The Forester is our favourite Subaru

The Forester carries the DNA from the late 20th century Leone and Touring Wagons into the 21st century. The Forester is a great on-road performer, with quite good fire trail capability.

subaru foresterSubaru’s fourth generation, current-shape Forester made its debut in February 2013 and received technical and electronic equipment upgrades in April 2015 and substantial upgrades in March 2016.

The 2016 Forester had some styling changes, a quieter, more comfortable cabin and upgraded instruments.

Suspension upgrades aid stability and there were noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) improvements that reduced cabin noise by around five percent.

Forester 2016 models, excluding 2.0XT, scored a new front bumper, grille, headlights and LED tail lights.

Forester 2.5i-S and 2.0XT variants had steering-responsive headlights.

Interior details included driver’s seat memory function in premium variants and Siri compatibility across the range. Trim changes gave a fresh look and leather-seat models had additional seat padding.

The headlights in Forester 2.0i-S, XT and XT Premium were LED projector units and there were integrated daytime running lights (DRLs).

The multi-function display switch moved from the steering wheel to the centre dashboard panel for easy operation from both driver and passenger seat.

On Forester 2.5i-S and 2.0XT variants, the optical axes of the headlamps moved left or right according to steering wheel movement through corners.

In Forester 2.0XT and XT Premium, control functions of each SI-Drive mode were changed for more responsive driving. Auto-stepped speed control was adopted in I and S modes.

Control logic was added to the electric power steering system (EPS), ensuring retained steering control if the engine was accidentally turned off while driving. A new steering box reduced steering wheel lock to lock turns, vibration and improves feel.subaru forester

Driving stability and ride comfort were improved in Forester 2.0XT Premium. When understeer was detected during turning, vehicle dynamic control (VDC) applied the brakes on the inner front and rear wheels, while delivering a relative increase in driving power to the outer side, improving turn performance. Active torque vectoring also improved cornering accuracy.

Spring rates front and rear accross the range were changed, damper friction was reduced and front suspension cross member and rear suspension bush stiffness increased. Wheel track, camber and toe-in dimensions also changed.

RRPs at launch in March 2016 were: Forester 2.0i-L manual $29,990; 2.5i-L auto $32,990; 2.5i-S auto $39,490;
2.0D-L manual $33,490; 2.0D-L auto $35,490; 2.0D-S manual $39,490; 2.0D-S auto $41,490; 2.0XT auto $40,990 and 2.0XT Premium auto $47,990.



Previous models

Technical innovations in 2013 included X-Mode for autos, providing additional control on poor surfaces and hills.
X-Mode centralized control of the engine, All-Wheel Drive, brakes and other critical components to help ensure safer driving, even on poor surfaces.

Also new on some models were EyeSight adaptive cruise control; Lineartronic  continuously variable transmission (CVT); a new six-speed manual; Stop-Start on all normally-aspirated petrol models; a multi-function display; SI-Drive, matching performance to driving style in normally aspirated automatic models; push button start on 2.5i-S and 2.0D-S; Active Torque Split for auto Foresters and an automatic tailgate on 2.5i-S and 2.0D-S.  
subaru foresterEntry-level 2.0i and 2.0i-L models matched a six-speed manual to a new generation 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed Boxer engine. Normally aspirated automatic 2.5i, 2.5i-L and 2.5i-S models featured the new generation 2.5-litre engine.

The 2013 diesel variants came with only the six-speed manual  transmission, but in 2015 the Lineartronic CVT became available.

Forester’s towing abilities were enhanced through a Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system with Towing Stability Control. Capacity increased to 1500kg for petrols and 1800kg for diesel models. Foresters with Lineartronic CVT also scored an air-radiator oil cooler.

The 2013 Forester’s bodywork was larger, but the rear section was narrower, for improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency and all normally aspirated and diesel models gained rear spoilers. An aluminium bonnet helped reduce weight.

New front seats had greater support and lumbar support was enhanced by strengthening materials inside the urethane. Rear seat recline was operated using a simple strap and the rear seat centre armrest featured dual cup-holders.

Child seat tether points were located on the seat back, causing no intrusion into the cargo area.

Forester 2.5i-S and 2.0D-S scored heated front seats.

subaru foresterA new instrument cluster featured Liquid Crystal Display (LCD); steering wheels were tilt and telescopic adjustable, with the tilt range increased to 42 mm.

Dual-zone air conditioning was standard on 2.5i, 2.0i-L, 2.5i-L,  2.5i-S and diesel variants and fully-automatic single-zone featured on entry-level 2.0i.

Side sills were lowered 50mm and front doors opened an extra 135mm.

A hook was positioned on the cargo door lower trim, making it possible to hang objects with the door opened and grocery bag hooks were located on each side of the cargo area, in addition to four metal cargo restraints.

