Subaru's King of The Forester

Observer writer

Friday, January 25, 2019

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From its origins as a quirky station wagon, the Subaru Forester has long matured into its sport utility vehicle role. For 2019, it graduates to Subaru's Global Platform (SGP) making it the best iteration so far.

On the outside, rivals need to take note as the mechanicals are brand new, but the exterior design is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This keeps it visually close to the previous version, not alienating its fans, but adding the technology expected for a modern vehicle and tying it to the other models the brand offers. It will be easily recognised as a Subaru and as a Forester as it gains the styled LED lights all around — headlights are steering responsive — currently used by Subaru.

Open the doors with the keyless entry and one is greeted with an airy cabin free of the visual challenges many design-led competitors have. In the comfortable driver's seat, the large windows allow excellent outward viewing angles and keeps things light, even without the optional panoramic sunroof. The aggressively sculpted dashboard matched with soft-touch stitched materials, and textured inserts further add to the pleasantries. Controls are large, simple and easily within reach as is the multitude of practical storage spaces. Subaru's Starlink system follows the same theme, with a clear 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen, with two others, a 6.3-inch above the main, and a smaller 4.2-inch LCD screen in the instrument binnacle. Driver informational does overlap, but never becomes distracting. There is all the connectivity one needs via Bluetooth and USB with good sound quality.

The main items, headlights, wipers, and braking in stop-and-go traffic can be configured as automatic and forgotten. USB ports and 12-volt sockets are liberally sprinkled around for both front and rear passengers. Since the Forester grows on the new platform, there's more space in back. The trunk has no problem swallowing cargo and is filled with small hooks, nooks and crannies to handle smaller items. Those who opt for the power tailgate, things are even easier. Plastic inserts on the rear door sills allow easy access to the roof rails, one of the many testaments to the use Subaru expects for the vehicle.

Where the SGP continues to come into play is on the road, increasing refinement. The 2-litre boxer engine is its usual smooth self as the CVT has the ability to simulate seven gears, which it does under acceleration in the lower rpms. In everyday driving and the usual traffic, the drivetrain disappears into the background.

Where the Forester earns its keep is the fact that unlike many rivals, all-wheel drive is standard across the board and Subaru expects it to be used. On the highway, the suspension and the all-wheel drive grip provide a stable, comfortable and reassuring driving experiencing. SGP also affords the optional Eyesight system that offers further driving goodies like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Sway and Departure Warning, and safety functions such as Pre-Collision Braking and Throttle Management. This also translates well to our aging local road network and Corporate Area construction.

Off-road, it's the same story. This is not a 'soft-roader'. The Forester has the ground clearance and the extra ability afforded by the technology that is X-MODE and Hill Descent Control. Both will make the Subaru go farther across less than optimal terrain than many class rivals.

The new Forester is everything the brand loyalist love. Standard all-wheel drive already makes it stand out against the competition making it a must go for the more adventurous buyer. Throw in the modern technology, comfort and refinement and the Subaru drives headfirst into the very competitive pool that is the compact-SUV segment.

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