British Asia Network - Shahzad Sheikh
London 1 October 2019 - Subaru is one of those car names that doesn't always immediately come to mind when thinking of your next vehicle purchase, but this Japanese company has been making cars since the late 1950s and is renowned for tough off-roaders that appear to be family cars - think back to the 4WD Subaru Leone estates of the 1980s.
They're also famed for using 'Boxer' engines, that is an engine using horizontally opposed cylinders (like in a Beetle or Porsche 911 motor) instead of vertically positioned pistons - which does usually give them a distinctive sound.
These days Subaru is also making SUVs like all the other manufacturers, but don't mistake it for its determinedly 'soft-roader' rivals, being a Forester it has to rock some convincing off-road credentials and it does. Subaru's permanent symmetrical all-wheel drive is said to be more stable and provide better torque distribution between the wheels compared to conventional systems. Whilst the normal power split is 60% to the front wheels and 40% to the rear, this can be adjusted and varied as needed through the Active Torque Split system.
On top of that - quite literally - it has 220mm of ground clearance, a 25-degree approach angle for climbing over obstacles and a 26-degree departure angle to come off hills without any damage to the rear bumper. There's a hill-descent system to do the braking for you, and X-Mode enables computers to manage the engine, transmission and all-wheel drive systems to make going anywhere easier for you should you need it.
The reality however is that most likely the only time you might need its help is when parking in a muddy field, climbing kerbs or towing - which you can do, up to 2000kg. This test car even had a tow-bar fitted as if to make the point. But the rest of the time, the purpose of this vehicle is to serve as a good family-friendly all-round SUV. And it does that well.
There's a ton of space in the boot - 550 litres or over 1550 with the 60:40 split folding rear seats laid virtually flat, and self-levelling suspension handles additional load. And talking of these rear seats, there's a plenty of space for even large adults in the back and for comfort you can even pull a cord and recline the seat backrest. The only surprise is that there are no rear ac vents or USB plugs. The massive panoramic sunroof however does provide the cabin with a very spacious and open feel.
Up front it's similarly comfortable and the driver is spoilt for equipment even on the standard of the two-trim level cars: 7-inch infotainment touch, steering wheel remotes and voice control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, efficiency monitor and trip meter (which even compares this drive to the previous!), sports mode, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, climate control and DAB radio.
There's also 17-inch alloy wheels, lane keep assist and 'Eyesight' - two cameras checking the road head for collision avoidance, plus whiplash reducing front seats. This higher spec XE Premium adds leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, power tailgate and satellite navigation. The only thing missing is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Under the bonnet is of course a flat-four cylinder 'Boxer' 2.0-litre engine producing 150bhp and 268lb ft of torque providing 0-62mph acceleration in 11.8 seconds, 119mph top speed and combined fuel consumption of 32mpg with 168g/km CO2 emissions.
Lineartronic is Subaru's term for CVT transmission which most of the time behaves just like a normal auto - it's only when you press on and its starts to drone do you remember it's a CVT. And you may do that on occasion if you're doing things like trying to overtake.
Off the line the torque gets the Forester up and running fairly well, so out of junctions and onto roundabouts you won't necessarily yearn for extra oomph, but don't get into any races. In this SUV the emphasis is on the UV (utility vehicle) part rather than the S (Sports). And frankly that keeps it honest and true to its potential.
Overall it's effortless to drive, relatively easy to place and manoeuvre for such a reasonably sized vehicle - it's about the same length and height as a Land Rover Discovery Sport, although the latter is wider. It's also somewhat cheaper at prices from £30k - though I'd recommend spending the extra £2500 for the top spec car that we tested. Practical, comfortable, well-equipped and decent value - it's definitely worth your while not to overlook Subaru in future.