Subaru Forester XT Review

By: Scott Newman

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Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT
Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT
Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT Subaru Forester XT

Driven: Subaru’s fourth-generation soft-roader raises its game

Subaru Forester XT Review
Driven: Subaru Forester XT

 

Subaru Forester XT

This year officially marks Subaru’s 40th anniversary in Australia, and during that time its biggestselling model has been, perhaps surprisingly, the Forester, with almost 170,000 sales. So it’s fitting that the brand’s first launch for 2013 is the fourth generation of its not-so-compact SUV.

Like its rivals, Forester has been chowing down on growth hormones. Larger in every direction than the model it replaces, clever stuff like moving the A-pillars forward 200mm and lowering the transmission tunnel 67mm have freed up plenty of passenger room. The boot will swallow 422 litres despite the inclusion of a full-size spare so, suffice to say, there’s plenty of space.

The interior has received a complete re-design, and material quality is improved, though hardly amazing. What is impressive is the Forester’s ground clearance – 220mm – putting it more on par with proper 4WDs than its soft-roading competitors. Also assisting off-road is the new ‘X-Mode’ system, available on CVT-equipped cars, that backs off the ESP, uses the traction control to quell wheelspin and offers hill descent control at speeds up to 20km/h.

Available on all petrol-engined Foresters (2.0-, 2.5- and 2.0-litre turbo), the CVT does a decent job of hiding the lack of grunt in the atmo engines – 110kW/198Nm in the 2.0, 126kW/235Nm in the 2.5 – and pairs nicely with the new 177kW/350Nm direct-injection turbo engine that powers the Forester XT. Which is just as well as it’s the only ’box available in the turbo range-topper.

Sadly for Subaru, the ideal Forester – a diesel auto – doesn’t exist, and won’t in the foreseeable future. Still, if you’re prepared to swap your own cogs, the 108kW/350Nm diesel is the pick of the engines. Quiet, frugal, and with plenty of grunt, it makes the latest Forester a more relaxed drive than subaru’s fourth-generation soft-roader raises its game the rather laboured petrols (XT excepted).

All variants ride well, with better body control and much more grip than the outgoing model, though none are a particularly thrilling drive. On loose surfaces, any inherent ability is stifled by an over-zealous, non-switchable ESP system and even the gutsy, performance-oriented XT won’t raise too many pulses.

The three-tiered range (i, L and S) starts at $30,990 for the petrol and $35,490 for the diesel, topping out at $43,990 for both engines. For this you get seven airbags, heated electric seats and mirrors, keyless entry, an electric tailgate (that cuts boot space by 17 litres) and Subaru’s EyeSight safety tech – active cruise control, lane departure warning, pre-collision braking assist and more. The turbo XT begins at $43,490; the Premium version is $50,490.

Forester’s sales and status have risen steadily since its inception in 1997, and the latest model has every chance of continuing that trend, which is about the best birthday above Subaru is keen to rub sand in the face of Forester’s two-wheel-drive SUV rivals present Subaru could ask for.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Subaru Forester XT

 

ENGINE: 1998cc flat 4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharger

POWER: 177kW @ 5600rpm

TORQUE: 350Nm @ 2400-3600rpm

WEIGHT: 1629kg

GEARBOX: CVT automatic

0-100km/h: 7.5sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED: 221km/h (claimed)

PRICE: $43,490 – $50,490

 

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