Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Epic Journey: Driving the 2013 Subaru Forester to Sagada

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Road trips, especially long ones have to be planned meticulously in advanced. You have to take note not just of necessities such as food and accommodations but also of the route and weather. Traveling up to Sagada is often seen as an arduous challenge given the tight, twisty mountain roads as well as the lack of necessary infrastructure such as gasoline or service stations. It looked like something close to impossible: the perfect backdrop then to officially welcome the all-new Subaru Forester.

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 6.2 7.2 seconds. This highly-potent engine is mated to a new high-output CVT transmission which can handle the 240 horsepower and 350 Nm torque output. Though the CVT doesn’t offer the same “kick” as the old transmission, it does keep the turbo spooled up making for insanely capable speeds (225 km/h on the SCTEX, anyone?). And to make sure all that power is delivered safety, the 2.0 XT offers much more differentiation by way of handling and braking: it has unique spring and damper rates along with thicker sway bars as well as ventilated disc brakes all around. All in all, the ride is definitely firmer than the 2.0 i-L, but remains comfortable even for those in the back seats. The CVT equipped 2.0 XT can still achieve some 13 km/L, but if you’re not careful and tend to spool the turbo at every opportunity, it does have the propensity to drink Premium Unleaded to the tune of 7 km/L—on the highway.



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.




41 comments:

  1. Is 0-100 kph time of 6.2 seconds true for the XT? Reviews from other countries say it's about 7.5. Wonder what is fuel economy in metro manila condition

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    1. The 0-100 km/h time I quoted is what's indicated in their brochure. Of course we didn't have a stop watch to determine whether it will do that time. It's fast though, there's no doubt about that.

      As for the Fuel Consumption, I indicated that in my story. Whether or not we can achieve double digit km/L for the Forester Turbo in the city, we'll wait and see.

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  2. Does the new xt model feel significantly faster than the previous generation xt? I'm thinking whether to upgrade to a 2013 xt or not. Thanks

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  3. Initially, the 2013 XT doesn't feel faster mainly because of how the CVT behaves. However, once you get used to having the "kick" gone, the 2.0 XT is faster and accelerates like there's no tomorrow. This is because the turbo is always spooled with the CVT keeping revs somewhere past 5,000 rpm. If you have a 2011 XT, perhaps it's not really a good reason to change to the all-new model unless you really want a new toy or perhaps you're wanting something much more mature, more refined than before.

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    1. Thanks for the input, yes refinement is a big factor for me, I feel the previous generation forester is lacking in that department, also I guess the new model is far more efficient with a direct injection 2.0 Turbo and CVT transmission.

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  4. Between the 2013 Honda CRV 2.0S AT (Thai) and the 2014 Forester 2.0iL, which would have a better fuel economy?

    How about power? speed? I mean which would feel underpowered or slower?

    Thanks so much and more power to CarGuide

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    1. Hi. From what I can tell, the Forester will actually have better fuel mileage than the CR-V 2.0. The CR-V isn't known for it's fuel efficiency, especially in city traffic.

      As for speed or which one would feel slower or underpowered, I can't really tell. I've yet to try out a CR-V 2.0. I've only tried a 2.4-liter CR-V. However, from what I can tell, the Forester will probably have better off the line performance from a standstill. However, the CR-V will probably do better with the 50-70 km/h overtaking speed. Unless you "wring" the heart out of the CVT transmission.

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    2. Thanks for your inputs :)

      So you wouldn't say that the new Forester 2.0iL is underpowered?

      Reason i'm asking is that the XT is a bit out of our budget :( but i'm a bit concerned whether the 2.0iL would be underpowered..

      Next to the Forester 2.0iL, our choice would be the CRV 2.0S (or maybe even the CRV 2.4). But with the CRV, our concern would be fuel economy.. :(

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    3. No I wouldn't say that the 2.0 i-L is underpowered. It's simply adequate. For a good fuel economy to performance ratio, I'd pick the Forester over the CR-V.

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    4. thanks so much! i forgot, after all, you did test it thru Sagada :)

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  5. What can you say about the reliability of Subaru's CVT? I'm having second thoughts on getting a Forester 2.0 i-L because of the CVT. I'm coming from a Honda City iDsi with CVT and that transmission is so problematic.

