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Car reviews - Subaru - Forester - S-Edition 5-dr wagon

The Car

6 May 2011

SUBARU Australia has introduced its first new ‘boxer’ engine in 21 years in the MY2011 Forester range, which is highlighted by the introduction of the WRX-powered Forester S-edition.

As previewed at the Sydney show last year, the S-Edition runs a re-tuned WRX turbo 2.5-litre engine linked to the WRX auto’s paddle-shift five-speed unit (with no manual transmission offered) and 45/55-split all-wheel drive system.

With 193kW of power and 347Nm of torque, the S-edition’s output is down just 2kW on the WRX (but torque is up 4Nm), giving it 14 per cent more power than the Forester XT.

At 1585kg, the S-Edition is the heaviest Forester variant, weighing 60kg more than the XT Premium auto that had previously set the luxury/performance compact SUV theme for Subaru.

Subaru has not released performance figures, but consumption for the S-Edition is identical to the XT at 10.5L/100km, as are C02 emissions at 248g/km.

Like the XT, the S-Edition also requires 95RON fuel as a minimum.

Subaru said that the new range leader was introduced in response to customer requests for a more performance-oriented Forester. Australia is the first export market to launch the S-edition.

While Subaru has led the compact SUV class for three years, key competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 (which only lost the top-selling crown to Forester in 2010 by a few hundred sales) and Nissan X-Trail have made improvements with additional models such as 2WD variants, spec upgrades and engine improvements.

The S-Edition leads a revamped MY2011 Forester range that sees only minor changes to the body, which gets a new grille across the range and new side mirrors and wheels on all but the Forester X.

Of course, the big news is that Subaru has replaced its normally aspirated entry-level EJ 2.5-litre flat-four with the new FB series engine, its third-generation boxer.

Gone is the single camshaft per bank, driven by an expensive-to-replace rubber belt, replaced by two cams per bank driven by chains and valves operated by more efficient roller rockers.

The engine has a narrower cylinder bore and longer piston stroke, to improve torque.

Not that the new engine has much more ticker – at least on paper. Subaru confirms that torque has increased, but only by 6Nm, to 235Nm at 4100rpm.

The company also claims the new engine is smoother, more ‘driveable’ and produces 7g/km C02 emissions in automatic form.

Rounding out the headline changes are a new oil pump, in-head fuel injectors, redesigned heads and new conrods to reduce engine width – to counter the additional width needed by the longer piston stroke.

Five-speed manual versions of the new FB engine now have a flexible flywheel with a damping mechanism that Subaru says helps minimise vibration and improves noise suppression, and the four-speed automatic used with the new engine has also been upgraded.

The S-Edition brings the Forester range to eight, with the X, XS, XS Premium, XT, XT Premium, 2.0D and 2.0D Premium continuing in the 2011 line-up.

A darker dashboard material and different metallic highlights feature inside all MY2011 Foresters, Bluetooth compatibility is now standard across the board, and X and 2.0D models now have USB connectivity.

A reversing camera is standard in XS, XT and S-Edition.

The rear suspension bushes are revised for improved control and steering response, while new under-bonnet sound deadening material is claimed to reduce cabin noise.

A new design of 17-inch alloy wheel is fitted to XS and XT, while the roof spoiler used on XT and S-edition is a more aerodynamic design than that used previously on XT. The S-edition also gets unique suspension tuning.

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Did you know?

The new Forester S-Edition flagship is identified by a black grille with chrome highlight, silver roof rails, STI 17-inch alloy wheels, World Rally blue colour option (for a limited period), blue Alcantara and leather seat trim, seat embroidery and blue stitching, unique instrument display, Blue-tone foot lights, sports gearshifter and a tailgate logo.

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