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2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester 2019 Photo: Supplied
2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester 2019 Photo: Supplied
2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester 2019 Photo: Supplied
2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester 2019 Photo: Supplied
2018 Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester 2019 Photo: Supplied
 
2018 Subaru Forester
2018 Subaru Forester
2018 Subaru Forester
2018 Subaru Forester
2018 Subaru Forester
 

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Alex Rae | Sep, 10 2018 | 0 Comments

It would appear not much has changed for the latest fifth-generation of the Forester - at least not from a glance. 

With only a minor cosmetic change upfront the greatest differentiator of the new vs the old is around the back and underneath the skin. While the sharper taillights aren't groundbreaking some of the things you can't see like new technology are segment first, and in typical Subaru fashion, it all starts with safety.  

Vehicle Style: Medium SUV

On test: Subaru Forester 2.5i-S

Engine/trans: 136kW/239Nm, 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol | CVT, four-wheel drive

 

OVERVIEW

Subaru says the audience for the new Forester is progressive Australian families, growing young families and modern new parents ‘looking for a brand to inspire them’. So, if you’ve got a kid, chances are you should be looking this way.

And there’s not much about this new model that shouldn’t appeal right to the core of that audience, with every model bringing top-notch safety, great use of space in this segment size and all of the mod cons kids and parents want.

It’s also one of the more rugged mid-size SUVs on offer with decent ground clearance, a confident and permanent all-wheel-drive system and design tricks everywhere for practical use.

The new generation model lineup is simpler than before, consisting of four grades that are all fitted with the same all-wheel drive, transmission and engine. It starts with the base grade 2.5i, priced from $33,490, the 2.5i-L from $35,490, 2.5i Premium at $38,490 and the top-spec 2.5i-S from $41,490 plus on-road costs.

There are no optional extras and what you see is all you can get - it keeps things simple and there’s no bill shock at the counter. You can even pick any colour from the palette and not pay extra.

The no-extras offering also means you can’t jazz up the base model, but it comes with a decent level of kit from standard, including the latest Subaru ‘eyesight’ assistance system with AEB, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera and automatic wipers. The main safety-level missing point here is Subaru’s headline Driver Monitoring System that comes in all other models.

Otherwise, the model also gets the smaller 6.5-inch infotainment screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Harmon Kardon audio system, keyless entry, push-start ignition, climate control, rear air vents, fabric seat trim, USBs front and rear, 17-inch alloys and roof rails.

The 2.5i-L variant adds Subaru’s new Driver Monitoring System with facial recognition to detect driver drowsiness and distraction, and can automatically detect who is driving the car so things like the seat position, mirrors and climate control can automatically be set.

The model also has Vision Assist that adds front and side cameras, automatic adaptive high beams and reverse automatic braking (AEB for low-speed reversing). It otherwise mimics the base grade’s appearance and has the same level of kit inside.

The Premium model defies its name somewhat and only upgrades the fabric trim in appearance, not material, but has alloy pedals, chrome windows accents, nicer panel finishes inside, larger 8.0-inch infotainment system, automatic opening and locking electric tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels.

At the top of the tree the S model has more chrome finishes inside, a sunroof, LED fog lights, upgraded sound system with subwoofer, piano black interior elements, silver highlights on the exterior and sees the introduction of leather trim.

 

THE INTERIOR

Room inside the cabin has grown elsewhere and it helps on long trips. We only sampled the top-spec S model’s leather trim seats and they were supportive and comfy over a few hours driving, and the rear seat offers good knee room for adults on the outer pews – the centre seat is rather tight.

The doors are a touch wider than before and that helps access, particularly into the rear where baby seats are easier to put in – not to mention getting a little nipper in and out of the back. The wider rear door sills are also a nice touch and provide a good platform for standing on to muck about with roof cargo.

The larger cabin space feels airy but it’s smarts like multi-pocket seat backs, twin rear USB ports and an array of large door pockets, console areas and cup holders that will make life for a family easier and more organised.

The boot has also grown noticeably wider and now a golf bag can slide in sideways or a pram can lay on its side up against the back of the seats - this is a big change for boot management and will make packing for trips easier.

 

ON THE ROAD

Available from the L grade up, the new Driver Monitoring System is completely unique. With a cabin-facing infrared LED camera, DMS uses facial recognition to monitor the driver and signal an alert if it detects drowsiness or distraction.

The system can also register up to five different users, automatically detecting who is driving the car and adjusting the climate control, instrument display layout, door mirrors and seat position to their preference. It works quickly once setup but can struggle to detect a face with glasses and a cap on. It’s a novel idea to make life easier when sharing a car but if it’s all a bit too much or the system becomes annoying, it can be switched off.

Just one engine, a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder horizontally-opposed petrol boxer, is available mated to a CVT transmission and all-wheel drive. For the foreseeable future there will be no diesel and no turbocharged motors, and the manual transmission won’t be making a comeback.

While this is the same engine block used in the previous generation Forester it’s been completely revised with Subaru claiming 90 per cent is new.

The big changes are that it’s now direct injected and the compression ratio has increased with active valve control management, resulting in a total output of 136kW and 239Nm – an increase of 10kW and 3Nm from before.

Finer details are that noise from the motor has been reduced and it better manages engine heat to warm up the cabin quicker and protect it in the cold.

The net result of all the engine tweaks is that the claimed combined fuel consumption has dropped from 8.1L/100km to 7.2L. And unlike many turbocharged rivals, the Forester can run on more affordable 91 RON fuel.

What Subaru isn’t quick to talk about is that it performed two years of localisation tuning specific to Australian conditions. Beyond climate testing, the program involved comprehensive local road suspension and handling tuning to find the right ride for our roads, and those specific changes have been applied to Australian-delivered Foresters.

With a more rigid body and better suspension setup the result is planted performance on back country roads that isn’t brittle or firm when the surface turns poor. Around corners and over undulating sections the body was stable and eager to turn in quickly, with the all-wheel-drive system letting the car push a little harder on gravel despite the 18-inch rubber feeling slippery.

But more important to the Forester’s DNA than corners is that it promises to match its rugged appearance with the off-road capable X-Mode. The all-wheel-drive setting is controlled by a rotating dial on the centre console that provides automatic go-to settings for conditions such as snow, mud and sand, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it far afield.

Confined mainly to cruising along some poor-quality roads the ride was comfortable, but the tyres transmit a bit of background roar off coarse chip surfaces. The steering has also been upgraded and provides a quicker turn-to-turn lock that should be easier to manoeuvre around the city, and it errs towards being light in feel.

The engine update feels spritelier than before, good for higher speed overtakes and nimble off the line, but it’s not without a lack of top end when really pushing on. With a good platform underneath it’s a pity to think we might not see a sportier turbo model in this generation.

The engine is however a good match for urban duties and the CVT, which has also been revised, is a better unit that doesn’t produce the whine of early examples and shifts through pre-determined ratios without the typical elastic response.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The new Forester might fool from outside with familiar looks but the changes elsewhere make it a better car than before. It’s hard to see the model ever challenging the top rung of sales with no front-wheel-drive and just the one driveline on offer, which means the offering is limited, but it nails the important stuff like having great safety equipment and a good cabin for families. And still offering unique adventurous looks that attracted current owners, the Forester slips in neat new tech while feeling like a continuation of form.

 
Filed under forester Subarum suv
 
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