What’s Hot: Smooth, quiet diesel, CVT auto hard to fault, sorted infotainment system, .
What’s Not: Leisurely away from stop, no 'eyesight' safety tech available.
X-FACTOR: A well-calibrated CVT and torquey diesel makes the diesel Forester 'just right' for families looking for a versatile frugal wagon.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $33,490 to $42,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 108kW/350Nm 2.0 diesel 4cyl | 6sp manual, CVT auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.9 l/100km (2.0D-L manual) 6.3 l/100km (2.0D auto) | tested: 8.8 l/100km
At long last, the Subaru Forester has an automatic diesel in the range.
Although the turbo diesel engine has been around 2010, it has only ever been available with a manual transmission attached.
Now, thanks to picking up the same CVT auto as found in the still-fresh Outlander diesel, the Forester 2.0D-L and 2.0D-S will certainly appeal more broadly.
According to Subaru Australia boss Nick Senior, diesel-powered Foresters are expected to leave showrooms at a rate of around 200 per month, compared to 60 per month in 2014.
The overwhelming bulk of that increase will be thanks to the addition of the CVT.
But how does it drive, and is it worth the extra $2500-$3000 over its petrol-powered brethren? We travelled to Tasmania to try it out.
- 2.0D-L: Reversing camera, 7-inch touchscreen display, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, paddle shifters.
- 2.0D-S adds: Dusk-sensing xenon headlamps, powered tailgate, sat-nav, 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and ignition, rain-sensing wipers, electric sunroof, powered front seats, leather upholstery, front wiper de-icers
- Infotainment: 7-inch colour touchscreen display with internet connectivity via compatible smartphones. Dual USB audio inputs, plus Bluetooth phone/audio streaming.
- Luggage space: 422 litres minimum, 1481 litres maximum
Besides some more piano black and silver trim, the biggest change to the Forester’s interior is the addition of a seven-inch colour touchscreen display.
It boasts enhanced connectivity and greater usability than the old infotainment system.
Essentially the same system that was debuted in the Liberty and Outback at the end of last year, the screen can recognise multi-gesture inputs like pinch-to-zoom, and responds much faster to your fingertips.
It works pretty well too. There’s no shortage of frustrating infotainment interfaces out there (particularly touchscreen-driven ones), but the Forester’s new headunit ain’t one of them.
It’s the same basic hardware in both the Forester 2.0D-L and Forester 2.0D-S, but the S gets the added utility of integrated sat-nav.
All models get a reversing camera, as well as two USB ports and internet music streaming via the Pandora app (but only if you have a compatible smartphone.
Comfort is good, with plenty of room for adults in both the front and rear.
Though not as generous in legroom as the Outback, the Forester’s taller cabin and more upright seating makes it feel just as spacious.
The front seats do feel a tad short in the squab though, with under-thigh support compromised for long-legged individuals as a result.
Otherwise, it’s a comfy cabin.
ON THE ROAD
- 108kW/350Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel flat four
- Continuously Variable Transmission, permanent all-wheel drive.
- MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension
- Ventilated disc brakes all around
It may be the first diesel Forester to score an automatic transmission, but it’s not the first Subaru to get this particular drivetrain.
The Outback range has been available with this exact mechanical package since December 2014, and the good news is that it’s every bit as satisfying in the Forester as it is in the Outback.
The 2.0 litre boxer diesel’s 108kW power output is modest, but with 350Nm of torque it has decent pulling power. It doesn’t quite feel as grunty as the numbers suggest it should, but for most drivers the Forester 2.0D has enough oomph.
The CVT behaves well, easily predicting driver demands and varying its ratio to suit.
It’s also got a neat dual-mode system that sees it behave like a CVT at throttle openings of 65 percent or less, while deeper prods of the accelerator makes it move through pre-defined ratios in a stepped pattern like a conventional automatic.
Ultimately though, the Outback diesel automatic is solid, but no fireball. We clocked it at around 11.5 seconds from zero to 100km/h, and a lot of that comes down to dull off-the line acceleration.
It has no trouble with hills though, due to its generous mid-range torque.
Fuel use on our first drive was higher than the factory claim (8.8 l/100km as opposed to 6.3 l/100km), but aggressive driving and Tasmanian terrain was arguably responsible.
Put it on the highway, and Subaru says the Forester 2.0D will achieve a >1000km.cruising range. That's pretty good.
Besides the engine, the Forester driving experience gives little to complain about.
Bodyroll is present but not excessive, the steering is light and fairly direct while vision all-around is excellent. The turning radius is also a car-like 10.6 metres, handy for tight carparks.
Oh, did we mention how quiet it is? Sure, there’s a bit of a gravelly diesel note when accelerating at full throttle, but at a cruise it’s almost indistinguishable from a petrol engine.
It’s smooth and quiet at idle too, and the CVT barely makes a sound - a far cry from the whining box of sprockets the Subaru XV is burdened with.
And though it might feel a touch sluggish compared to the 2.5 litre petrol models, the Forester 2.0D also has one big advantage that should endear it to the lifestyle-driven buyers than tend to flock to Subaru showrooms: towing capacity.
It’s no heavy-hauler by any means, but with a maximum braked towing capacity of 1800kg the Forester 2.0D can lug 300kg more than the 2.0i and 2.5i models.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 35.64 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, reversing camera and seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee) are standard on all Forester variants.
One item of safety equipment that the Forester 2.0D doesn’t get is Subaru’s Eyesight optical anti-collision system, which brings autonomous braking, pedestrian detection, active cruise control and lane keep assist.
It’s a great piece of safety gear that’s a genuine life-saver, so it’s disappointing to see that “technical reasons” see it excluded from the diesel’s spec sheet.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Diesel rivals are many and varied, with all of the Forester’s direct competitors already possessing an automatic diesel model in their range.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Subaru’s sales projection for the Forester 2.0D are modest, considering only 19 percent of overall sales are expected to be for the diesel.
In our opinion, it’s the diesel that should be the leader of the pack.
It’s got ample on-road oomph, can lug more weight than the petrol models, and, thanks to the new CVT, is now just as easy to drive as any other Forester variant.
And it’s no truck diesel either. In all honesty, the Forester’s oil-burner shames many European diesels for outright refinement.
Is it worth the extra few thousand? We think so.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
The 2015 Subaru Forester range is on sale now, with pricing as follows. Price changes are in brackets.
- Forester 2.0i-L - manual - $29,990 (-$2500)
- Forester 2.5i-L - auto - $32,990 (-$2000)
- Forester 2.5i-S - auto - $39,490 (-$3500)
- Forester 2.0D-L - manual - $33,490 (-$3000)
- Forester 2.0D-L - auto - $35,490
- Forester 2.0D-S - manual - $39,490 (-$3500)
- Forester 2.0D-S - auto - $42,490
- Forester 2.0XT - auto - $40,990 (-$1500)
- Forester 2.0XT Premium - auto - $47,990 (-$1500)