The Subaru Forester XT.
The Subaru Forester XT.

Road test: Subaru Forester XT inspires outdoor escapades

SPORTINESS runs through the Subaru veins.

The brand's alliance with the GreenEdge cycling team and sponsorship of major multisport events shows the Japanese marque knows where its bread is buttered.

Setting the awesome BRZ coupe aside, the Subaru line-up is not overtly athletic in appearance. Yet the range of SUVs has a rugged appeal.

They beg you to strap a canoe to the roof racks or throw a bike in the back to embrace the great outdoors.

Yet there's something special about this XT model. Within its skin lurks a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with enough zip to surprise boy-racers at the lights.

Comfort

Stepping inside is like being in a modern home with an expanse of glass. There is an excellent outlook from all seats.

The Forester offers deep windows all-round, handy for the cherubs in the back, and excellent peripheral vision thanks to changes in the A-pillar which reduce the blind spot prevalent in the previous model.

With all the trappings associated with the Premium model, including some brushed metal inserts and 15.5cm touch-screen, the cabin is nice enough but typically Subaru in its functionality. The controls are all well labelled and there is nothing too flashy.

The multifunction steering wheel is busy with 12 buttons, although everything is easy to operate once you have your bearings.

An interesting feature is the stubby sun visors due to the EyeSight system, which sits around the rear vision mirror and houses sensors for the various warning and safety systems.

Leather trimmed seats have a sporty look, although the seat bases could do with some more bolstering to stop passengers sliding in the corners.

Rear seat room is excellent, and three adults can fit across the back bench.

On the road

Step on the accelerator and enjoy the ride. With a handy 350Nm of twist at your disposal just above 2000rpm, ask for some more punch and an almighty whoosh answers the challenge.

The Forester's turbocharger is particularly effective from the mid-rev range, but can still reach 100kmh from standstill in about 7.5 seconds.

Under the metal is a 2.0-litre petrol engine, and it partners wonderfully with the continuously variable automatic transmission. In fact, it's one of the best CVTs on the market.

A multifunction display features some comprehensive information, with everything from a real-time economy gauge to a trip computer with various graphs.

The driver can select between three modes, Sport (is the most versatile in varying conditions), Intelligent (good on the highway to save petrol) and Sport# (best for blowing out the cobwebs with a quicker acceleration response).

Explore the turbocharged boxer engine's abilities too far into a bend and there is typical SUV lean, although the all-wheel drive does a good job of keeping things headed in the right direction.

What do you get?

Being the Premium model, all boxes are ticked. In this guise you get a Harman Kardon entertainment system with touch-screen and MP3 compatibility, sat nav, auto lights and wipers, push button start, large sunroof, nice leather trim with contrasting stitching (also on the steering wheel), automatic cargo door, dual zone climate control air conditioning, three 12V power jacks, 18-inch alloys and full size spare.

Plus this has the full EyeSight kit, which includes radar cruise control, lane departure control, forward collision warning with automatic braking and all the usual safety technology which adds up to a five-star ANCAP rating.

Other options

The XT sits in an interesting niche, with direct rivals difficult to find. The closest are the Volvo XC60 T5 ($55,490), Range Rover Evoque Si4 Pure ($59,895) and the Volkswagen Tiguan 155TSI ($42,990), but at a stretch you might even also consider base models of the BMW X3 (from $59,000) or the Audi Q3 TFSI (from $56,000).

Practicality

With that extra punch and towing capability of 1800kg, the Forester is a useful beast.

The 60-40 split fold seats are simple to operate with a knob on top of the seats or a switch in the boot.

Trunk space is reasonable, but not exorbitant, and the full-size space does lift the floor height.

Subaru also has an excellent range of accessories, with great bike carriers for the roof or tow-ball, luggage rack, water craft and surfboard racks.

Running costs

Considering the muscular performance at your disposal, the average fuel consumption of 8.5 litres for every 100km is reasonable.

Servicing is capped, but insurance could be an issue for some - dependent on age and driving history.

Funky factor

Functionality over form is the Forester's appeal. It's not ugly, nor is it gorgeous…the look is more muscular blended with maturity.

We are a big fan of the five-arm 18-inch alloys which provide it with a sporting edge - not unlike the smaller and hugely popular compact XV.

What matters most

The good stuff: Wonderful mid-range punch, accessory range, ease of use.

What we'd like to seek: More contouring of the seat bases, some "wow" factor.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every six months or 12,500km. Servicing is capped, at an average of $397.46 over 10 services in five years.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium.

Details: Five-door medium-size all-wheel drive sports utility vehicle.

Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder horizontally opposed Boxer producing maximum power of 177kW @ 5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 2400-3600rpm.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Consumption: 8.5 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 197g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.5 seconds.

Towing capacity: 1800kg; tow ball rating 180kg.

Bottom line: XT $43,490; Premium $50,490 (plus on-roads).



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