2019 Subaru Forester Launch Review and road test
Subaru launched the 5th generation Forester in beautiful rural Victoria, a place where Forester will feel right at home.
The new Subaru Global Platform (SGP) allows sharing of technology, build quality, and handling improvements like those found in the XV and Impreza. An already excellent car just got better.
All 4 model, 2.5i, Forester 2.5i-L, Forester 2.5i-Premium and Forester 2.5i-S, share the same modern look, and a technology makeover that would embarrass a millennial.
Launched in 1997, 250,000 Foresters have been sold since. In fact, 12,000 were sold on 2017 making the SUV Subaru’s best seller.
SEE VIDEO REVIEW below
LED smart lighting up front changes high beam to leave those in front of your car. Subaru uses EyeSight twin cameras at the top of the windscreen for this, and other safety functions. Other brands use cameras and radar, but none of them, but EyeSight is unique to Subaru.
18” wheels on the top 2.5i-S look smart, and even with road tyres, make short work of dirt, mud, and snow, aided by Xmode and AWD. More about that later.
There are cameras dotted about the body to give a view around the car front and back, with one in the side mirror to see along the passenger’s side. Handy for the numb-bums who can’t manage to park without scratching up the mags. It isn’t 360 as such, but almost as good.
There is a range of colours, with blue making the most of the subtle styling.
The look is chunky, and kind of sexy. The proportions are just right but I can’t hep but feel Forester could use a little more bling. Some shiny bits here and there wouldn’t hurt. I miss the days of chromed bumpers and door handles.
The high set body makes the cabin easy to get in and out of, just the way SUV buyers like it.
New Forester is 15 mm longer (at 4,625 mm), 20 mm wider (1815 mm) and has a 30 mm greater wheelbase, at 2770 mm. However, it has a turning radius of just 5.4 metres. While it is definitely bigger, it looks sleeker than the model it replaces.
All models have roof rails, heated external mirrors, shark fin antennae and smart looking alloy wheels, with distinctive new design 17-inch (2.5i and 2.5i-L) and 18-inch wheel patterns (2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S).
An interesting feature and attention to the target market, the roof rails have loopholes added to the roof rails of Forester 2.5i-S, enabling ropes and straps to be tied down directly onto the rails.
Adding to both the style and safety, all models also have LED tail lights and LED Steering Responsive Headlights, dusk sensing, with integrated Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)
Classy is my word dujour.
As you move up the range, the trim gets tweaked, but the language is the same.
Seating is fabulously comfortable. Even the top 2.5-S doesn’t have lumbar adjustment on the driver’s seat, but the lounge seating is richly padded in a way a humble SUV deserves, but rarely achieves. Adjustment gives just the right position for all 5 occupants, even the peasants in back.
While we’re on the subject of the rear seats, even with the front seats set for peeps with extra height, the chaps bringing up the rear have oodles of legroom.
Luggage space is ample, and you won’t break a nail opening the tailgate either. Just press the button in front, on the key fob, or on the hatch itself, and up it swings. Never drop another bag trying to fiddle with handles.
There is smart start and entry, so the same goes for the other doors. Just grab the handle, and as long as you have the key secreted about your person, they’ll lock or unlock by the touch of a hand.
Cubby holes abound, and there are USB ports, bottle and cup holders, and power outlets for front and rear passengers. We’ve placed all the numbers and figures in a separate list so you don’t get too bored here. Here’s the link in case you’re the type who like I’s dotted and t’s crossed.
An 8” LCD screen sits just below a smaller LCD screen at the top of the centre stack. The screens work together to provide driver information and reversing camera displays. A 3rd screen rests between the driver’s dials for even more data.
Of course Apple Carplay/Android Auto stream music, phone calls, and directions, through upgraded Harmon Kardon speakers. The sound is superb too.
For those who insist on ruining a good walk by playing golf, you can fit those stick thingies across the cargo hold without having a seizure trying to get them in.
Have a look at the video for a good look around the cabin.
Apart from a vast toybox of gadgets, the facial recognition is by far my favourite. After a quick set-up. The system scans each person who sits in the driver’s seat. It remembers up to 5 faces and will change seat and mirror settings to whatever that face has set as their favourite positions.
IN addition, it remember the last radio station and climate temperature too.
Here are some highlights, but see our separate list of full specifications HERE
- Apple Car Play
- Driver Face recognition
- Xmode off-road system
- Symmetrical AWD
- Si Drive
- Power Tailgate
- Dual zone climate control
- Active Cruise Control and Lane Guidance
- Autonomous Emergency braking both forward and backward
Drive and Engine
Big Bear, Rob Fraser, spent a few days with me in the new Subaru, see his excellent take on the soft-roading-Scoob right here. He is the chap just out of shot in the video, but SHHHH don’t tell anyone.
The Subaru Forester features the Euro 6 compliant, 90%-new 2.5-litre direct injection four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engine offers increased combustion efficiency, so we are told.
This has increased power and torque and better fuel economy. The engine produces 136 kW@ 5,800 rpm of power and 239 Nm @ 4,400 rpm of torque. This transfers to all four wheels though the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system and a seven speed manual mode Lineartronic™ Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) makes its debut in Forester 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S. SI-Drive is optimized to improve fuel efficiency in I mode and increase engine speed in S mode, for even greater responsiveness.
Even though they sold in ridiculously low numbers, there is no diesel engine option and disappointingly no turbo version coming.
Our drive through the bucolic beauty of upstate Victoria over some of the most atrocious roads with long sections of dirt track. I like dirt as much as the next man, but the speed Forester handles the appalling back tracks is astounding.
Subaru knows Forester is going to be used by plucky families on their weekend outings, but could as easily traverse this big wide place we call home.
The ride is nothing short of luxurious, the handling great for an SUV, and the cabin is quiet too.
Subaru have shoehorned so much safety gear into Forester that you’ll have to see our features article to breathe it all in.
EyeSight watches over you while ever the car is awake. You can use the cameras mounted in the front to look into intersections before heading through. There is a camera for parking too. Mounted in the side mirror, it looks down at the gutter and displays a side view along with what is going on at the back.
There is no auto parking, but auto braking will stop you from running in to anything behind you as you reverse, including little people who have broken away from wayward parents. Driveway accidents should be a thing of the past.
Lane guidance keeps the car centred in the lane as long as there are lines to follow, and active cruise control keeps you a safe distance from the car ahead. It has a queue function to, so slow traffic won’t see you banging in to the chap in front because you’ve been distracted.
Appel CarPlay/Android Auto handles messaging and calls handsfree without your eyes ever leaving the road. Better still, you don’t have to touch a button, just use your voice instead. Hey Siri works wonders as long as you have cell range.
Stability control, Xmode, and AWD make sure you always keep the shiny side up.
- Xmode, AWD, Si drive
- Incredibly spacious cabin
- Excellent ride and handling
Not So Good Bits
- No turbo
- No diesel
- No Heads Up display
Few cars leave me wanting more.
I’d have loved a few extra hours in the saddle, especially in the mud. The space was brilliant, ride excellent, and there was a festival of gizmos and gadgets to make life safe and easy.
Only a couple of small things were missing. I’d have liked an HUD (heads Up Display) which is the only real way for a driver to keep his eyes on the road where they belong.
The face recognition system is genius, but really it just comes down to value for money, and Forester leaves most of the opposition in the dust.
Facts and Figures: 2019 Subaru Forester
Range Price: $31,490 – $41,490
Engine: 2.5i Horizontally opposed Boxer 4 Cylinder naturally aspirated.
Drivetrain: seven speed manual mode Lineartronic™ CVT
Power: 136 kW/5,800 rpm
Torque: 239 Nm/4,400 rpm
CO2 Emissions: 168 g/km
Economy: 7.4 L/100km (ADR comb)
Tow Capacity: Max 1500 kg
Tow Ball Rating: 150 kg
Servicing: Capped Price 12 Months/12,500KM
Warranty: 3yr/ unlimited km with full roadside assist