Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Subaru Forester XT First Drive

The new Subaru Forester XT has lost its trademark bonnet scoop, become roomier and much more refined, says Isaac Bober.

With the exception of the rear-drive BRZ, Subaru has made a name for itself as an all-wheel drive SUV specialist. And this fourth-generation Subaru Forester XT builds on the success of its predecessor by being bigger and roomier, better on fuel and with a much more premium look.

Looking less boxy than its predecessor, the new Forester XT is sleeker thanks to the new headlights and the smooth scoop-free bonnet. The flared lower body gives it a hunkered down and purposeful stance, while the mesh grille is unique to the turbocharged XT.

Forester XT driving on bitumen

Sure, it still looks like a Forester, unmistakably so, but it’s borrowed styling cues from its smaller and ruggedly handsome younger brother, the XV. Gains in body length (35mm), wheelbase and width (25mm and 15mm, respectively) have been well employed on the inside, with the door sills 50mm lower while front door openings are 135mm bigger. The A-pillar has been pushed forward by 200mm, improving vision and giving the cabin a light airy feeling. There’s 405 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place and 1457 litres with them folded down.

Subarus are constantly knocked for their functional yet cheap, scratchy plastic interiors. That’s not the case with this Forester XT Premium which is a big step up in terms of material quality and fit and finish. Sure, there are still a few ho-hum elements like the hard plastic climate control bezels, but it’s otherwise a quality interior. The one major let down are the front seats which lack both lateral and under thigh support, and that means the first corner you dive into you’ll be gripping the wheel like mad to keep from sliding from side to side on the broad-based seats.

Subaru has improved the quality of the Forester XTs interior out of sight

With a list price of $50,490 (+ORC) the Forester XT Premium I’m driving sits at the top of the Forester tree, while the entry-level XT lists for $43,490 (+ORC). Standard features include a panoramic electric sunroof, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, rear seat recline, privacy glass, 18-inch alloys and a full size spare. The XT Premium adds EyeSight driver assist, sat-nav, auto opening tail-gate, rain-sensing wipers, leather interior, and eight-way adjustable driver and passenger seats.

Under the bonnet there’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine producing 177kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from a diesel-esque low of 2400-3600rpm. Subaru has done away with torque-converter automatics in favour of CVT and while the early iterations were awful the unit in the XT is every bit as smooth and responsive as you could want.

The Subaru Forester XT has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine

Despite having a fair old amount of grunt, Subaru has worked hard to keep fuel consumption in check, and a combined figure of 8.5L/100km is respectable (it’s a 19% improvement in fuel consumption on the combined cycle). But in my week with the Forester XT (and I did well over 600km of city, country and mountain driving) I couldn’t get the average below 10.1L/100km.

The steering is light, sure, but it’s direct and consistently weighted which means it’s easy to get into the car’s groove on a tight and twisting back road. The rear subframe has been stiffened, the springs are sharper for improved roll resistance while the new, low-friction dampers iron out the worst of bumps in the road, be it bitumen or dirt. In short, the new Forester XT is a whole lot more agile and engaging to drive than its under-tyred and roly-poly predecessor.

On dirt or bitumen the Forester XT is comfortable and composed

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS

The fact this Forester is called an XT and has a turbo bolted onto its engine are about the only similarities to its predecessor. This model is more capable, more comfortable, more sophisticated, better looking, better on fuel and, from the seat of the pants, feels quicker too.

SUBARU FORESTER XT PREMIUM

PRICE $50,490 (+ORC) WARRANTY three-year, unlimited kilometres SAFETY RATING five-star ANCAP ENGINE 2.0-litre turbocharged horizontally-opposed Boxer four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 177kW/350Nm TRANSMISSION CVT BODY 4.59m (L) 1.79m (W) 1.73m (H) WEIGHT 1607kg THIRST 8.5L/100km (combined)


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober