|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
In doing so, Subaru has successfully toed that delicate line between luring in new devotees to the cult of Pleiades and keeping the brand’s long-time fans smiling. While the fourth-generation (SJ5) may have lost even more of the trademark pluckiness in the pursuit of a more mainstream experience, there’s no denying that this is a more sorted vehicle than its predecessors. Make no mistake, the all-new Forester is keen to carve out a larger chunk of the compact crossover for itself, and for the first time in its model’s history, it has the cability to do so.
The all-new Forester is larger in every direction compared to the previous model, but familiar proportions help keep the new-generation from looking engorged. Taken on its own, the Forester looks fairly compact, but with its tall ride height and more capacious greenhouse, it appears beefier than the competition. It also features a more squared-off styling front and back with chiseled headlamps (now with LED park lights) and trapezoidal grille in the front, and the sculpted rear hatch and angular tail lamps at the back.
Subaru wanted to help separate the turbocharged XT model from its naturally-aspirated littermate, the 2.0 i-L, aesthetically which explains the “fangs” on the lower fascia upfront. There’s no calling the new front bumper subtle, but the look is much more subdued in the flesh. Longtime XT fans will spot the unfortunate omission of the trademark hood scoop—the casualty of new pedestrian safety regulations and the quest for greater fuel efficiency through reduced drag (now at just 0.33 co-efficient). While the new XT still makes use of a top-mount intercooler, the heat exchanger is now fed through a bit of clever duct work snugged to the underside of the hood that draws the air from the grille opening. Visual changes to the XT are capped off with black split-spoke 18-inch alloys, extra chrome trimmings, and dual exhaust tips shooting out from the back.
If the Forester shows its new girth anywhere, it’s in profile. The new model is around 40 mm longer than the outgoing model complete with an extra 25 mm of wheelbase. There’s also an additional 35 mm of total height thanks in part to a larger greenhouse. Designers shifted the A-pillar forward slightly for greater visibility and larger door openings. And anyone who’s come away from the previous-generation Forester with mud on their pant legs will appreciate the new roof-to-belly doors that covers the vehicle’s sills (“clean sill” design).
Inside, the all-new Forester doesn’t exactly offer buyers any great leap forward in comfort or convenience, though a number of small changes does make the cabin a nice place to spend time in, not to mention make it class competitive. Those start with larger door openings all around, which help jumping behind the wheel or wrangling children into the back seat easier. Upfront, the dashboard is laid out in a simple and straight-forward manner. The gauges are highly legible and all the controls are clearly labeled and offer a nice, tactile feel. The driver’s seat is power-actuated and together with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel, offers the best driving position in any compact crossover. The 4.3-inch WQVGA monitor also displays a wealth of information from the usual trip computer functions to self-check maintenance alerts, calendar functions (birthday and anniversary), safety-related information, and even Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC). It even has a customizable triple-meter display that shows things from coolant temperature to turbo boost pressure to elapsed time travelled. Plus it doubles as the monitor for the standard back-up camera. With an extra 10-mm of width and redesigned, scalloped door panels, occupants get an extra 33-mm of shoulder room, which helps make the Forester larger inside than it actually is.
But it’s the back seat that received the most attention. Subaru has worked to make the all-new Forester more kid friendly than its old counterpart. It starts out with a sill plate with an anti-slip design that allows kids to climb in easily. Then, there’s the transmission tunnel which is nearly flat. Likewise, the center console has been shortened by 100 mm to afford the center seat more legroom while allowing knick-knacks, such as an iPod, to be secured. Most importantly, there’s an additional 95 mm of leg room, effectively making the backseat generous for three (or even four) adults!
Engineers spent plenty of time tweaking the Forester’s drivetrain. The XT now benefits from an all-new turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine, the FA20DIT, which is based off the engine that propels the company’s BRZ sports car. This new beating heart beneath the XT puts out 240 horses and 350 Nm of torque from a foolishly low 2,400 rpm. The XT also rides with an all-new high-torque continuously variable transmission or CVT (Lineartronic) which helps to return impressive fuel economy figures: 8.2 km/L in the city and 13.2 km/L on the highway. Combined with a 60-liter tank, the all-new Forester has a cruising range past 400 kilometers—pretty impressive numbers considering that the Forester comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive.
The Lineartronic transmission is all but unobtrusive, offering quiet operation and helping to put the engine where you need it with none of the rubber-band feeling typically associated with a CVT. That said, the transmission does dull the engine’s punch somewhat, culminating in a much tamer driveline than the XT models of old despite a jump in power and a quoted 0-100 km/h of around 7.5 seconds. 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.
The XT also differentiates itself from the 2.0 i-L with a sportier suspension tuning with stiffer spring rates and revised dampers. The brakes are also larger and are ventilated front and back for additional stopping power. However, one of the most significant changes is the addition of Subaru’s SI-Drive system. This tech allows the driver to select between three modes: Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp which alter throttle mapping and transmission parameters. In Intelligent mode, the Forester offers more than enough city puttering performance, but if you want to extract the most out of the vehicle, shifting to Sport allows the driver to click through 6 simulated gears via the wheel-mounted paddles, while Sport Sharp offers 8 simulated gears. SI-Drive may seem like a gimmick at first, but 225 km/h in Sport Sharp doesn’t lie.
The move to a CVT has also allowed Subaru to refine its already impressive all-wheel drive system by using the Vehicle Dynamics Control system to manage a continuously variable transfer clutch. The system takes into account data like steering angle, vehicle yaw, and lateral acceleration to more accurately put power to wheels with the most traction. What’s more, the driver can now actuate X-Mode via a button on the center console. Available at speeds below 40 km/h, X-Mode further moderates throttle inputs while controlling the transmission logic, front-to-rear all-wheel drive power split and brakes to provide as much grip as possible. It also integrates an automatic hill-descent control and hill-start assist for low-traction surfaces.
Despite the Forester’s 1,620-kg curb weight and 220-mm of ground clearance, it feels remarkably quick on its feet and stable. There’s some tip and sway when pushed into corners, but there’s remarkable mechanical grip and feels much more sorted than ever before. Plus, despite employing an electric power steering, the Forester offers a nicely weighted feel. Push the XT a little further, and it breaks away gradually with confidence-inspiring forgiveness. Kiss the brakes, go full throttle, and it will turn like a somewhat bigger WRX. Indeed, the old track-fiend in grocery getter clothing is still there; you just have to lift more skirt to find it.
At P 1,868,000, the XT’s price jumps up P 100,000 over the previous model. Though given the various improvements and additional features such as the 8-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, power tail gate, and push-button engine start/stop, the price increase is more than fair. The all-new Subaru Forester XT has grown up in all the right ways and while the old machine’s wild hair tendencies will be missed, it’s clear that buyers will find more to love in the newest model.
2013 Subaru Forester XT
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Flat 4|
|BHP @ rpm||240 @ 5,600|
|Nm @ rpm||350 @ 2,400-3,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Unleaded / 95~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,620|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Front, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||9|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|