The Subaru Forester has been around for a while now, having been Motor Image Pilipinas mainstay model since they opened back in 2006. I still remember the original model they brought in; the old 2nd generation Forester. That car, in 2.5XT guise, was truly a lot of fun in a segment that is well and truly boring.
The same can be said of the new generation Forester 2.5XT, launched in 2008. And like it's lower-slung, wagon-ish predecessor, we had a lot of fun with it, even more while kicking the tail out in the dirt of Clark Speedway's rally cross course.
Now, there's a newer Forester, having undergone a mild facelift and, Subaru claims, a significant upgrade over the old model. Let's see, shall we?
One thing you'll notice is that this is actually the 2.0X version of the Forester, which means its non-turbocharged as evidenced by the lack of a hood scoop for the intercooler. It's really a case of spot the difference over the old model, as the only thing I can spot is the different grill. Nevertheless, its still a good looking crossover, and wouldn't look out of place when put beside the new models like the Kia Sportage or the Hyundai Tucson.
Sitting inside this new Forester, I can already see that there's so much to like in this new car. The interior design is practically the same as the original version of this generation, but that's not a bad thing at all. The cabin definitely feels more premium than its competitors in the segment. The plastics and other materials give a good feel of quality about them, and the texturing on the steering's leather rim feel great to the touch when compared to the RAV4, Tucson or even the new Sportage.
There's an abundance of headroom for those of you who are blessed with a bit of height, as you do sit lower in the cabin of the Forester than the other cars in its class. I particularly like the comfort that the front seats offer; comfortable on long drives or when stuck in traffic. I also like way they did the 2nd row, with the cupholders folding out from the middle seat with a separate armrest on the center backrest.
And then you have the great features. I actually half-expected them to omit a few of the niceties of the 2.5XT model as this is a base model after all, but it seems they didn't do so. For one, it has a fully digital climate control system, making for a very convenient and comfortable drive. The audio system sounds very well balanced, and has an Aux port and a USB for your media player, the latter allowing you to control your iPod via the head unit. And then there's that roof; the panoramic moonroof. Toggle the switch once and it will open up halfway. Toggle it again and it will fully open to the 2nd row as well. Pretty cool.
Taking it out, the first thing I notice is how much I miss the power of the 2.5XT model. If you're used to compact cars, a 150 horsepower engine with 198 Newton meters of torque seems pretty good. This 2.0L boxer engine, while perfectly fine in a smaller, lighter Impreza, is like a short guy trying to play in the NBA... you just know he's got his work cut out for him.
Subaru says the engine is an entirely new generation of their traditional boxer powerplants, but its really hard to feel the improvements. From a standstill and at full throttle, this version takes 12.9 seconds (Subaru claims 12.4 seconds) to accelerate to 100 km/h. The Forester also isn't that particularly efficient either, returning 7.5 kilometers per liter in the city (moderate traffic) and 9.9 on the highway. It really boils down to the mass of the Forester that the (relatively) small engine has to lug around. What it can do, however, is out-handle the competition... and do it with quite a bit of authority.
Like any Subaru, the Forester, even in base trim, gets their symmetrical all wheel drive system. What that means is that all four wheels are being driven by the engine, ensuring plenty of traction even in slippery, stormy weather conditions.
In the corners of Tanay (at the start of Typhoon Pedring, no less), the Forester feels confident. It takes a bit of effort to get it up to speed, but enter a corner the right way and at the just the limit, you'll enjoy how well the Forester's AWD system replies with grip. Lots of it.
The suspension, even when nice and comfortable in the city, is progressive and easy to get accustomed to while cornering. If you find yourself entering a turn a little too hot though, the VDC (Subaru's traction control) will intervene to save the day. It's not an Impreza (because of the weight and higher center of gravity), but it is definitely one of the best handling crossovers in the class.
That said, however, a Subaru -a proper Subaru- really deserves to have power, and this Forester is definitely better ordered with the 2.5L turbo engine or, even better, with the Subaru EE boxer diesel engine... but it's still only for the European market. They really are lucky over there.
There's plenty of potential in the Subaru Forester 2.0X. It looks good, it feels great inside, it handles very well, it's definitely loaded with plenty of features and is attractively priced (PhP 1,388,000). It may not have much in terms of performance, but the Forester 2.0X really is a premium car at a pretty standard price.