Subaru Forester MY15a

Successful SUV finally plugs a glaring gap

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

IS THERE a more beautiful SUV… said nobody ever? If that cheap jibe is the only major missive aimed at the long-overdue automatic version of the Subaru Forester version of the Subaru Forester diesel, then the latest addition in a subtly revised range might get ugly indeed for rivals.

The $35,490 2.0D-L CVT and the more salubriously specified 2.0D-S for $7K extra broaden the already popular Japanese medium SUV’s appeal. And it shouldn’t surprise that its allure is in the way the newcomer looks and feels from behind the wheel.

As with all MY15 models, the Forester’s cabin has been deftly enhanced with pricier plastics, a slick new integrated touchscreen, voice-recognition tech, improved multimedia, and digital graphics that no longer look pilfered from a Laserdisc player.

All build on a continuing mix of adult-friendly comfort and space, and family-aiding practicality, though the lack of driver’s lumbar support and rear-seat vents, and an oddly high cargo floor (covering a full-size alloy spare) still need correcting. And the clever EyeSight preventative safety tech remains the provenance of petrol models.

Meanwhile, the world’s sole horizontally opposed diesel steps up to Euro 6 emissions compliance thanks to a thorough makeover, scoring efficiency and NVHmitigating measures that create an uncannily quiet operator.

Weighing up to 1667kg, the diesel auto is no waif, and with identical 108kW/350Nm outputs to the continuing six-speed manual, off-the-line performance isn’t blistering. However, speed builds strongly with revs, enhanced by the satiny smoothness of the intuitively responsive CVT, so it’s capable of swift progress. Largely normal in behaviour, there’s virtually no lag or slippage detectable in this lively drivetrain.

Throw in balanced (if overly light) steering, measured handling and always-dependable roadholding from the beautifully planted permanent AWD chassis (particularly on gravel, where ESC intervention is nicely calibrated) and the diesel delivers the same dynamic prowess as its impressive petrol siblings, even if the 2.0D-L is saddled with unrefined Yokohama Geolander tyres.

Despite riding on Bridgestone 225/55R18s, the 2.0D-S maintains Forester’s supple ride quality.

There’s a compelling new value story, with range-wide price cuts of between $1500 and $3500. The base 110kW/198Nm 2.0i-L manual petrol is now $29,990, while the popular 126kW/235Nm 2.5i-L CVT petrol is $2K cheaper at $32,990.

So never mind the face. The 2.0D CVT Forester is like Miss World winning on brainpower.

Shifty business

TO MINIMISE undesirable ‘flaring’ at speed, Forester’s CVT transmission adopts a stepped seven-speed shift control when more than 65 percent throttle is applied in Drive, prioritising acceleration and sporty feel. Below that level of throttle application, Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT lives up to its name with a constant stepless operation designed for maximum efficiency.