The Subaru Forester has always been one of those SUVs with a unique personality. Having the powertrain from the WRX meant that it had the performance of the world-renowned sports sedan, while being able to transport the kids to their soccer practice with their gear to match. It’s both fast and super practical. Though an all-new model has been revealed at the 2018 New York Auto Show last March, Subaru has decided to kill the 2.0-liter FA20 turbocharged boxer engine, only offering a new 2.5-liter naturally aspirated boxer engine into the mix. Naturally, fans of the turbo boxer like us were saddened to hear that the Forester will loose one of its most unique traits. Will the FA20 turbocharged and direct-injected boxer engine be missed by consumers? Let’s find out.
The Forester’s exterior is best described as functional rather than stylish. Granted, it gets some bling through some snazzy 18-inch alloys and Subaru’s signature LED daytime running lights, the Forester is more purposeful rather than artistic. That’s not to say it’s ugly. As a matter of fact, its boxy and conservative design means it doesn’t follow trends, making it age better through time. There’s not a line that’s out of place in its exterior, as each design detail work together to create something that looks cohesive front to back. This being the XT model, it differentiates itself from its lower variants through the addition of a faux grille at the side of the front fascia. Though it doesn’t serve any performance function, it does give a hint of what performance capabilities the Forester XT has.
All the cars I’ve been driving lately follow a swoopy and flowing design theme, and because of the Forester’s boxy and functional design, the interior is flooded with light, thanks to large expanses of glass. While these are very boring aspects to talk about, it gives a clear picture on how car design is moving forward nowadays. Sitting inside a Subaru Forester is very refreshing, because it feels more like sitting inside a fishbowl. The window line is low, and the visibility all around is excellent. You really do feel the airiness of the interior, further amplified by the panoramic sunroof in this XT variant. The large expanses of glass shine light to an interior that’s also best described as functional. In its 2016 update, the Forester was given a more premium interior ambience, with more soft touch points all around, as well as the use of satin finishes and piano black trims.
Space and Practicality
Continuing with the functional design theme, the Subaru Forester is one of the easiest crossovers to climb aboard. The doors, for instance, extend all the way down to the car’s body, which means that the actual entry sill is very small. Plus, when it rains, the entry sills also remain protected from mud and dirt, which means your pants won’t ever get soiled. Once inside, there is plenty of adjustments provided by the tilt and telescoping steering wheel and the 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, giving drivers of different body types numerous ways to get comfortable. Additionally, there are ISOFIX child seat anchors at the second row outboard seats.
Among compact crossovers, the Subaru Forester is one of the most practical out there. It has excellent space for all two rows. Leg and headroom is plentiful for those seated at the second row even for 6-footers, though the second row seats feel somewhat flat. Thankfully, there’s plenty of storage for all occupants, which are provided by seat back pockets, cup holders, and a nicely sized glove box.
Opening the rather slow power operated tailgate reveals a spacious trunk. It has a very square shape that offers 505 liters of usable space. Fold the 60:40 split second row seats down, and impressive 1,592 liters is laid down to you. One of the advantages of having a crossover rather than a PPV is that, its low loading height and flat entry lip means loading large and heavy items is easy, as you can just simply slide them all the way to the front.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
Occupants are treated to a great sounding harman kardon sound system, with tunes provided through the Forester’s infotainment system via Bluetooth or CD. Even in Bluetooth connection, audio quality is excellent, so it’d be interesting to find out its performance if I were to insert a CD with a high bitrate of audio files. Also, in conjunction with the aforementioned 8-way electronically adjustable driver’s seat, the two-person memory function saves preset seating positions for two drivers. Oddly enough, speed-sensing door locks are not equipped, which means even as you speed up, the doors won’t automatically lock.
Subaru’s hallmark has been its excellent occupant safety, which is why it isn’t surprising to know that the Forester is equipped with many safety features that range from seven airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control, as well a disconnecting driveline wherein the engine and transmission disconnects from the chassis in the event of a severe crash, preventing the engine bay from entering the cabin and protecting the occupants. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control also come as standard. Lighting solutions are provided by swivelling LED headlights that proved useful for me in poorly lit provincial roads. Front and rear fog lights provide safe and optimal visibility in poor driving situations.
The Subaru Forester also gets a touch screen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity. The graphics are clear and crisp enough, and the touch response is snappy enough for most tasks. Functionality is intuitive as well, with organized menus and soft keys on the sides of the screen that provide instant access to frequently used functions. Additionally, there’s a configurable high resolution multi-information display on top of the dashboard that shows a multitude of information, as well as how the Symmetrial AWD is performing in real time. It’s an interesting piece of tech that’s also fun to watch as you drive along, displaying in real time which wheel is receiving power from the engine. Additionally, there’s also a small multi-information display in the instrument cluster, which shows summarized information right at the driver’s field of view.
