Car reviews - Subaru - Forester - range
Nomadic versatility, superb all-terrain ride and ability, lofty and comfortable cabin
Room for improvement
No hot STI variant yet
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24 Feb 2016
OUR time in the updated Forester was all too brief, especially given the baron South Australian surroundings that extended almost infinitely in all directions, and the hammering rain that promised to turn any off-road surface into prime Subaru terrain.
We had been slotted into a $39,490 before on-road costs 2.5i-S and pointed in the direction of what its name would suggest is the Forester's natural habitat, for a morning testing both its ability to carve up a variety of byways while insulating its occupants from the elements.
On the road, the improvements to noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) are obvious and even when negotiating coarse-chip surfaces the interior remained a serene and pleasant place to spend extended lengths of time.
Subaru says the use of more insulation, thicker window glass and revised door seals has curbed NVH by five per cent compared with the outgoing version and we believe them.
Not much has changed inside for the update, including the driving position, which is easy to adjust to the perfect posture and we liked the well presented graphics in the various vehicle information screens that are scattered around the dash.
The main central screen displays navigation and entertainment functions, the pair of smaller dash-top windows have climate control on the left and trip information on the right, while a fourth screen between the gauges presents the driver with vehicle information.
The Forester's interior fit, finish, ergonomics, comfort and equipment gets a big tick from us. As does the mild exterior restyle which brings sharp C-shaped LED running lights at the front, a re-sculpted bumper and cooler clear LED tail-lights at the back.
With many arrow-straight cruising roads, our test track could hardly be described as circuit-like, but a few twisty bits did reveal the Foresters nicely weighted steering and seemingly boundless grip, even when the unsealed surface was drenched.
We have always been a staunch advocate for Subaru's true symmetrical four-wheel drive system and we are not about to change that opinion any time soon.
One big improvement is to the Forester's steering, which has been quickened from 15.5:1 to 14:1, resulting in a far more car-like feel.
Throw the Forester into a corner and you will get some roll, but less than expected from a car with its height and ground clearance (1735mm and 220mm respectively). More surprising was its ability to resist pitch and dive under heavy braking and acceleration.
That positive attribute extends off road too, where its exemplary body control allows rapid progress even over some unsavoury terrain. We like the manner in which the Forester absorbs severe jolts and suspension compression, recovers and carries on without complaint.
Damp sand, shallow water splashes, rock mud and wet grass couldn't unhinge the Forester's talon-like grip on the country – a feature that would inspire owners with the confidence to explore further.
At no point did the Forester threaten to loose traction but we flicked into the X-Mode just for the hell of it. The full colour information display shifts from standard vehicle information to more off-road orientation and hill descent is activated automatically.
We did not get a chance to sample any of the other engines on offer in the Forester range, including the diesel or turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol XT, which seems like a good fit for the model with 177kW and a hearty 350Nm.
While the 2.5-litre flat-four petrol is not exactly asthmatic, with two people and minimal luggage it is adequate, but with a full family and/or trailer in tow, the 2.5 may struggle.
We might not have warmed to CVTs in high-performance applications, but with the 2.5's 126kW and 235Nm, the automatic works better, particularly off road when a smoother application of power is critical.
Of course any power paranoia would be alleviated by a full-fat STI version which would likely borrow the turbocharged 2.5-litre from the WRX STI, but until Subaru confirms the variant, we will have to make do with the warmed-up tS version arriving later this year.
For now though, the lightly refreshed Forester is looking like an attractive package of comfort, safety and driving enjoyment with a careful balance of both on and off-road potential.
Where many SUVs and crossovers have a clear lean to either a life on the black-top or being put to work in the paddock, the Forester is arguably the one that straddles the line most convincingly.
Other manufacturers have gone to extremes to push the performance of their SUVs, others concentrate on outright luxury, fuel economy or mountain-scaling athleticism, but Subaru's Forester is an admirable exercise in adequacy. And if you believe Subaru, it is the one that started it all.
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