We spent three months researching our vehicle requirements. Any car we bought needed some off-road ability, had to be fun to punt briskly, needed good ride quality with decent and accessible performance. Also of importance was a decent tow capacity (for an off road 1.2T camper) with a decent ball weight capacity, as well as some real off-road ability and clearance. We were not quite ready for a lumbering, difficult-to-park 2.2 tonne conventional 4x4 ute: it would be too slow and too thirsty, and seeing that my wife was driving it five days per week, she needed effortless grunt, while being easy to park and offering trouble free motoring. Other than that, she did not mind what I purchased.
The Subaru Forester MY16 XT was a stand out for a number of reasons. This was one of few SUVs that actually had some decent off-road capability: nearly nine inches of ground clearance with decent approach, departure and ramp over angles, and a 1.8 tonne tow capacity with a real 180kg ball load capacity. The LSD affects the front and rear via the brakes in X mode (similar to latest Suzuki Jimny centre-proportioning diff), and there’s some very accessible 350Nm of torque from 2400rpm with a decent 177kW on 95 octane fuel.
The deal was sealed after a test drive of an immaculate and unmarked single-owner MY16 XT, with 24,000 kilometres on the clock, two years of extended Subaru warranty, and plenty of included accessories (towbar, electric brake controller, roof racks, resin rear bumper protector, OEM mud flaps all round) with full history.
Ride and Handling:
The ride quality is a revelation, and easily one of the best features. We live in a rural area with appallingly lumpy coarse-chip roads. Past Toyota’s and Euros have driven us nuts with a lack of compliance. The Forester, by comparision, is serene and compliant. The handling is typical of a tall SUV, ie it is average compared to a sedan. Couple this with hard Bridgestone OEM tyres and it is not a sports car in the bends by any means. Grip levels in the dry are average and requiring some caution when in the wet. However balance is neutral, and putting power down is safe and reassuring in the wet with the constant symmetrical all-wheel drive.
Driven in an unhurried manner on the highway with smooth throttle applications, under 7-litres per 100 kilometres is very achievable when running a genuine 110kph (115kph indicated). If driving for economy on the highway you can achieve 6L/100km, but only with careful technique. My wife averages 9L/100km, which involves mostly country driving and around 40% of around-town use.
On the weekends, I average about 7.4L/100km when driving similar hills, and travelling around 20% of the time in the city.
Interior and Controls:
The Forester has a deeply functional orientation: nothing but simple, easy-to-use controls that fall to hand intuitively, with perhaps the exception of about twenty five steering wheel buttons/functions. The info on-hand via the central binnacle regarding consumption, boost, traction and torque split per wheel is akin to a rally car.
The stereo’s sound is surprisingly good and the interface with an Android phone using Bluetooth and Spotify is seamless and fast.
This vehicle was the base version of the XT with only a leather look/cloth interior, which features a very durable seat trim along with a leather steering wheel and CVT gear box lever. The seats are short in squab but comfortable nonetheless. Visibility is excellent in all directions with a huge glass area, resulting in a car that is so easy to park. The steering is nicely weighted with an excellent turning circle.
The Subaru-manufactured CVT can certainly be punted briskly by choosing Sports Sharp mode, which engages eight preset CVT ratios, reduces centre diff slip and provides a similar experience to a good convential auto box. However for ordinary driving the three different modes offer increasingly sporty drive experiences.
Standard CVT mode sits on approx 1300rpm at 100kph, and it makes good, smooth and quiet torque. Sports Intelligent Mode sits on 1800rpm, which is considerably brisker, but still very smooth and quiet. Sports Sharp mode sits on 2300rpm tapping into the 350Nm, but still remains quiet, smooth and effortless.
You can override the systems anytime via paddles on the wheel for more or less response as required. Whilst off-the-mark response can be muted by the CVT, (unless sportier modes are engaged) as soon as vehicle is rolling, the response is very good and fast by SUV standards. Hills in particular are devoured with ease and often require nothing more than 1400rpm; it is just so relaxing and yet effortless to drive combined with the plush suspension.
The past reviews of Subaru’s Eyesight (a feature that is not quite sorted in this model) meant we preferred to not have a computer trying to override our driving decisions via physical correction and warning chimes. The driving experience being greatly important to us, such systems were just not our style.
Accident avoidance is easy with excellent visibility and the power to get out of trouble easily and quickly. Braking is adequate, and certainly not over-boosted by any means.
Our 95-litre Evercool Fridge fits comfortably in the boot with plenty of room to open the lid, with a handy power point nearby.
The OEM tyres with 35,000km on them still have 6mm of tread left; an advantage of AWD. My wife and I both really enjoy this handy, mid-sized and very capable SUV that continues to surprise and delight us both.