    I wish they offered a manual 2.0 normally aspirated Forester.

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    1. The method of construction for Subaru's transmission is different from Honda's. Subaru is the world's first manufacturer to use a chain-type CVT for commercial AWD use. For Honda, it uses a belt-driven CVT. The chain is noisier than the belt-driven type, but it will prove to be much more reliable in the future.

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  6. how many speed is the 2.0i-L? is it 6-speed?

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  7. This is one of the first Subaru vehicles brought-in by Motor Image Pilipinas (aside from the BRZ) to have an ENGINE START/STOP button =)

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  8. Is the 13km/l you mentioned for highway on the XT based on your test drive or just theoretical based on dealer estimates? Been hearing that it only does around 7-8 on highway. Thank you.

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    1. The 13 km/L on highway is what I got. If you don't mash the throttle and do a steady 100 km/h, you'll likely get this figure. I could easily do 10 km/L with the old 2.5 XT. However, if you like engaging the turbo, expect the figure to really go down. 7-8 km/L is probably what you'll get.

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    2. Thank you Ulysses. That is a relief to hear. Keep reading about good fuel economy on this car from international owners, and bad fuel economy from local ones. Glad to hear that it's still possible to get 13km/l if you drive with a light foot.

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  9. Which variant has a better value for money; the 2.0i-L or the 2.0XT? I'm a bit disappointed that they removed the panoramic moonroof for the base variant. Another thing is that the 2.0i-L doesn't have the multi-information display. Why? I believe the power of the new 2.0 XT is more than enough, but what about for the NA model? Thanks!

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    1. The NA has more than enough power, especially for city driving. In fact, you'll wish for more horses only during uphill climbs...say Kennon Road.

      The 2.0 i-L doesn't have a multi-information display because it's technically a base model compared to the XT. However, it still displays instantaneous fuel consumption as well as average fuel consumption. If I had any gripe on that, it would be they could have made the display look less like a calculator.

      It's true that the sun roof was removed for the 2.0 i-L, but it's not really a useful feature to begin with. Plus, in the long run, it's just going to create more problems.

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  10. Which one is better subaru forester base model or mazda cx5 in terms of fuel mileage n handling? Thanks and more power

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    1. I would say, it depends. In town, both of these CUVs are almost inseparable. That said, I think the Forester has the edge in NVH isolation, comfort, and ride. It also has better fuel consumption in the city as well.

      As for the CX-5, it's a better handling CUV but there's much more road noise and the ride is firmer. Fuel consumption isn't as good in the city but becomes comparable to the Forester once it hits the highway.

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  11. Hi --- I'm hoping you can help. Don't know much about cars. I'm a female, late 30's, and currently drive a Nissan XTrail (Bogart) bought in 2009. Extremely happy with Bogart's aircon (:D), how it feels when I drive, space -- inside car and cargo-wise, compact yet nimble ride, "low-key" yet performs very well.

    Looking to upgrade to something similar. Budget is P1.7 - P2M. My choices are: 1) Honda CRV, 2) new Rav 4 and 3) Forester with sun roof. Given my needs, which would be a best fit for me? Incidentally, why did you say that the sunroof would be a problem in the long run? I kind of love it... if only for aesthetics! ;D Thanks in advance.

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    1. Hi. Thanks for writing in. The three choices you indicated are indeed great, but personally I'd point you towards the Subaru Forester, especially in the top of the line XT trim.

      The Forester XT seems to fit the bill pretty much such as space, cargo, compact, and nimble. Not to mention, the specs are pretty good considering the RAV4 doesn't even have HID headlamps or 18-inch rims as standard equipment.

      As for the sun roof, it may be something of a problem in the long run if you don't exercise it. Of course, like anything with a motor and rubber gaskets, over time, they will wear out. Regular care should prevent any problems.

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  12. Ohhh.... just to add... for the budget, everyone's convincing me to get a Montero or a Fortuner. But, I just really find those cars to big, bulky and "mainit sa mata". But, please feel free to include if the above cars would be better. As you can see, my preference is mostly comfort first than anything else.

