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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Forester is up there with the best off-roaders

Subaru Forester drive by Steve Rogers

Let’s face it, you don’t see many Subaru Foresters around yet this car is up there with the best off roaders money can buy, its sophisticated all wheel drive system capable of handling conditions many drivers would be afraid to attempt.

The brand is best known for its rally winning Imprezza which was also favoured by the cops because tearaway drivers couldn’t get away from it.

Subaru would prefer that side of the business was confined to its proud history preferring to concentrate on more economic, environmentally friendly cars. The new Solterra, for instance, is an eye catching electric car so the company has definitely drawn a line under its wild side.

Forester has been around for 25 years but has never enjoyed the success of more illustrious rivals. It is not that Subaru models are not liked, there are just not enough showrooms to get customers interested.

Which is not the case if you travel further afield. I have just spent some time on the east coast of Canada and over the border into Boston where Subaru models, particularly the XV Cross Trek, are as common as Tim Horton doughnut cafes. And it is much the same story in Nordic countries although the clue there is snow!

On the surface Forester should stand up to scrutiny against any of its medium sized SUV rivals. It is a roomy, solidly built, well equipped car that can go anywhere and pretty much do anything.

The permanent symmetrical all wheel drive system called X-Mode has gained legendary status making Forester far and away the most capable off roader in its league. If you are a caravanner worried about the cost of diesel then Forester is a good option and has the best towing capacity of any hybrid SUV.

Is it over engineered for our needs? Money no object punters who spend £90k on a Range Rover don’t care about paying for off road technology that will never be used, but lower down the chain nearly 40 grand for a Forester is quite a slab against £33,000 for a basic Honda CR-V.

The real point here is that Forester, along with its siblings, is engineered for markets that need the highest level of off road ability but it does not deserve to be ignored  by UK drivers.

That said there is a lot more to the car than its ability to traverse rocks, greasy drops and the like. It has been given a mild facelift with a redesigned grille and light signature but more significantly is built on a new platform which has made it more engaging to drive and improved passenger comfort.

With the diesel engine dropped the only power unit is the trusty 2-litre flat four Boxer mated to a CVT gearbox that works better than most, a rarity these days. Economy was always its Achilles heal but things have improved with the addition of hybrid power.

I was expecting no more than low thirties at best and was gobsmacked when it pumped in a 46.3 on a 340 mile round trip. Where did that come from?

The cabin trim has a quality feel and at first glance the layout is pleasing with touchscreen and clear tactile switches for the heating controls. But a closer look revealed areas that are outdated.

I like my switches, especially to work the heating rather than scrolling though a touchscreen, but the centre console is awash with them, and there are more.  Below and to the right of the steering wheel is a bank of eight whose symbols cannot be read so they need to be memorised. This is not good.

What is good is the Eyesight safety system. This was ground breaking when introduced in 2016 using two cameras built into the rear view mirror to monitor and take evasive action in an emergency. That has three new functions including recognizing the edge of the road and grass when the lane departure system is activated.

The problem for Forester is that it is not seen as a fashionable alternative to more trendy rivals like Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V but is certainly underrated and deserves the title as an off road maestro.

Fast facts

Forester e-Boxer XE Premium

£40,895 (starts £37,895)

2-litre petrol; 164bhp

0-62mph 11.8secs; 117mph

41.9mpg combined

Road tax £155

Insurance group 23

Boot 509-1779 litres

Towing 1870kg

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