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Subaru shifts up with Forester diesel auto

Positive shift: Subaru says dealers have recorded significant demand for an automatic version of its popular Forester diesel SUV.

CVT auto arrives for Forester diesel, as Subaru drops prices and adds spec

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Subaru logo16 Mar 2015

By STUART MARTIN

SUBARU has followed on from its sharply priced Liberty and Outback launch by introducing the updated Forester range, slicing the price and adding a much-need automatic to the diesel line-up.

Prices for Subaru's top-selling model of 2014 have been reduced by as much as $3500, which is in addition to the $1000 drop in price the company brought to market at the start of the year, thanks to the Japan-Australia free-trade agreement.

Last year was yet another record sales year for the Japanese brand, with 40,502 vehicles sold, led by the Forester (13,670), the strong-selling XV crossover (11,539), a resurgent Impreza (6636), and the new-generation WRX performance hero (3554).

But the Forester finished 2014 well behind the Mazda's top-placed CX-5 (21,571), and Toyota's stalwart RAV4 (18,160) – both offered in front- and all-wheel drive variants – while the Nissan X-Trail (12,564) was nipping at the Forester's heels.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the introduction of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the Forester diesel is a huge boost and is expected to more than double sales of oil-burning versions, pushing sales to 14,000 this year. “We know through our dealer network that there is significant pent-up demand for Forester auto diesels, not least in regional and rural areas, where the benefits of fuel efficiency in long-range driving really come to the fore,” he said.

The first two months of 2015 resulted in the top two models remaining unchanged but Nissan's X-Trail overtook the Forester, as did the Kia Sportage and Jeep Cherokee, leaving the AWD-only Subaru to fight it out for sixth spot with the Honda CR-V – opposition that all now have a 2WD variant gathering sales for their respective breeds.

The 2015 Forester range starts with the 2.0i-L six-speed manual priced from $29,990, plus on-road costs, which the bean counters say is a saving of $2500 over the outgoing model, with a similar amount of added value with the equipment upgrades across the range.

This version is powered by a 110kW/198Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, with official fuel economy rated at 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle.

The 2.5i-L auto starts from $32,990 – a $2000 price reduction – and gets the 126kW/235Nm 2.5-litre flat four teamed to the paddle-shift equipped CVT and a 8.1L/100km fuel figure.

Standard fare on the entry-level L variants includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB inputs, idle-stop fuel saver system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, power windows and mirrors, tinted rear windows, a reclining 60/40 split-fold rear seat, three 12-volt outlets, remote central locking, cruise control and dual-zone climate control.

Safety features range-wide for the five-star ANCAP-rated SUV include a reversing camera, seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), stability and traction control and all-wheel drive.

Pricing for the 2.5i-S CVT has been cut by $3500 to $39,490 but for the extra asking price the features list includes a powered rear tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and power-adjustable front seats, a sunroof, the Eyesight auto-braking safety system, heated exterior mirrors, an active cruise control, Xenon low-beam headlights, leather trim, satellite navigation, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and ignition.

The auto-only turbo-petrol variants have both dropped by $1500 – the 2.0 XT now starts from $40,990 and while the XT loses the EyeSight safety system and the fuel saving idle-stop among other i-S features, it does receive 177kW and 350Nm from the two-litre direct-injection turbo four-cylinder engine.

Those features return to the list for the XT Premium – priced from $47,990 – along with leather trim, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights and rear tailgate, satellite navigation, powered and heated front seats, an eight-speaker harman kardon sound system and heated exterior mirrors.

Features on the entry-level diesel largely mimic the corresponding petrol variants, although missing from the features list are the X-mode off-road traction system, idle-stop and the Eyesight safety system.

Subaru says the active safety system is not yet calibrated for the diesel variants.

The 2.0D-L manual has dropped by $3000 to $33,490, and the CVT-equipped 2.0D-L is priced from $35,490 the 2.0D-S manual sneaks in beneath the $40K barrier at $39,490, or step up to the CVT-equipped 2.0D-S for $41,490.

The diesel’s outputs and thirst are unchanged at 108kW, 350Nm and 5.9L/100km, but it is now compliant with Euro6 emissions regulations by way of lighter engine internals, reduced internal engine friction, higher-pressure direct diesel injection, turbocharger improvements and a more efficient exhaust system.

The newly introduced CVT increases the fuel use claim to 6.3L/100km (the S rises slightly to 6.4L/100km), and is able to switch between a conventional “continuously variable” shifting and a stepped shift pattern if the driver demands it.

Subaru says if the accelerator is pressed beyond 65 per cent of its range while in Drive, a seven-speed step-shift is brought into operation, with “ratios” also on offer to the driver in a “manual” shift mode.

The upgrade for 2015 is more than just a CVT – the cabin, infotainment and dashboard have also come in for some attention, including the addition of speech recognition to the features list.

There is now a more integrated look to the centre stack, which has a smartphone-like touchscreen system, satellite navigation and sound system controls, upgraded trim materials and steering wheel controls upgraded to match.

Subaru Forester pricing*
Petrol
2.0i-L $29,990 (-$3000)
2.5i-L (a) $32,990 (-$2000)
2.5i-S (a) $39,490 (-$3500)
2.0 XT (a) $40,990 (-$1500)
2.0 XT Premium (a) $47,990 (-$1500)
Diesel
2.0D-L $33,490 (-$3000)
2.0D-L (a) $35,490 (New)
2.0D-S $39,490 (-$3500)
2.0D-S (a) $41,490 (New)
*Excludes on-road costs.

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