In line with Forester’s  credentials, every variant had a full-size spare wheel.

Forester came with a six-speaker audio system, roof-mounted AM/FM antenna and 2.5i-S and 2.0D-S added factory-fitted satellite navigation.

When in X-Mode, at 40km/h or less the ECU makes the throttle open slowly to avoid sudden torque changes and AWD clutch pressure increases by around 25 percent, controlling differential rotation between front and rear wheels. Also, LSD control counteracts differential rotation between left and right wheels by accelerating brake boosting speed and delaying reduction of brake pressure when wheel rotation returned to normal.

At 20km/h or less Hill Descent Control (HDC) intervenes, based on speed data, not hill angle. Therefore a constant speed can be maintained when the vehicle begins a descent from the flat.

All 2013 Forester variants had new-generation, four-cylinder, horizontally opposed 'boxer' engines. Entry-level 2.0i had 110kW at 6200rpm and 198Nm at 4200rpm.

Normally aspirated 2.5-litre models produced 126kW at 5800 rpm and 235Nm at 4100 rpm. .

The turbocharged diesel produced 108kW at 3600rpm and 350Nm at 1600-2400rpm.

SI-Drive in 2.0i-L, 2.5i-L and –S made it possible for drivers to select engine and automatic transmission characteristics to suit various driving styles, preferences and conditions.

A pinion assist-type electric power steering system featured in all 2013 Foresters.

The 2.0i, 2.5i, 2.0i-L, 2.5i-L and 2.0D diesel variants had 17-inch wheels, and 2.5i-S and 2.0D-S variants had 18-inch alloy wheels. Those with 17-inch wheels had Yokohama 225/60 R17 99H tyres and those with 18-inch wheels had Bridgestone 225/55 R18 98H tyres.

Optional Eyesight uses stereo cameras with 3-D image processing to assess a wide variety of situations. Key features are:
Pre-Collision Braking that applies the brakes when a vehicle ahead is detected slowing or stopping suddenly;
Pre-Collision Brake Assist provides 1G maximum deceleration to help reduce impact or damage;
Pre-Collision Throttle Management inhibits the throttle opening, helping minimize or avoid impact;
Adaptive Cruise Control maintains a safe distance from the ‘target’ car in front irrespective of the varying speed of that vehicle;

subaru foresterLane Departure Warning alerts the driver if the system determines that the car is drifting across clearly marked lanes;
Vehicle Sway Warning alerts the driver if the car starts to sway from one side of the road to another, which may occur with fatigue;
Lead Vehicle Start Alert gives an audible reminder that the vehicle in front has moved.

EyeSightTM can also recognize pedestrians, motorcycles and cyclists within its field of vision.

Every Forester featured seven airbags – dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee.  
Forester 2.0i and 2.0i-L came with: reversing camera; steering wheel controls; auto Stop-Start; Bluetooth connectivity; cargo security blind; cruise control – steering wheel buttons; 60/40 split/fold rear seat; three 12V/120W power outlets; 17-inch steel wheels; roof rails and three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

The 2.5i spec' added: dual zone climate control air conditioning and X-Mode.

The 2.5i-L spec' added: front fog lights; leather steering wheel and gearshift; paddleshift; privacy glass; SI-Drive; sliding centre console and 17-inch aluminium wheels.

The 2.5i-S spec' added: automatic cargo door; eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat; electric sunroof; EyeSight; front wiper de-icer; heated fronts seats and door mirrors; leather trim; rain sensing wipers; satellite navigation; self-levelling dusk-sensing Xenon headlights with pop-up washers; push button start and 18-inch aluminium wheels

The 2.0D spec' had: dual zone climate control air conditioning and 17-inch aluminium wheels;

The 2.0D-L spec' added: front fog lights; leather steering wheel and gear shift; and privacy glass.

The 2.0D-S spec' added: automatic cargo door; electric sunroof; front wiper de-icer; heated front seats and door mirror; leather trim; powered driver and front passenger seat; rain sensing front wipers; satellite navigation; self-levelling dusk-sensing Xenon headlights with pop-up washers; push button start and 18-inch aluminium wheels.

The 2015 lineup enjoyed RRP reductions, thanks to a recently-signed Free Trade Agreement with Japan (all Subarus are 100-percent Japanese-manufactured).

An all-new infotainment system was incorporated and diesel models could be ordered with the CVT transmission.

The boxer diesel engine was upgraded for 2015, to meet strict Euro 6 emissions standards. The ample power and torque figures remained unchanged, but the block was redesigned; a new timing chain replaced gears to drive a higher-pressure injection pump; a new exhaust gas recirculation system was employed; new injectors; new variable-nozzle turbo; new radiator and oil cooler; new particulate filter and a variable-charge battery system.

