This is meant to be the “do” bit of the current Subaru ad campaign.
We got 5 people on board, but it was snug in the back so perhaps short trips only with more than 4.
Would I buy one? No, it is the Levorg for me. The Sport Wagon look appeals to me.
Forester 2.0XT Premium (Loaned from 18.08 – 26.08)
Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP)* – $47,990
Forester 2.5i-S (Loaned from 26.08 – 1.09)
Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP)* – $39,490
Levorg 2.0GT (Loaned from 1.09 – 8.09)
Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP)* – $42,990
Levorg 2.0GT-S (Loaned from 8.09 – 14.09)
Manufacturer’s List Price (MLP)* – $48,890
2.5 petrol boxer, 126kw/235Nm, 9.9 0-100kph, 8.1L/100k,
2.0 turbo petrol boxer, 177kw/350Nm, 7.5 0-100kph, 8.5L/100k
Transmission: CVT (with stepped ratios under hard acceleration)