|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
Already a very popular crossover not just among Filipinos, but for buyers around the world, the Forester is Subaru’s most important product. How important? It’s the very first Subaru to have been designed and engineered with the help of intensive market and consumer research. The end result is one handsome and sophisticated looking vehicle that still manages to retain a dash of masculinity while looking much more grown-up and mature. Upfront, the all-new Forester carries Subaru’s new trademark design motif from the chiseled headlights (now with LED park lights) to the trapezoidal grille with a wing-shaped detail. The turbo shuns the hood scoop in favor of a grille-mounted solution (due to pedestrian safety regulations), but it’s still unmistakable thanks to its unique front bumper, black 18-inch alloy wheels, and dual exhaust tips shooting from the back.
Beyond the looks though, the all-new Forester delights with new features, most of which are clearly aimed more towards female buyers, but male buyers would also appreciate. First up, the visibility has been improved by making the A-pillar more upright and moving the side mirror to the door. This makes maneuvering through city traffic and slotting into a parking space easier, though the XT even adds a rear-parking camera for an added layer of security. Second, the doors feature a “clean sill” design which means the doors open cleanly, making soiled pant legs or skirts a thing of the past (even after heavy off-roading); the rear doors even feature a ribbed pattern enabling little kids to climb into the cabin much easier. Third, interior room has been greatly improved, especially for the rear occupants. Lastly, the all-new Forester adds a slew of new standard features ranging from automatic climate control with dust filter, USB and Bluetooth audio input and hands-free, to a beefed-up Harman/Kardon 8-speaker sound system, power driver’s seat, leather upholstery, and the segment’s first power tailgate on the range-topping XT.
As yummy as the Forester already looks in brochures, the biggest question is: will it perform in the real world? That’s where the ForesterDRIVE event comes in. Though Sagada is ultimately the end point of the trip it’s only the icing on the cake since for two days before that, five all-new Foresters, with odometers reading less than 50 clicks each, gallivanted through Clark, Subic, Baguio, before heading up Sagada. Alternating between the 2.0 i-L (normally aspirated) and the 2.0 XT ( turbocharged), the Foresters were subjected through some tough obstacles and challenges, some of which won’t even be experienced by the typical owner.
From Motor Image in Greenhills, San Juan, the convoy quickly made its way to Clark, Pampanga via NLEX and SCTEX. Having driven the previous-generation Forester extensively (I own one after all), the 2013 Forester is impressive with its tight handling and much improved ride. The all-new Forester feels much more rigid and solid than before—without the body flex or “shuddering” that plagued the previous model. It’s also quieter than with noticeable improvements to NVH isolation (especially wind and road noise). On the highway, the 150 horsepower underneath the 2.0 i-L (this engine is actually shared with the Impreza and XV) feels good with copious amounts of power and torque for effortless progress. And thanks to a new chain-type CVT transmission, 100 km/h is achieved at around just 2,000 rpm equating to highway fuel economy figures north of 15 km/L. From Clark, the convoy made its way to Porac, Pampanga for some off-roading around the lahar-filled back roads up to a vista point in Sapang Uwak. As the roads turned into trails, the Forester shone with its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Combined with X Mode, a new standard system that regulates throttle, brake, and stability system behavior during off-road situations, the Forester had tremendous mechanical grip; not once did the traction control engage during the entire off-road exercise.
The next day, it was time to swap the comfortable and sensible Forester 2.0 i-L for the sportier 2.0 XT for the climb up Baguio via the twisty Kennon Road. Though the new engine gives up some 500 cc in displacement over the previous XT, thanks to the new Direct Injection Turbo (DIT) technology, the 2.0 XT obliterates the 100 km/h in a sports car-like
On Day 3, it was time to head off to what’s undoubtedly the most challenging part of this road trip: Baguio to Sagada. Halsema Highway, the main thoroughfare through the mountains is mostly paved (but the occasional dirt road is quite nasty), but since gasoline stations are still far and in-between, a fuel-efficient crossover with sufficient ground clearance is still required for the job. A careful observation of the cars plying the route reveals the obvious: they’re all diesel-fed. Nonetheless, both the 2.0 i-L and 2.0 XT Forester made it back to Baguio with flying colors. They both made the 290 kilometer round trip journey with enough fuel to spare (the 2.0 i-L still had close to half a tank left). Hammering that point across even more is the fact that all the Foresters made it back to Manila with only a single top up—and that was done in Baguio, the final day’s start point.
Road trips, especially long ones are truly enjoyable, especially if they end without a hitch. It’s also a test bed of the true capabilities and abilities of a vehicle. In that regard, the all-new Subaru Forester passes with flying colors. The previous model was already hard to beat, but the 2013 model clearly exceeds every conceivable expectation. It delivers everything you expect of it, and then some. In fact, all-new Subaru Forester’s tagline says it best: enjoy more of everything.