Forester - NZ Herald Car of the year
Yet another accolade for the 09 Forester
Car of the year - Subaru Forester - 06 Dec 2008 - NZ Herald: Motorsport, Car reviews, Automotive news and comment
Car of the year - Subaru Forester
4:00AM Saturday Dec 06, 2008
By Alastair Sloane
Subaru sought to offer loyal owners something totally fresh with the bigger size.
The latest Subaru Forester has been described as "just right for the times" - that's one of the reasons why it's the Herald Car of the Year.
Others are that it's good to drive, well built, economical, has excellent safety credentials and offers an on-road/off-road lifestyle ingredient that doesn't compromise convenience, unlike many other so-called lifestyle vehicles.
Subaru NZ managing director Graeme Woodlands is pretty happy with the Herald's choice. "Forester sales have more than doubled since the launch of the new generation car in March - so it has been popular with our customers," he says.
"I think the reasons behind the sales growth are that it is the family car for the times. It's big and comfortable enough to be a perfect substitute for the large family cars of the past, but with far superior fuel economy.
"What's more, it's ideal for city driving but has greater adventure capability than most other cars on the road.
"I guess the fact that it is New Zealand's highest ANCAP-rated (Australian New Car Assessment Programme) sports utility vehicle, provides real reassurance on the quality of engineering and safety technology."
All-wheel-drive specialist Subaru doesn't do big numbers in New Zealand but its customers rank among the most loyal in the industry.
The new Forester arrived here in March, bigger and more SUV-like than the outgoing model, an unconventional shape aimed at retaining customers while luring younger buyers with families.
The Japanese company didn't want to tamper too much with the look of the Forester - worldwide, its owners remain especially loyal.
Subaru in the United States reckons that 95 per cent of the 500,000 Foresters sold there since its debut in 1998 are still on the road. It remains the most popular model in the Subaru range in Australia.
The bigger size was a calculated move as Subaru sought to offer owners something totally fresh.
The story goes that its designers early in the piece looked at making Forester bigger again. But executives ruled that such vehicle might take sales in the critical US market away from the bigger and more expensive Outback wagon, Subaru's biggest seller Stateside.
The decision has paid off, because Subaru is one of only two carmakers in the plummeting US car market to bump up sales so far this year. The other company is Daimler.
The new Forester is 110mm taller and 45mm wider than the previous five-door and rides on a 90mm longer wheelbase. The result is a simple, practical, roomier cabin all round, allowing a retractable tray with cup holder in the rear. The plastics are still hard to the touch but the fit and finish improves the perception of quality.
The new double-wishbone rear suspension provides a deeper and wider luggage compartment, holding 450 litres with the rear seat up and 1660 litres with it down. MacPherson struts take care of the front end.
Off-road capability is further improved by better approach and departure angles, coupled with a 220mm minimum ground clearance, or 225mm on the turbo XT.
The Forester is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine in all models except the turbocharged XT. It is essentially the same engine from the previous model, apart from a few revisions.
At cruising speeds it is relatively quiet - revved hard it gets a bit noisy. The naturally aspirated unit develops 126kW, a 5kW increase over the outgoing Forester. Peak torque of 229Nm is up 3Nm on the previous model and comes in at 3200rpm instead of the old car's 4400rpm.
Subaru claims fuel economy 9.3 litres/100km (30mpg) in five-speed manual versions and 9.6 litres/100km in the four-speed automatic.
The four-speeder is adequate but does the job. A five-speed unit is likely to be introduced next year. We preferred the manual anyway, partly because it has a crawler gear for slow going over rougher stuff.
Around town over a week we managed a respectable 8.4 litres/100km (33mpg), while a colleague averaged a town-and-around 7.8 litres/100km (36mpg).
The XT has the same power output as the previous model WRX Impreza - 169kW - while torque of 320Nm now comes in at 2800rpm instead of 3600rpm. Subaru claims fuel economy in the XT has improved 8 per cent.
The Forester's widened track and revised suspension geometry settings have improved ride and handling across the range, on 16- or 17-inch wheels. The steering is smooth and predictable, thanks in part to its permanent all-wheel-drive system.
Forester is available in four models, now $2000 more expensive than at launch: the X starts at $38,990, the XS at $41,990, and the boosted XT at $44,990. All get stability control and six airbags, among other safety systems. The car gets a maximum five-star crash safety rating too.
MY09 - SUBARU FORESTER XT - STEEL SILVER - 5M