Subaru Forester vs Mitsubishi Outlander – which should outdoorsy people choose?
On the left we have the definitive softroader, and on the right we have the car nobody considers.
You’re looking for a vehicle to support your outdoors life. Maybe you’re a hiker, photographer, camper or rogainer. You don’t want a full-on 4WD, you’re not much into cars but you do want a reliable vehicle that will support your lifestyle, eat up dirt roads and handle a bit of rough.
We’ve got an article on just that sort of choice in general here, but this one is about two specific vehicles. Both of them will fit the bill, but in different ways.
The Outlander XLS diesel can take 7 seats, but the lower-spec ones are cheaper and only five. If you are the sort of person described in the opening words, then ignore the 2WD versions which are really city use only. Also be aware the Outlanders are really a 5+2, which is car slang for 2 small people. The Forester diesel is a five-seater only, so your decision may already be made.
The Outlander has a better interior seating arrangement in the second row with seats that fold away to provide more space than the Forester. The Subaru has the more modern interior design, and more gadgets such as a better infotainment unit. By comparison the Outlander looks dated.
The Outlander is larger than the Forester – 100mm longer and 20mm wider, although it is a bit shorter. That translates into more interior space, particuarly in the cargo area.
Dynamically, the Forester is no sportscar (in diesel auto guise), but it is a much superior drive car to the Outlander which is safe, but rather slow and stodgy on the tarseal. Moving on to dirt roads and both are superb. The Outlander is even better than the Forester at soaking up bumps, but the Forester is the more accurate and involving drive. The Subie has the advantage of full-time all wheel drive, whereas the Outlander is on-demand, although in this case the difference is small, as the Outlander’s on-demand system is effective. Subarus are the benchmark for onroad and dirt-road grip.
Offroad, and both are good for their class and close in capability. The Forester has Subaru’s X-Mode, but the Outlander has a very good 4WD system – unusual for an on-demand system – and bountiful power at very low speeds considering it has no low range, better than the Subie. Going uphill and across ruts I’d give the win to the Outlander, but the Subaru fights back when it comes to hill descents thanks to its excellent electronic descent system that is effective on steep slippery inclines, where the Outlander requires a high degree skill and bravery because it lacks low range or any electronic assistance. The Subie also has better ground clearance (220 vs 190mm) and that’s very important, as it is smaller dimensions – interestingly weight is the same.
On the touring front – both have full-sized spares and 60L fuel tanks, but the Outlander uses less fuel and has front recovery points so again while excellent, it noses ahead of the Subaru. Official figures are 6.2 Outlander and 6.4 Forester, on test we found the Outlander to be closer to 7-9 and Forester 8-10. I also like the way the Outlander’s spare can be accessed without unloading the back of the car, whereas the Subaru’s spare requires everything to be dumped out the back. The Forester can tow 1800kg, the Outlander 2000kg but I wouldn’t go up to the maximum on either.
Two excellent vehicles and you can’t go wrong with either if you want a capable recreational SUV. But I have to pick and winner and in this case I’d find it hard to go past the Outlander on the basis of interior room, economy and offroad abiity – unless you really prefer the higher-speed driving dynamics and interior design of the Forester.
2015 subaru forester diesel 2.0D-S cvt
PRICE : $41,490 (+ORC) WARRANTY : 3 years / UNLIMITED km SAFETY : 5 star (35.64 / 37, tested in 2015) ENGINE : four-cylinder 2.0-Litre diesel turbo BOXER POWER : 108kW at 3600rpm TORQUE : 350Nm at 1600-2400rpm 0-100km/h : 9.9 seconds TRANSMISSION : cvt with 7-speed automatic, paddle shifts, viscous centre diff with limited-slip DRIVE : all wheel drive with X-mode offroad system GROUND CLEARANCE : 220mm BODY : 4595 mm (L); 1795 mm (W), 1735 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE : 10.6 m WEIGHT : 1633 kg SEATS: 5 TOWING : 750 kg unbraked, 1800 kg braked, max TBM 180kg FUEL TANK : 60 litres SPARE : full-size alloy THIRST : 6.4 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : diesel
2015 Outlander XLS Diesel Automatic
PRICE : $39,490 (+ORC) Metallic/pearlescent paint + $550 WARRANTY : 5 years / 100,000 km SAFETY : 5 star (35.58 / 37, tested in 2015) ENGINE : 2.2 diesel POWER : 110 kW at 3500 rpm TORQUE : 360 Nm at 1500-2750 rpm TRANSMISSION : 6-speed automatic with paddleshifts DRIVE : On-demand 4WD GROUND CLEARANCE : 190 mm BODY : 4695 mm (L); 1810 mm (W), 1680 mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE : 10.6 m WEIGHT : 1630 kg SEATS: 7 TOWING : 2000 kg unbraked, 750g braked, max TBM 200 kg FUEL TANK : 60 litres SPARE : Full-sized alloy underslung THIRST : 6.2 L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle FUEL : diesel
A generic softroader article can be found here. We have also a comparison of the Outback vs Forester, and Outback vs WRX vs Legacy. If you want a sporty wagon then there’s the Forester XT, and the forthcoming Levorg – while that’s a roadcar, it’s a Subaru so it will handle dirt roads, as indeed does the WRX and WRX STi.
Hyundai’s Santa Fe is another option. Compared to Outlander and Forester it is well behind on offroad capability, although by no means the worst in class (there’s some real shockers). It is better finished and designed vehicle than either of the Japanese vehicles compared above, dynamically somewhere between Outlander and Forester, and in top-spec models has the most luxury features.