My Drive this week was the Subaru Forester. This car is one of the more popular compact off-road four wheel drives, and for the 2015 model year update Subaru made the drastic change of lowering prices across the range, with some variants dropping by as much as $3,500. The other hallmark addition was an automatic gearbox being added to diesel variants. This was a long time coming and should help boost the Forester diesel’s appeal.
The 4th generation Subaru Forester has been around with us for almost two years now, so the updated version I’m looking at today is the first update in this model’s history.
The exterior gets a single tweak – a shark fin radio antenna, which refines the look of the car just a little bit more. That’s the only exterior update.
Inside, the main change is the new, integrated centre console, which looks far better than the previous slot-in module and allows for a larger 7.0-inch LCD touchscreen. Other minor changes were made to add a more premium effect to the cabin, including the use of piano black and silver highlights. Otherwise you’ve still got the roominess and comfort the Forester previously offered – leg room is decent both front and back, while the load carrying capacity of 422 litres is quite generous.
So, let’s take a look at this new automatic box. Quick rundown first – the Forester’s 2.0 litre turbo diesel engine produces 108 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. The automatic is a CVT, meaning unlimited ratios, although under strong throttle it will start imitating a stepped gearbox so that you feel like you’re going faster. It’s a trick, but most people like it, so that’s all that matters really. It’s a Subaru, meaning all four wheels are driven at all times, and fuel consumption officially averages 6.3 L/100km in combined driving.
Funnily enough, the Forester driving experience is quite similar to the Outback diesel I tested earlier this year. Off the mark performance is a bit average thanks to some turbo lag, but once you get going the strong torque of the diesel really comes into its own and gets you moving quickly. Kick-down reaction is quite decent, so overtaking manoeuvres on motorways are easy to execute. High speed driving is quite refined, although slightly noisier if you’re sitting in the back, and real-life fuel consumption is also reasonably close to the rated one, with my score being 6.9 L/100km (in combined usage).
The always-on four-wheel drive helps considerably for handling. The Forester is very well composed around corners, hooking admirably and staying pointed where you want it to go. The brakes also work well, pulling the car up quickly when needed.
Diesel Foresters are now available in two variants, the L and S. L model diesel Foresters get the 7.0-inch touchscreen I mentioned earlier as standard, as well as dual zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, multi-function display in the instrument cluster and USB/Bluetooth audio with Pandora support. The S adds to this with HID headlamps, proximity keyless entry, sunroof, satellite navigation, leather trim and electrically-adjustable front seats.
Pricing for the Forester range now starts from $29,990, although a diesel L starts from $33,490 with a manual gearbox. Throw in another $2,000 for automatic, while a fully-kitted S automatic will set you back $41,490. All prices are before on-road costs.
The Forester makes for a great family car, and it can certainly handle a reasonable amount of off-roading if you want to go camping or just enjoy the great outdoors. It’s on sale now.
19 September 2015