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First drive: Subaru Forester gets a dose of WRX
Subaru introduces new boxer engine and range-topping Forester S-Edition
1 Feb 2011
By PHILIP LORD
SUBARU Australia’s first new boxer engine in 21 years has emerged under the bonnet of Australia’s top-selling compact SUV, but the WRX-powered S-Edition flagship remains the headline act of the upgraded MY2011 Forester overhaul.
As previewed at the Sydney show last year, the S-Edition runs a retuned 2.5-litre turbocharged engine linked exclusively to the WRX’s optional five-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission 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 (although torque is up 4Nm), giving the new Forester performance leader 14 per cent more power than the Forester XT turbo.
Subaru Australia has not released performance figures, but consumption for the S-Edition is identical to the XT at 10.5L/100km, as are CO2 emissions at 248g/km. Like the XT, the S-Edition also requires 95 RON fuel as a minimum.
At 1585kg, the S-Edition is the heaviest Forester variant, weighing 60kg more than the XT Premium auto, which previously set the luxury/performance small SUV theme for Subaru.
Subaru said 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, which also scores unique suspension tuning.
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’s X-Trail have been bolstered by the addition of 2WD variants, spec upgrades and engine improvements.
The S-Edition leads a revamped MY2011 Forester range that sees only minor changes to the body, highlighted by 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-series 2.5-litre flat-four with the car-maker’s new FB 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, plus valves operated by more efficient roller rockers.
The engine has a narrower cylinder bore and longer piston stroke to improve torque, but on paper Subaru confirms that peak torque has increased by only 6Nm to 235Nm at 4100rpm.
The company also claims the new engine is smoother, more ‘driveable’ and reduces CO2 emissions by 7g/km in automatic form.
Rounding out the headline changes are redesigned cylinder-heads with in-built fuel-injectors, a new oil pump and new conrods to reduce engine width, countering 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, while the four-speed automatic used with the new engine has also been upgraded.
The S-Edition brings the number of Forester variants to eight, with the X, XS, XS Premium, XT, XT Premium, 2.0D and 2.0D Premium diesels continuing in the 2011 line-up.
A darker dashboard material and different metallic highlights feature inside all MY2011 Foresters, while Bluetooth compatibility is now standard across the board and X and 2.0D models now offer USB connectivity.
A reversing camera is now standard in the 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 17-inch alloy wheel design is fitted to the XS and XT, while the roof spoiler used on the XT and S-Edition is a more aerodynamic design than that used previously on the XT.
The new Forester S-edition flagship is identified by a black grille with chrome highlight, silver roof-rails, STI-sourced 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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