Subaru Australia’s importer admits there are some buyers “concerned” at the lack of a higher-performance turbocharged petrol engine in the company’s new Forester.
It’s not news, but the overhauled new-generation version of what has long been Subaru’s top-seller here will come with one engine only at launch: a 2.5-litre Boxer four cylinder, matched to a CVT and symmetrical AWD.
While this engine’s 136kW/239Nm outputs are more than sufficient for the vast majority of buyers in the segment and align with most competitors, there have always been customers after more.
The outgoing Forester model, and its predecessor, offer turbocharged petrol engines for some extra boost. The current XT version’s 2.0t engine makes 177kW and 350Nm, which until recently made it the most powerful model in its class.
Coupled with a racier design and a S# mode that tells the throttle and gearbox to act more aggressively, it was something of a warmed-up family option. But people after the new Forester will not have this choice any longer.
“I think there are certainly some customers that are concerned, it’s [XT] been a fantastic car for us, a halo for the brand, so it’s sad to see it go,” admitted Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie this week.
As the decision to go with a 2.5 petrol sole powertrain option was a global one, Christie’s hands are thoroughly tied.
Furthermore, there’ll be no diesel option this time either, with Subaru firmly committed to a petrol future. Given its core market is the US, one can see why that makes sense economically.
While emotionally the slimmed-down engine range may rankle brand fans, figures show that more than 80 per cent of Foresters sold in Australia over the past few years used the outgoing atmo 2.5.
The XT 2.0t made up well under 10 per cent of sales. For all the love, people just didn't buy all that many.
Perhaps more unfortunate from a sales perspective for Subaru Australia is the fact that it cannot yet get its hands on any Foresters with sportier design cues, such as the Japan-market X-Break or US-market Sport. That needs to change.
One addition we can expect, however, is a petrol-electric hybrid Forester ‘e-Boxer’ before the end of next year, alongside a similar hybrid version of the XV (called the Crosstrek in the US). This’ll be a 2.0-litre petrol matched to an electric motor with lithium-ion battery.
Subaru Australia says it’s all over these parallel hybrid SUVs within 18 months, but Christie was less certain about the introduction of the mooted XV plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
"Nothing has been confirmed yet but our expectation and desire would be to have at least one hybrid in market by end of 2019 and one more shortly after that," Christie said, adding it'd likely be the two SUVs.
Subaru’s new global architecture has been designed to handle electrification with little modification, and significant shareholder Toyota is in a position to supply hybrid components with proven longevity and scale.