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Subaru Forester stays true to roots

Friday, October 16, 2020

THE Subaru Forester has come a long way from the quirky station wagon it once was. Now a fully fledged member of the sport utility vehicle (SUV) market, it's still not removed itself from the core values that have made it a success for Subaru.

Stylistically, the Forester is in offensive mode. There's nothing externally to turn off buyers as it draws the thin line between form and function. That makes it boxy to handle the internal space demands placed on an SUV, but keeps enough design flair not to be boring.

Subaru's current cues in relation to the headlights and the front grille are present, making sure of the connection to other models in the brand without the aggressive styling of rivals. Understated would be the best word.

Keyless entry makes getting into the Forester's airy cabin effortless. At night, the interior light slowly comes on as the vehicle senses the keyholder's proximity. Inside is roomier and more comfortable than the previous model. Visibility is excellent due to the sheer amount of glass. This lends to a commanding view from the driver's seat, presenting the bonnet's character lines in clear sight. All the controls are within reach and storage is plentiful, with lots of places to put cups and assorted items. Material quality is high as the interior takes more visual risks than the exterior, to good effect. Attention to detail leads to

must- haves like four USB ports, a pair each for front and rear. Small things like a damped glove box and the ability to lower the second row from the trunk, up the premium feel of the Forester.

Taking up the centre console is a large infotainment system. Speak, swipe, or press buttons to use it. The screen is not the only source of data as it's one of three, a smaller version residing in the driver's eye line on top of the dashboard and both then backed by a third in the instrument panel. All major functions can be set to operate automatically, from the wipers and handbrake to the headlights that turn with the steering wheel.

Subaru has a rich motorsport history, most of it 'forged' in the World Rally Championship — a series that doesn't just require blind speed but durability. Every Forester is engineered on the company's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, proven many times over on the rally stages of the world. This system pairs the flat layout of the boxer engine and transmission for optimum weight distribution. The rally heritage is also apparent in the suspension, and this effect makes the Forester smooth on the road. The engine delivers power in linear fashion, helped by quiet CVT (contunuously variable transmission) operation. There is a manual mode that creates seven responsive virtual gears for the driver who wants more engagement. Driven properly, the Forester flows down the road at any speed, but that's not the only trick in its arsenal. Rallying takes place off-road and the Forester is primed for the active lifestyle it expects its owners to have. There's plenty of ground clearance for rough terrain and should things get difficult, there's X-Mode that alters the vehicle's electronics for maximum traction.

On- or off-road, the Subaru Forester always feels like it's representing the brand's core values.