The line-up started with the 2.0i-L petrol model that came with ISOFIX child seat mountings; reverse camera; ABS/EBD and Brake Assist, 17-inch aluminium wheels and vehicle Dynamics control.  Interior equipment included an 18cm touchscreen; multi-function display; rear privacy glass; auto stop-start; cruise control; dual-zone climate control; tilt-telescopic steering column; steering wheel controls; height-adjustable driver's seat; split-fold and recline rear seat; two USB sockets and three 12v outlets.

The 2.5i-L model added paddle-shift CVT control; X-Mode and sliding centre console lid.

The 2.5i-S added automatic tailgate; powered, heated driver's and front passenger's seats; sunroof; EyeSight; xenon auto headlights; auto wipers; leather trim; satnav; push-button start and 18-inch wheels.

The 2.0XT lost EyeSight and auto stop-start, but scored a turbocharged two-litre with figures of 177kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm at 2400-3600rpm. The Premium version added auto tailgate; auto headlights and wipers; powered, heated front seats and mirrors; EyeSight; eight speakers; leather trim and push-button start.

The diesel 2.0D-L was similar to the petrol version and the 2.0D-S added auto tailgate; sunroof; powered, heated front seats; xenon auto headlights; leather trim; push-button start; auto wipers; satnav and 18-inch wheels.


On and off road in 2013 and 2015 models

subaru foresterOur 2013 test Forester was a 2.5i petrol model, fitted with CVT transmission, towbar and electric trailer brake controller. We coupled it to a Cub Daintree camper trailer for a towing test and then took the part-loaded solo vehicle on our fire trail test course.

From the outset we were impressed with the road manners of the petrol Forester. It was a quiet, refined performer that handled well on bitumen and dirt surfaces. The CVT had no vices, just smooth power delivery to the four wheels and there was no lag or hesitation under sudden power demands. When cruising the CVT sat under the 2000rpm mark when possible, but let the engine spin up quickly when acceleration was required.

The Forester was docile under normal driving conditions, but had a sporting bent if the driver was in the mood for a little brisk cornering. Handling was flat and controlled, and the only issue we had was steering that felt too light in action and with too little feedback.

When coupled to the 800kg Cub trailer the Forester barely noticed the additional freight in performance terms, but fuel consumption suffered, of course. We averaged 9.4 litres/100km when running solo and that went up by 30 percent with the trailer in tow.

Flicking the lever into 'L' sector of the gear selector quadrant provided instant rev increases and that translated into strong engine braking when running downhill with the trailer behind.

Interestingly, the Stop-Start function was disabled when we coupled the electric-braked trailer to the Forester - doubtless to ensure constant alternator power supply to the trailer brakes.

Dirt and gravel roads didn't worry the Forester and its stability control system allowed a moderate amount of drift before intervening. There was no pitching or swaying on undulating surfaces and the Forester didn't mind mild corrugations.

On our fire trail circuit the Forester proved very capable and should go where most owners expect it to. Reasonable approach and departure angles don't put it quite into the Land Rover Freelander 2 class, but it's better than most of its competitors.

It was a pleasant change to have steel wheels on an SUV and not to be worried about scarring or cracking fragile aluminium ones.

X-Mode made a difference in creeping situations, limiting wheelspin and preventing throttle 'surge', and the hill descent control function proved to be quite effective at low speeds.

Subaru's 'boxer' petrol engines aren't economy leaders, however, and for those who do high mileages or want to tow or go bush we reckon the diesel is the better choice.


Diesel auto test

subaru forester 2015We joined Subaru's 2015 press release in the Apple Isle and drove on secondary and gravel roads from Hobart to Launceston. We concentrated on the diesel-CVT models throughout and weren't disappointed, in economy and performance terms.

The latest boxer diesel is matched perfectly to the Lineartronic CVT transmission. It operates in two driving modes; as a stepless, continuoulsy-variable transmission and as a seven-step unit, depending on driver action. If the driver presses further than 65-percent of accelerator pedal travel the box operates as a seven-step transmission, similar in behaviour to a traditional auto. If the driver has a gentler foot, the transmission acts as stepless one.

We found that driving the torquey diesel with the CVT operating in stepless mode kept the engine in its optimum operating range and economy was excellent, sitting in the 6-7L/100km band.

In June 2015 we checked out the 2015 Forester off road, using a diesel 'S' model. Off-road performance mirrored what we found with the earlier petrol model, but engine braking was slightly better. 

Anyone in the soft-roader market should have a close look at the Subaru Forester. It's our favourite Subaru model and the one that best carries the Subaru SUV heritage forward.



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