Web Spin: Subaru Forester XT

Taming the Urban Jungle

Subaru’s Enchanted Forester

Test Vehicle:

  • Subaru Forester XT AWD Station Wagon
  • 2.5 litre DOHC (boxer) with turbo and intercooler
  • 5-speed manual with Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive
  • $40,990 as tested

When my uni mate Rodney proudly displayed his first car next to ours, we looked scathingly at the stodgy 1972 Subaru 1400 lined up with our trick Mk.1 Escorts, Minis and Mazdas. But Rodney drove it everyday with astonishing fuel economy and frequently ferried us around when our ‘edgy’ wheels were off the road. This was 1979, and although Subaru had a reputation for practicality and reliability, any car called ‘Leone’ seriously lacked street ‘cred’. How the wheels have turned!

Subaru Leone 4WD 1972Little did we know that when Jackie Chan piloted the incongruously high performance Subaru Station Wagon in 1981’s madcap ‘Cannonball Run”, we were seeing a snapshot of the future disguised as satire. Today, Subaru’s ‘recreational’ wagons, the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Outback and Forester, deliver a staggering performance package in line with their ‘drivers’ stable mates, the Impreza and Liberty.

Unlike the front-wheel-drive Leone of the ‘70s, Subaru have only offered AWD vehicles in Australia since 1998, reinforcing their niche specialty in driver-focussed performance and recreational vehicles. So successful have Subaru been that, in the right (or wrong) hands, Subaru’s WRX Impreza is an uncatchable getaway car!

The Forester shares almost all the mechanicals with the racy Impreza, it’s just packaged in a less conspicuous, suburban themed station wagon with extra ground clearance. Introduced in July this year, our test vehicle was the first face-lifted model of the second generation vehicle.

Slipping into the snug pilot’s seat of the 2006 Forester, one is reminded of the looming potential of this vehicle as the substantial air intake on the bonnet occupies your lower perspective. Selecting first gear is another giveaway. Not a sloppy, floppy stalk as on some 4WDs, this is a purposeful shifter with a short throw action and a firm, confident engagement. And, let me tell you, further engagement takes place when the clutch is released!

“Let’s keep a lid on it,” I mutter to myself as the 169kW 2.5 litre DOHC turbocharged boxer engine exhibits all the restraint of a Pitt Bull Terrier on a short leash. Find the turbo and your terrier has just seen a cat! To group the Forester XT with 4WDs is just wrong. Subaru describe their vehicle, with matter-of-fact aplomb, as an “all-terrain sports car”. This says ‘rally’ to me, and although I couldn’t bring myself to tarnish the sleek 17” mags and 215/55 R17 Yokohama Geolander radials on some mucky backtrack, the very wet week I had the test vehicle was enough to convince me of the superior traction and drivability of Subaru’s own Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.

This might sound like confusing marketing babble, but the principle is beautifully sensible. The horizontally-opposed (so called ‘boxer’ because of the twin punching action resembling a fist-fighter) engine lies flat giving low centre of gravity, while the all-wheel-drive system ( heavy differentials, transaxles etc) are symmetrical down a line drawn through the centre of the car. This delivers a very pleasing balance in the car’s handling, particularly around tight corners.

Okay, so you don’t want to knock off Carlos Sainz in the Acropolis Rally, but consider the greatly enhanced safety margins delivered by an all-wheel-drive car with great anti-lock brakes in marginal road or weather conditions. Lose the turbo, and you have the very practical X, XS, XSL range without the neck-snapping acceleration of the XT and XTL.

We liked:

• Great build quality
• Wow! Performance
• Great handling and stopping, even in the wet.

We weren’t so keen on:

• Scary insurance, especially for younger drivers
• A bit small (interior) for the money
• Less ‘real’ off-road ability than competitors (RAV, CRV, Vitara)

Standard Features:

• 4 wheel, anti-lock disc brakes
• 17” Alloy wheels with full-size alloy spare
• Airbags - Dual front,dual side, head and torso
• Climate controlled air conditioning
• 6-stacker CD sound system
• Power steering, mirrors & windows
• 3 Year/unlimited km warranty

Accessories available:

• Large range of mats, covers and protectors
• 17 Inch, 5 spoke dished Alloy Wheel
• Various skirts, spoilers and cosmetic mouldings

Report by Rod Eime.

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buy a used or new hyundai terracan from a fctory dealer in great condition. It's a four wheel drive or 4wd for use off road or in the outback.