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    1. It's typical to go Fortuner or Montero given your budget. But at the end of the day, it depends on what you need. As you mentioned, you prefer something comfortable and nimble. These pick-up based SUVs won't offer those. Plus, they can be fairly bulky to drive. Nonetheless, if you need to seat 7, then you'll have to go for these. Otherwise, I would steer you towards the compact crossovers.

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  13. Hi Ulysses,

    I find your reviews very helpful. I am considering the Forester (non turbo. I'm however concerned about some posts about its brakes. I also read your past article mentioning it, to quote: "Likewise, quickly changing from Park to Drive or Drive to Reverse results in a noticeable delay compared to a traditional automatic. Plus, it has the propensity to lurch forward even when the brakes are fully depressed, say when waiting for a traffic light to turn green."

    I understand you own a previous gen FXT. Have u had this problem? How about in parallel parking-- do the brakes engage?

    Thanks in advance!

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    1. My dad owns a '09 FXT and I have a '11 FXS (FB engine) and I never had any problems with transmission or brakes.

      I do notice though that if the car's cold (say, from parked overnight), the brakes take a while to bite well. It's fairly common in my Subarus. But after, maybe, 10 seconds or something, the brakes will bite normally.

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. What is the fuel consumption of the 2.0i-L at city driving?

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    1. We just drove the 2.0 i-L in city traffic. Watch out for our full review of it in the coming weeks!

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  16. HI Uly. Any Thoughts about the 2014 Forester?

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  17. Hi Uly! If you were to choose, what would it be? XT or base type? Also added to my choices are Chevrolet Cruze 1.8 LT and 2.0 LT Diesel. Any thoughts about this 2 sedans?

    Thanks!

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    1. Personally, I'd take the base 2.0 i-L. It's more than good enough. Though you lose top-end power, but if you're using it for city streets, it's much better than the 2009-2012 Forester.

      http://www.carguide.ph/2013/07/review-2013-subaru-forester-20-i-l.html

      As for the Subaru Forester XT, well if you need the additional power or the luxury features, it's worth a look. But it does require premium fuel and will drink slightly more fuel when stuck in traffic.

      http://www.carguide.ph/2013/05/review-2013-subaru-forester-xt.html

      The Chevrolet Cruze are good enough cars, but there's not that exciting. They're comfortable, roomy, refined. But, they're also not very fuel efficient as well. Consider the Ford Focus or even the Subaru Impreza if you're at it.

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  18. Hi Sir Uly! What can you say about the Subaru Impreza 2.0i and 2.0i-S?

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    1. Here's my review on the Subaru Impreza 2.0 i-S:

      http://www.carguide.ph/2012/10/review-2012-subaru-impreza-20i-sport.html

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  19. Which would you choose Forester 2.0 XT or FJ Cruiser or Santa Fe?

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    1. If you'll go to far-flung areas that doesn't have premium fuel? I'd go Santa Fe. Otherwise, it's the Forester XT for me. The FJ's fun but not exactly practical.

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  20. Hi Uly, I'm thinking of getting a Forester i-L. But I'm also thinking on the long term particularly if I wanted to get spare parts outside of the casa. Are there shops that sell parts? Thanks.

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    1. I have 2 Subarus and normally when I need to buy parts outside of the casa (whether it's out of stock or expensive), I buy them abroad and have them shipped here.

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  21. Hi Uly, im planning to own my second car. My first choice is Subaru Forester 2.0i-L and the second is the RAV4 No Full Option 4x2. My queeries/ doubts are regarding spare parts for Subaru. Is it not difficult for service maintenance to replace any spare parts just in case?? Is the Subaru service done quick in casa? what about prices of Subaru spare parts is it that expensive. Its my first time to owan sa Subaru - please help me thanks much!!

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    1. Thanks for writing in.

      It's true that parts for Subaru are harder to come by compared to a Toyota. However, take note that the RAV4 isn't a common Toyota either so getting parts for it will just be equally hard.

      In my experience as a Subaru owner myself, service is quite quick especially for models such as the Forester. However, you may have to wait a bit when it comes to things such as collision repairs or heavy jobs. Still, I have a Subaru that's over 40,000 and (knock on wood), it's only been in for service just for routine PMS.

      As for prices, they aren't that expensive compared to say, Honda. You do pay a slight premium.

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