Published on January 25th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Subaru Forester test drive review
For many Malaysian drivers, the name Forester is not new. It has not been a common vehicle to see on the road but it has a following that has spread the many positive virtues of the Forester. Known for its good driving position, large load space, easy entry, exit and loading due to its low riding height for a SUV, the Forester is a SUV that competes with very few others in Malaysia. It may be priced in the same segment as the CRV, RAV4, Tucson and Escape but its slightly higher selling price makes it less desirable. Place it in the same segment as the Tiguan or Q3 and it becomes more interesting to own. It actually sits in its own little segment. Why? Well it has a turbocharged engine and handling to handle the provided power. Its higher asking price is due to it being fully imported, so its total numbers on the road for the past models have been small.
Well, now comes an all new Forester fresh from its launch months ago. Sporting a new aggressive look and upmarket features we test drive to see if it has the necessary elements to take on SUV’s a segment higher.
The older Forester had a clean design. This new Forester is rather busy up front and still carries the Forester signature upright look. Squared-off edges and a slightly higher ride height offers true SUV visuals.
Opening the door to get in reveals two things; firstly that it’s a big step up in plastic quality, look and feel. The roomy interior is decked out in good quality black leather and the seats (in the front in particular) are large, comfortable and well cushioned. Plastics abound as far as the dash in concerned and to some extent they betray the Sport’s lesser alter ego – as a commercial workhorse in terms of the use of material, but are no worse than the competition in its price segment. The rear seats can be folded flat and the cargo area allows for 2 bicycles to be loaded carefully.
The driving position is high, with excellent all-round visibility. The exception is the view directly backwards out of the rear screen, which is obscured by the rear centre headrest; this can be removed when not needed. The electric driver’s seat itself is comfortable, even for long and has a good range of adjustment.
All the controls are well sited but not as well damped and nice to use as those in its segment. Equipment includes climate control air conditioning, a sunroof, electric adjustable tailgate and a good quality sound system from Harmon/Kardon with 8 Speakers. The audio information is displayed on the High-Grade Multi-Function display screen, which is easy to see whilst driving. It is also compatible with most digital devices using USB/ iPod®/ Bluetooth® connectivity.
On the road the dynamics are those you’d expect of a SUV but with less body roll. The ride is hard due to the stiffness needed to suspend such a heavy vehicle and the low profile tyres on this model add to the problem. However, the grip available from the 255/55 R18 tyres is good. Working in-sync with the powertrain is SI-Drive which is derived from the Subaru Liberty (stationwagon car), it features across the new Forester range. The system, activated via a switch on the steering wheel, allows drivers to select a range of engine and transmission settings in three modes: Intelligent (I), Sport (S) and Sport-sharp. Highway speeds are reached easily and taking to 200km/h is easily done with the very smooth spinning turbocharger working effortlessly. Then, if you need to shave speed fast, the brakes works to the driver’s advantage, quick firm response.
Take this Forester along a kampong road and there is no issue with handling and steering inputs. This is actually where this and any Subaru shines, it is like a hot hatch with all wheel drive capabilities. It seeks corners with enthusiasm and keeps the driver attentive on the exit as he powers out.
Overall this new Forester is a solid lifestyle vehicle. If you need to transport five adults with luggage it’s ideal. The lack of road manners may rule it out as a real alternative to an MPV or large family saloon but if you do live off the beaten track then it’s a nice compromise. In answer to the question: are SUVs over-rated? Well, no. I actually enjoyed the Forster’s company. I can see the appeal of the raised driving position and go anywhere ability, but have to admit that it was nice to get back into a hot hatch at the end of the week.
Subaru Forester 2.0XT Specifications
Engine: 16-Valve horizontally-opposed Turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol
Max Power: 240hp @ 5600rpm
Max Torque: 350Nm @ 2400 – 3600rpm
Top Speed: 221km/h