Make / Model Search

Future models - Subaru - Forester

First drive: Subaru ups the ante with 2013 Forester

King of the hill: Subaru has included the X-Mode all-wheel-drive system that assists the driver in slippery conditions in some variants of the 2013 Forester.

Real all-wheel drive ability the selling point for Subaru’s all-new Forester


Click to see larger images

1 Dec 2012

SUBARU Australia has previewed its all-new Forester ahead of its official on-sale date of February 1 next year, amid a flurry of activity in the mid-size SUV segment.

The new Forester lands in the market to confront the new-look Toyota RAV4 – revealed at the Los Angeles motor show this week and due for Australian launch in the first half of 2013 – and the recently released Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander, amongst others.

Forester pricing will not be available until early next year.

With 169,548 sales since it launched in Australia in August 1997, the Forester is Subaru’s biggest seller.

Despite the fact that almost all of the Forester’s main competitors have added entry-level two-wheel drive variants to their mid-size SUV line-ups, Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the Japanese car-maker would not follow suit.

“It is important to continue to have all-wheel drive as a point of differentiation between us and the majority of the market,” he said. “Otherwise we would get into a scrap we would never win.

“The Forester buyer, whether they are at the younger end or more mature end of the spectrum, are in this vehicle for their lifestyle and recreational purposes and value all-wheel drive for driving dynamics and the ability to pursue those lifestyle and recreational interests.”

To enhance the AWD credentials of the new Forester, Subaru has included its X-Mode AWD on automatic models. This assists car control on bad roads, steep inclines and slippery surfaces.

When it eventually arrives in the New Year, Forester will be available with the choice of a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engines or 2.0-litre diesel, depending on the specification level.

As reported by GoAuto, a more powerful 177kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine will be available in the sporty top-spec XT variant, which was not available at the preview drive.

The 110kW 2.0-litre petrol engine is new to the Forester range, but the 2.5-litre petrol engine maintains the same 126kW power output as the outgoing model, as does the 2.0-litre diesel with 108kW.

Subaru claims improved fuel efficiency across the range, with the 2.5-litre petrol achieving 8.1-litres per 100km on the combined cycle, a 12.9 per cent improvement over the previous model.

Fuel economy for the 2.0-litre diesel has also been improved slightly, to 5.9L/100 km, 1.7 per cent better than the previous model’s 6.0-litres. The new 2.0-litre petrol does a claimed 7.2L/100km.

A reduced coefficient of drag from 0.37 to 0.33 has also contributed to fuel efficiency gains.

The Japanese car-maker has wisely replaced the basic four-speed automatic gearbox from the third generation Forester and now offers a CVT on petrol models only.

A new six-speed manual is the only transmission available for the diesel, which is also only available in lower-end petrol models.

All 2013 Forester variants come standard with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, climate control, a full-sized spare wheel, rear spoiler, multi-function display and seven airbags.

The mid-spec 2.0i-L and 2.5i-L add paddle shift, dual-zone air conditioning, Subaru Intelligent Drive and the option of EyeSight saftey technology with lane departure alert, radar cruise control and pre-collision braking on CVT versions.

Moving up to the 2.0i-S or 2.0D-S means heated front seats, powered rear tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, push-button start, front wiper de-icer and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The evolutionary design of the new Forester is a step up from the third generation, but is unmistakably Subaru so as not to alienate the loyal customer base.

Fortunately, the Forester looks far better in the flesh than in the studio images that were released in early November.

Subaru touted the Forester’s segment-leading ground clearance of 220mm, and walking up to the vehicle, the height is evident but not overwhelming.

The 2013 Forester is 35mm longer and 35mm higher than the outgoing model and the wheelbase has been increased by 25mm.

It features a smoother front end but maintains some of the sharp lines of its popular little brother, the XV crossover, while managing to be less controversial than the Liberty/Outback twins.

Subaru has improved the cabin of the Forester with soft-touch materials on the dash in higher-spec models and supportive passenger and driver seats.

There is ample storage in the front of the Forester, and the design and layout of the dash is functional and stylish, without being ground-breaking.

The sheer number of controls on the steering wheel is overwhelming at first, but after a bit of a play around, it didn’t take long to get used to the various functions.

Subaru has increased the rear-seat leg room by 114mm to 304mm in the new Forester and your 183cm-tall correspondent was pleasantly surprised by the comfort and spaciousness of the rear seats.

Head and shoulder room is also ample in both the front and rear seats.

The cargo area is spacious, with more than enough room for a large grocery haul or even a small bike.

One of the cooler features of the Forester is the two nifty controls just inside the cargo area that, when pulled, lower the rear seats automatically. No more opening the back doors and straining your back to increase the cargo area.

Back in the front seats, the seating position is excellent. While the ride is higher than a regular wagon, you don’t feel like you are sitting above the traffic like in a larger SUV.

The 2.5i-L is composed and quiet on the well-sealed roads of suburban Canberra and the CVT was smooth and effective.

Although the Foresters we test-drove at the preview were pre-production vehicles only, they will no doubt be identical to the production models that arrive in local showrooms early next year.

Subaru claims acceleration of 9.3 seconds for 0-100km/h and while the Forester is never going to be mistaken for a sports car, it is a spirited drive that doesn’t struggle to reach the legal speed limit.

Accelerating to overtake at 100km/h was less punchy in the 2.5-litre with CVT, but it certainly was not slow. We had more confidence overtaking in the gutsier 2.0-litre diesel Forester with Subaru’s excellent new six-speed manual transmission making for an engaging drive.

The Forester shone when we ventured on to unsealed roads, handling large pot holes with ease. There was a bit of slide at speed but the Forester never felt out of control.

Strong brakes compliment the Forester’s performance on bitumen and dirt.

Speaking of dirt, we took the Forester off road into the Kowen Forest outside Canberra. This was a chance for Subaru to show off its X-Mode all-wheel-drive assist system.

Click the X-Mode button (CVT models only) before heading down a steep hill, take your foot off the brake and the Forester safely finds its way to the bottom of the hill, without the driver having to do much.

With X-Mode engaged, the multi-function display screen shows an animation of the direction of all four wheels and changes colour when they lose traction.

The X-Mode includes an Engine Control Unit that opens the throttle slowly in low range to avoid sudden torque changes.

The Forester easily climbed back up the same steep hill without slipping or feeling like it was straining at any point. We felt that many of its mid-size SUV competitors might not have been able to achieve that without a struggle.

While our time in the Forester was brief, we can tell that Subaru is on to a winner the fourth-generation SUV. We hope the sporty 177kW XT that was missing from this test will be the icing on the cake.

The Road to Recovery podcast series

Read more

Click to share

Click below to follow us on
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Subaru models

Catch up on all of the latest industry news with this week's edition of GoAutoNews
Click here