New Subaru Forester Diesel oiled for action
ON THE plane home from Subaru's Forester launch in Tasmania I was seated next to a lovely lady - a teacher, a scientist, an inspirational charity worker, a mum to four grown children and, as it happens, a Forester owner and great lover of the Japanese brand.
She was happy to recount her experiences in her first Subaru, which she and her husband bought off a retiring doctor when they worked in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s. It offered plush comfort despite the fact the choral roads had helped eat away at the footwells and was a well-known sight around an island on which cars were a rarity.
The car served them on their adventures in PNG for almost two decades and they gifted it to a teacher when they left, who eventually used the engine to help power a saw the villagers could use for cutting wood. When they last spoke to him a few years ago the engine was still going strong, half a decade later.
And that is probably one of the reasons the Subaru brand has such a loyal following. Its reliability is appealing and it offers a level of performance lacking in some competitors.
Thankfully the quality of the bodywork has improved much over the past 50 years, as we bore witness when we put the new auto diesel Forester to the test this week.
It is the final piece in a picture-perfect Forester line-up and will allow the manufacturer a slice of the burgeoning auto diesel SUV segment which accounted for more than 20% of SUV sales last year.
Like the rest of the newly revised Forester range, the interior shows obvious marks of quality. The 17.7cm infotainment system takes pride of place in the centre of the dash boasting pinch-to-zoom technology and also serving to showcase an excellent audio system, as well as an easy-to-use sat nav in some models.
The piano black and silver highlights add some contrast but do not do much to lift a demure feel.
The layout is logical and easy to navigate with the dials and buttons large enough to ensure smooth operation.
As you would expect it was easier to find the most advantageous driving position in the electronically adjustable driver's seat of the 2.0D-S than it was in the entry-level 2.0D-L with manual adjustments but overall the seats were comfortable and supportive.
There is enough room in the back for adults to travel in comfort, although the super tall may struggle, and the boot, while not cavernous, will happily hold a few large suitcases or a pram if you need it to.
On the road
Both diesel models we tested were powered by the same horizontally opposed turbocharged 2.0-litre engine paired with a high torque lineartronic continuously variable transmission.
On a varied course from Hobart to Launceston taking the roads less travelled, this new Forester edition offered up an easy, comfortable and well-balanced ride. It made quick work of dirt roads, adapting well to changes in direction and with enough cushioning to prevent that jarring feeling.
It coped well with being thrown into corners, never dropping its nose and always poised for a neat exit. It is quiet too, on the bitumen, much more so than you would expect from a diesel.
These Foresters are able to switch between continuously variable shifting and step shifting in response to how far you press the accelerator. If the pedal is depressed more than 65% you have access to a seven-speed step-shift, but below 65% there is stepless CVT operation.
The switch is not seamless but is easy enough to get accustomed to but it also means that sometimes you really have to press the accelerator hard to ensure you get the power you need quickly.
What do you get?
Subaru has placed great emphasis on value-adding this time round and the Forester is not short of inclusions.
The 2.0D-L has 17-inch alloys, colour coded door mirrors with indicators, 17.7cm touch-screen infotainment system with Pandora compatibility, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, reverse camera, dual-zone climate control ai con, cruise control, height and reach adjustable steering wheel.
The 2.0D-S adds 18-inch alloys, automatic cargo door, electric sunroof, smart-key entry, powered driver and front passenger seats, rain-sensing wipers and factory fitted sat nav.
Safety is five-star courtesy of ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, seven airbags, Isofix child seat anchors, side intrusion bars and vehicle dynamics control.
The diesel variants, unfortunately, do not have access to Subaru's excellent Eyesight safety package available in petrol models.
The popularity of auto diesels probably says much for their practicality and this Forester is all the more useable thanks to great visibility, a top-grade infotainment system and improved interior quality.
There is only one seat pocket in the rear which can be a bit annoying for the kid without one but Subaru does offer a full-size spare with no charge either for metallic paint. All Subarus sold in Australia are now coming out of the Japanese factory - a big plus for quality.
Subaru has used a combination of light materials, a smaller transmission control unit and a low friction timing chain to help with fuel economy. This Forester diesel CVT is Euro 6 compliant (152g/km) with frugal average usage at 5.9 litres/100km.
We paid scant regard to economy when driving those beautiful Tasmanian roads but will have a look at economy when we have the Forester for a longer period in a couple of months.
Most brands offer an auto diesel medium SUV option with the biggest running from the Toyota RAV4 (from $48,490), the Kia Sportage (from $39,990), Ford Kuga (from $44,740), Mazda CX-5 (from $40,260) and the Honda CR-V (from $40,590)
Subaru has often been criticised for exteriors (the BRZ aside) which simply don't match the adventurous nature and ability of their vehicles.
This Forester presents a noble rather than exciting front. It is pleasant without getting the heart racing.
The auto diesel is a timely addition to the Forester line-up and will no doubt make quick work in easing Subaru's disadvantage.
They are looking to sell at least 1400 Foresters in this calendar year and this latest option, with its drivability, frugality and excellent comfort levels, will go a long way to meeting that target.
Model: Subaru Forester 2.0D-L and 2.0D-S.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive medium SUV.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder horizontally opposed turbocharged diesel boxer generating maximum power of 108kW@ 3600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1600-2400rpm.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 5.9 litres/100km (combined average).
CO2 Emissions: 152g/km
Bottom line plus on-roads:
2.0D-L from $35,490, 2.0D-S from $41,490.