Three years is a long time in the automotive world. In the same amount of time when the typical car financing matures (or warranty expires), a once great product can get left behind or worse, be forgotten in the minds of would-be buyers and consumers. This is especially true for the compact crossover genre—a segment that’s seen about a dozen competitors, not even counting the mid-sized SUVs that have all popped up since then. Now, imagine if your company is reliant on such a product, accounting to more than 50 percent of sales in the process. Keeping a slight edge could very well determine survival. Imagine then the weight on the Subaru Forester’s shoulders.
Three years have been very kind to the Forester and up to now, it’s still one of the most interesting and fun-to-drive crossovers out there. That’s not to say it’s pretty. In fact, it’s pretty bland and getting dated. Still, what it lacks in styling gravitas, it more than makes up for in function. The basic ingredients work wonders for practicality. The squared off styling and large greenhouse ranks it number one in terms of visibility with minimal blind spots in any angle. The large doors and low sills also make for the best ingress/egress in its class. And now, by adding swiveling LED headlights and tail lights to the mix, nighttime visibility and safety has been improved tremendously. The only change done for aesthetics purposes is the new design of the 18-inch alloy wheels which go for a more premium rather than sporty vibe.
That sets the stage for what Subaru’s doing with the refreshed interior. Three years ago, the Forester made the case for an easy-to-understand, well-wearing cabin. Today, it keeps all that while addressing the most glaring thing lacking: a premium feel. Today, the Forester’s cabin still isn’t going to win any accolades aesthetically, but small changes have been done all to improve various touch points. The steering wheel and gauges are easily the two best additions; taking on a techy feel while having the graphics, menus, and voice commands actually work as advertised. Digging deeper, the windows switches and climate control knobs have a more damped feel surrounded by the de rigueur and sadly, scratch prone piano black accents.
Compared to other compact crossovers, the Forester is by far the most practical. Apart from the stellar visibility, it also has excellent space front or back. The front occupants are treated to generous leg, shoulder, and most notably, headroom than any other in its class. The rear is also a great place to be in. Kids will find climbing aboard easier thanks to a sill plate with an anti-slip design and once inside, it’s got all the space three or even four adults will ever need.
For those carrying cargo, the low loading height paired with the powered (but slow moving) power tailgate is a boon. In terms of driving position, it’s great with all the controls within easy reach while also allowing for ample adjustment to accommodate any body size (it even has memory settings now for the driver). The only let down is the seat cushion itself. They’re just too flat to be considered comfortable.
For 2016, the Forester’s drivetrain remains pretty much unchanged, and given the stout power and torque figures, that’s entirely forgivable. It offers nice, punchy performance even from the get-go. Like any other Boxer engine, it’s smooth, refined, and free from unwanted vibrations. Plus, thanks to additional sound deadening, it’s much quieter even at high speeds. That said, the power delivery isn’t linear by any account. This is most felt when the Subaru SI Drive is switched to the default ‘Intelligent’ mode. Power comes in like an off/on switch which makes traffic crawling extra stressful. The jumpiness manages to iron itself out; turning more tractable the moment ‘Sport’ mode is engaged. The neutered performance in ‘Intelligent’ mode does come with a welcome side effect and that’s in the realm of fuel economy. Despite the turbocharged engine and full-time all-wheel drive, the XT still ekes out 6.94 km/L in heavy traffic (average speed 16 km/h) and 13.16 km/L on the highway (average speed 69 km/h).
The XT already differentiates itself from its non-turbo siblings with its stiffer spring rates and tweaked dampers. But this year, those go hand-in-hand with the addition of Active Torque Vectoring and a quicker steering ratio. For drivers who engage in spirited driving once in a while, the XT is more than enough car. It feels remarkably quick and planted with good amounts of mechanical grip available. It can be pushed through corners like no other grocery getter can.
For those who’re even more enthusiastic drivers, push the Forester a little more and sadly, its limits will show. The comfort-tuned suspension results in tipping and swaying with heavy understeer through tighter bends. The revised steering does wonders, giving a sportier feel during every day driving. But despite the improved near-center responsiveness, it also doesn’t communicate the limits of the chassis well enough. More than once, steering corrections are required to keep things pointed in the right direction. Mercifully, the brakes are a great ally, with excellent bite and modulation.
Three years have gone by and the Subaru Forester, even in its top-range XT guise, has begun to lose some of its luster. Chinks have begun appearing in its once impenetrable armor especially in the areas of design, seat comfort, and powertrain refinement. Nonetheless, it still is a solid choice in its class, especially for buyers looking for a sporty, well-balanced crossover. There’s no doubt that Subaru engineers are trying their best to tame the wild child personality of their turbocharged crossover and this is seen in the small details they’ve done here and there. Though it’s not about to graduate charm school just yet, the signs are there and things are still looking good for the purveyors of all-wheel drive.
2016 Subaru Forester XT
|Ownership||2016 Subaru Forester XT|
|Year Introduced||2013 (Refreshed: 2016)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Fuel Delivery||Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||F4|
|BHP @ rpm||241 @ 5,600|
|Nm @ rpm||350 @ 2,400-3,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 95~|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||6.94 km/L @ 16 km/h
13.16 km/L @ 69 km/h
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,640|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Dueler H/L 225/55 R 18 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Rear Camera|
|Other Safety Features||Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control (X-Mode)|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||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|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual Zone|
|# of Speakers||Harman Kardon, 8|