Subaru has always been known for its rally-bred racing machines coated in its signature WR Blue Pearl. However, over the years, Subaru has been trying to cater to more people in more walks of life. Known for doing things quite differently, the Subaru Forester e-Boxer hybrid is no different. Fun fact: Subaru’s hybrid system is the only one in the world that utilizes a boxer engine.
One of the good things about the Subaru Forester e-Boxer is just how normal it looks and operates, whereas others try to look and operate strangely just for the sake of being different. From the exterior, there’s nothing that separates the two vehicles. It’s basically the same fourth-generation Forester with only a smattering of e-BOXER badging.
Interior space is also unchanged despite the bigger batteries, since the Subaru Global Platform has been developed with electrification in mind. The batteries are mounted under the trunk floor, which means there’s still a generous amount of space at the back. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of the spare tire.
The e-Boxer system’s packaging is quite clever, too. The transmission, electric motors, and batteries were kept along the Forester’s center axis, which means all the Subaru handling trademarks you expect should remain in this vehicle, thanks to its Symmetrical AWD and low mounted boxer engine providing a low center of gravity. Subaru’s engineers placed the batteries at the rear axle in order to give this crossover a balanced weight distribution unseen in this class.
But what do all these mumbo jumbo mean? To find out, Subaru sent us to a makeshift test track near Changi Airport in Singapore. Subaru also demonstrated how the Symmetrical AWD system is able to shuffle power between the wheels in order to keep the Forester in check during slippery conditions, as well as EyeSight‘s capabilities such as its full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, just to name a few. For now, we’ll be concentrating on how the Forester e-Boxer performs.
The track consists of a right hand turn, followed by a slalom, and then through a series of hairpins. The second hairpin consists of a soapy skidpad in order to demonstrate the handling advantage of the Forester e-Boxer, and lastly, another right hand turn into a makeshift bumpy road in order to compare which of the three cars rode the best.
To make it interesting, Subaru brought in the Toyota CH-R hybrid and Honda HR-V hybrid, both of which are not sold in the Philippines. Why these two smaller crossovers you may ask? Well, in Singapore at least, these are the only other crossovers with a hybrid powertrain, thus making it the closest hybrid competitors with the Subaru Forester e-Boxer. Despite being a popular vehicle in Singapore, the hybrid versions of the HR-V and CH-R are not officially sold by their distributors, as these two are popular through the gray market. Before I get carried away, here’s how these three cars performed.
First-up the CH-R. Handling-wise, the CH-R is the least dynamic and stable, despite the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) underpinnings. Understeer was present when pushed through the corners, not helped by the numb steering where a few corrections are needed to be made in order to properly point the car in the right direction. Once I got into the soapy skidpad, the CH-R understeered so badly that the car would almost plow through the cones. Lastly, as it got to the bumpy road section, the CH-R’s had the second best ride quality among the three cars.
Now, the HR-V hybrid. Immediately, the HR-V hybrid had decent pull off-the line, since it’s the only one among the three cars that uses a dual clutch transmission. It cornered better with more agility than the CH-R, helped by having a much more precise and responsive steering. Its handling also proved to be much better when I was at the skidpad, being much more secure and stable with less drama compared to the Toyota CH-R.
Lastly, the Forester e-Boxer. Off the line, the Subaru Forester e-Boxer does not have a feeling of urgency, mainly due to how power is delivered. Look closely at the speedometer though and the speed builds quickly and nicely. The smoothness does not lend a feeling of being pushed back to your seat, but it accelerates much quicker than how it feels.
Thanks to the AWD system and the slightly stiffer rear suspension to compensate for the batteries, the Forester gripped the road much better. Steering provided the most feel and had the better response compared to the three cars when taken through the slalom. It ultimately shined when it went through the skidpad with soapy water. The Forester was unflustered by the slippery surface, and once it got through the bumpy road section, the Forester also provided the best ride quality. Ride comfort has been a hallmark quality of Subarus. Ever since I reviewed the Forester XT almost a year ago, I highly commended the crossover for its ride quality despite the slightly stiffer set-up compared to the non-XT Foresters.
Now, another unique strength of a hybrid is its ability to sip fuel. Unfortunately, the test track encourages us to gun the Forester e-Boxer to its handling limits, which of course meant that fuel economy is the least of our priorities during the test. However, the Subaru Forester e-Boxer has undergone the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Cycle (WLTC) which is a fuel efficiency test that simulates real-world use much closer compared to older testing methods. Using this test, the Forester e-Boxer was able to achieve 14.0 km/l, which is close to my personal experience with the Honda CR-V i-DTEC. Considering that this has permanent all-wheel drive for reassuring grip, that’s an amazing feat for Subaru engineers.
Additionally, the hybrid system can also let the Forester e-Boxer travel on electric alone for 50 kilometers, which is within ballpark of any Filipino’s daily commute.
The Subaru Forester e-Boxer is a continuation of how Subaru continues to do things differently. It may easily pass as just another hybrid vehicle vying for your attention, but underneath its sheetmetal is the world’s only hybrid powertrain that utilizes a boxer engine. Combined with Subaru’s unique engineering solutions that not only provides drivers a fuel-efficient drive, but also tangible benefits that any driver can appreciate and enjoy on a daily basis whatever the season, the Subaru Forester e-Boxer is a crossover that we’re eagerly looking forward to. If you are also looking forward to this new Forester, do note that the all-new model is set to launch on January 24, 2019, so keep yourselves posted here on Go Flat Out. Meanwhile, the Forester e-Boxer hybrid is still under evaluation whether it will be brought to the Philippines, but if everything goes according to plan, the new Forester is set to arrive in the Philippines by 2020.