Friday, 27 December 2013

REVIEW - Subaru Forester XT

For many years now the Suburu Forester has slipped under the radar of most, being overshadowed by it's slimmer and more athletic-looking brother; the Impreza. However few realised that underneath the Forester had most of the same running gear, and the same boxer engine as the Impreza. And since the Impreza is no longer on sale in the UK, buyers will have to turn elsewhere for that rumbling 4WD beast. So I decided to grab a Forester for a week. And this XT variant is now one of the fastest Subaru's on sale, so those of a rallying disposition listen up...

Looks - 8/10

It must be said that the all-new Forester is an improvement on the previous model. What's more, the XT model gets the extra treatment, with bolder, more angular bumpers. The front corners on the XT are razor sharp, and give a definite presence up front. The 18-inch alloys are a nice touch as well. At the back you would struggle to notice the twin exhausts that lie beneath the rear bumper. There's privacy glass and a roof spoiler too, as well as the roof rails which certainly suit a car like this. Finished in pearl white, the Forester looks good, and I for one like the angles.

On the inside is where I was a bit skeptical. The quality of the interior finish has been a bit of a let down with other Subaru's, so I was hoping the new Forester would fare better. Gladly, it does. There's full leather, and the plastics are nice too. They still wouldn't match European rivals, but are certainly better than previous models. The seats aren't the nicest looking ones I've ever seen- the front seats are big and chunky, but lack bolster support, and the rear ones a bit bench-like- but they are comfortable. The media system is nice, and there's a separate computer too, which tells you everything from fuel consumption to turbo pressure.


Handling/Performance - 10/10

Powering this sizable vehicle is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged boxer engine. It produces 240PS and 350Nm of torque, which is then fed to all four wheels via a CVT gearbox. This means the power delivery is constant, and the 0-62mph dash will take a respectable 7.5 seconds and the Forester will go on to a top speed of 137mph. More importantly the Forester feels fast. The gearbox works really well, making sure peak power is always available should you poke your right foot into the carpet. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful noises that come from under the bonnet, and you could be forgiven for forgetting that this is a large 4x4; just think of it as a big Impreza. It even has the same 'SI' drive system whereby there are three settings; intelligent, sport and sport sharp. This changes things like the gear changing and throttle response, and works well with the CVT gearbox.


The Forester can also hold its own through the corners. The AWD system is fantastic, and ensures there's always some grip available somewhere. This gives great confidence even in trickier
conditions, and I thought the Forester performed well. I had slight issue with the seats; they didn't offer enough support to match the grip of the car, but on the bright side body roll was kept down to a minimum and the steering didn't feel like I was driving a yacht; which can sometimes be true of large cars like this. The ride was good, too. The Forester is a wonderfully comfortable car on the motorway, especially with all the mod-cons found on the XT model. But this doesn't translate into a wallowy, bouncing lump when the roads get tricky. So a good balance here, and as a drivers car you'd be surprised at what the Forester offers.

Economy - 6/10

Now whilst you're still thinking of the Forester as a big Impreza, it's probably a good time to move onto fuel economy. Whilst it may not be quite as bad as its little brother, it certainly has a good go. Combined fuel consumption is 33.2mpg and CO2 emissions are 197g/km which puts the Forester XT in VED band J. Road tax will cost you £280 a year, and £475 in the first year. But I would have imagined you would have already guessed that as soon as you read "boxer" "turbo" "240PS". Obviously you get out what you put in. Put the Forester in 'Sport Sharp' and take on a lead foot, and you're going to be looking at the wrong side of 20mpg. I found that intelligent mode really did make a difference to economy, and so that
was a good feature to have.

Practicality - 10/10

Now for the easiest part of the review to write. The Forester is a rather large car on the outside, but it seems even bigger on the inside. The cabin is vast on a whole new level. Even with a tall person up front, you can get tall people in the back. There's enough headroom for said tall people to wear hats should they wish. The boot is very large indeed, and if you fold down the rear seats you could practically have a kickaround in the back. There are many cars with large boots out there, but few offer the load height that the Forester does; as I'm sure you can see from the pictures.

As for how it is to live with, I found the Forester a pleasure. From just driving to the shops, to basting around the countryside, it does it all. There are some great features on the XT model which make it easy to live with. There's cruise control, a reversing camera, electrically-operated tailgate, bluetooth, a whole host of information on the on-board computer, X-Mode for when the going gets tough, the aforementioned SI drive, satellite navigation, heated seats, automatic wipers. The list goes on.

Fun - 9/10

Now I personally found the Forester a hoot. The relentless power, angular face, and the brilliant gearbox are enough to put a smile on your face. Obviously there is plenty of technology too, which is always a good thing, and providing you can afford the fuel bills you will not be disappointed. The Forester XT certainly has presence, which you will notice as people stop to figure out what it is. But the most impressive feature is the power to surprise. Partly because of its obscurity, but also because of its size, people will just not expect it to be as fast as it is. You will shock fellow motorists and passengers alike at how briskly the Forester surges forward, and that's always fun.

Concluding Remarks 

So the Forester XT then. Surprisingly good. Whilst it may not be comparable to the Impreza, there are enough hints there to suit those who may be mourning the loss of the rally icon. And the price of all this? Well the Forester XT comes in at £30,995 but this is the price you will pay because you will not need any further options. It isn't the cheapest, but I wouldn't class it as overly expensive either. Time will tell how the residuals will compare, but you can at least be happy you're getting a lot of car for your money, and if you live in a more rural area, then the Forester XT may just be the car for you.

Total Score - 43/50

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