The Subaru Forester XT is powered by a FA20 horizontally-opposed H4 boxer engine with turbocharging and direct injection, producing 241 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 350 Nm of torque @ 2,400 – 3,600 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
How It Drives
As you let the Subaru Forester breathe into life, it greets you with the typical Subaru gauge sweep, letting you know that the Forester XT is now ready to take on whichever adventures you throw at it. Just as you are about to leave the garage, you will notice a weird quirk about the Forester XT’s powertrain, and that is its jumpy throttle. Give the boxer engine just a little prod, and the FA20 DIT engine has a tendency to make the Forester lurch forward, even if all you want it to do is simply let it crawl out of your village’s intersection. This gets pretty annoying if you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck in the middle of EDSA traffic. Strangely enough, putting the Si-DRIVE into “Sport” mode somewhat minimizes the jumpy nature of the throttle.
The Forester is definitely in its element once it’s taken out on the open road. Once you get up to speed (cue Up To Speed theme song), throttle inputs become smooth and linear enough. One will notice how much more hushed the Forester is compared to its predecessor, thanks to the extensive use of sound insulation in key areas of the body. If you ever so wish to leave slower vehicles in the dust, overtaking is addictively effortless. Power is delivered in a manner similar to diesel engines, wherein there’s a bit of delay through the turbos as it spools and the CVT downshifting, but once the engine and transmission finds their rhythm, the torque will certainly push everyone into their seats as they watch the world whiz by. It is no Porsche Cayenne in terms of instantaneous power delivery, but in terms of off-the-line and in-gear acceleration, it can certain keep up with the high performance luxury SUV. 100 kph from a standstill is achieved in 6.8 seconds, which shames the Toyota 86 and Mazda MX-5, as well as the highly popular Honda Civic RS Turbo in terms of acceleration. You’ll be addicted with how the Forester accelerates, especially for a crossover.
Despite its addictive powertrain figures, the Forester is still not a WRX STI, let alone a Mazda CX-5. Though the Forester XT sets itself apart from other Forester variants with its stiffer suspension and Active Torque Vectoring, its handling limits are still within reach. Despite the stiffer springs, it still largely a softly sprung car. Body roll is felt as you push the car through its handling limits, though the way the body moves through corners is in a controlled manner, which means it’s quite easy to tell what the car is doing. The steering wheel, while accurate, provides little to no feedback, and steering corrections are sometimes needed to be made mid-corner to keep it pointed in the direction you want. However, thanks to the ventilated front and rear disc brakes, stopping power is supremely good.
Now, due to that soft suspension, the Forester happens to be one of the best riding crossovers out there. The springs also have a very long travel, which offers a stable and supremely compliant ride through a variety of surfaces. Its 220 mm of ground clearance, as well as its long suspension travel pays dividends to the Forester’s off-road capabilities, as it gives the Forester excellent wheel articulation through different levels of terrain. Armed with Subaru’s X-Mode, the Forester is one of those crossovers that can truly venture through the woods. X-Mode intelligently shuffles power to which wheel has the most grip, and this works in tandem with the Vehicle Dynamics Control to help the Forester keep itself in check. Granted, the Forester XT is not a PPV, and one of a PPV’s strengths is its ability to go off-road, but it’s still reassuring to know that the Forester XT is one of the few compact crossovers with the legitimate capability to go off-road.
On The Downside
As a whole, the Forester is hard to find any major faults for what it is, though if I really were needed to find one, it would be fuel economy. Due to its powerful engine, the Forester isn’t exactly one of the most fuel efficient crossovers out there. Out in EDSA, fuel economy was at 5.15 km/l, but in clearer traffic situations such as in NLEX and SLEX, fuel economy improved to 11.34 km/l, with an average fuel economy of 8.49 km/l in the entire duration the Forester was in my hands. There’s simply a price to pay for having that much power under the hood.
A new generation of the Subaru Forester without the turbo was revealed at the 2018 New York Auto Show, which means we have to go back to my question, will the FA20 turbocharged boxer engine be missed? I think this is a reserved yes. I say reserved because, while its power and torque figures are certainly addictive, its handling doesn’t quite match up to its engine capabilities. Sadly, it’s no WRX STI, but that’s okay, because the people who look for a crossover generally look for comfort and practicality. While the Forester XT is fast, many would probably be contented with the upcoming Forester’s 2.5-liter H4 boxer engine. As a whole, the Subaru Forester XT remains to be a unique proposition in the compact crossover segment, providing practicality, comfort, and off-road capability in a package that’s powered by a potent turbocharged powerplant, but the competition has gotten tougher. With the Honda CR-V now gaining an efficient diesel powertrain, as well as seven seats, the next Forester needs to be more than fast in order to gain the minds and hearts of the Filipinos. However, for those who want a crossover that can leave many slower crossovers in the dust, this is your last chance. Buy one now while it lasts.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★☆☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.2 out of 5