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Friday, May 27, 2022

Discreet hunter car? – You can forget!

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With the new model year, the Forester name is as unusually long as the traditional line of this model. The all-wheel drive vehicle has been around for 25 years. And it’s a real Subaru, with a boxer engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, and symmetrical all-wheel drive. It now comes standard with a sophisticated armada of driver assistance. It can even remember the settings for five different controllers. And as a peculiarity, it adjusts the seat and the exterior mirrors once it has recognized the driver with the interior camera. So far so good. But the camera thing also has its pitfalls: the Forester is always watching and patronizing you! The driver is constantly watched and warned after an intrusive beep: Stay alert! Look into the future! Fortunately, this monitoring can be disabled.

Powerful front end with 22 centimeters of ground clearance, a real all-terrain vehicle. A boxer engine runs under the hood.Photo: Rainer Ruthe

The fifth generation of the 4.63 meter long Forester is now also based on the New Global Platform. As well as increased torsional and crash resistance, a lower center of gravity and more direct steering, this should ensure better handling. Despite the ground clearance of 22 centimeters, it is suitable for off-road use. This qualifies this four-wheel drive vehicle as a true off-road vehicle and sets it apart from would-be front-wheel drive crossovers. The number five has remained a traditional Subaru: honest, practical, without elegance. And yet something is completely different: it is no longer the discreet hunter’s car. The newcomer looks self-assured, boldly stretching its commanding grille into the wind. With this Forester from the year 2022 you can also drive in front of the opera house without being embarrassed.

Inside, too, the familiar brittle practicality has given way to a new sense of life that now makes staying in this car a pleasure. A lot of chrome and leather, selected and well-crafted materials, no longer exude the charm of the hunter of yesteryear. Well, instruments still remain in the analog age; but if hands are so easy to read, why not? And the fact that there are actual buttons and switches instead of “swipe” and “click” is more of a bonus. Luxurious leather armchairs not only look attractive, but are also in everyday life. And of course they can also cover long distances, just like the car as a whole.

Trunk with family format. With the rear seats folded down, it has a capacity of 1,779 litres.Photo: Rainer Ruthe

However, the most important innovation is under the hood. For Japan’s traditionalists, at least a small door opens into the electric future. Fully electric drive? none. plug-in hybrid? none. Instead: the diesel boxer went flying. In this country, the Forester is only available with a single unit. It’s the 150bhp four-cylinder boxer with a displacement of two liters and completely conventional intake manifold injection, a pretty rare thing these days. The boxer engine is not a torque giant. The maximum torque of a manageable 194 Nm is only available at 4,000 rpm. But now this gasoline engine has an important helper at its side. In the gearbox there is a 17 hp and 66 Newton meter electric motor, which brings the gasoline engine up to date. And the little electric motor does this job quite well. The almost 1.8-tonne car starts without delay. According to Subaru, the mild hybrid has hit 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds, but at 188 km/h the fun is over.

Typical of a boxer engine are low vibrations. However, the four-cylinder is not a silent stroller; he’s clearly working in the engine room. This is also related to the special features of the standard continuously variable automatic transmission, which Subaru calls Lineartronic. Subaru technicians have also revised them to integrate them into the mild hybrid propulsion. And with success, as the test shows: The notorious “rubber band effect”, which is also known from numerous CVT transmissions, almost no longer occurs in the Forester 2022 model. Under high loads, the transmission simulates seven “virtual” gear changes ” and then works like a conventional automatic torque converter.

After a few miles you’ve settled into the quirk of driving: if you’ve got the right feel in your foot on the accelerator, it works great with the Forester automatic. Then it accelerates smoothly and gracefully, and comfort is excellent. You are fast, but not sporty on the go. So the Lineartronic also shows its comfort advantage. “Switching” without jerks. So you can enjoy this kind of relaxed locomotion, and also save on expensive fuel. Yes, the Forester “trains” you to drive relaxed!

And when overtaking? It is best to switch to manual shift mode first. There are seven fixed “shift points” that can be selected with the paddles on the steering wheel. That works pretty well. According to Subaru, the electric support should result in fuel savings of 0.5 liters per 100 kilometers: the Japanese specify 6.7 liters as the WLTP measured value. In the test drive, which was 1,500 kilometers, we consumed an average of 7.1 liters of Super E10 per 100 kilometers, which is only 0.4 liters more. And that in cold weather and with winter wheels. For a nearly 1.8-ton SUV with full-time four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission, it’s a good value. Even with the rather small 48-litre tank, ranges of up to 650 kilometers are possible. With the revised chassis, the Forester is easy to move in the best sense of the word: balanced, neutral, understated. Exaggerated sportiness is just as alien to it as a smooth look with a rocker effect.

Instead of brittle objectivity, there’s now a comfortable feel, with lots of leather and chrome.Photo: Rainer Ruthe

Subaru has also improved when it comes to safety; the Japanese have already gone their own way in the past: instead of radar and other sensors, they “only” use cameras. But that works very well. With the revised Eyesight system, always standard! – the new stereo camera has now been mounted directly on top of the windshield instead of on the rear view mirror as before. The resulting wide angle increases the working range without sacrificing accuracy and reliability. And it allows even more functions. Emergency Brake Assist now recognizes hazards earlier and can also warn you at intersections. The new road detection now also detects grass, and integrated steering assistance intervenes to correct it. The Eyesight system is completed by adaptive distance and speed control, which now has adaptive steering and lane centering. The latter is active up to 160 km/h and keeps the Forester in the middle of the lane. A clear gain in security.

Two new tricks that are used for the first time in the e-Boxer have proven to be very practical in the test: if the reversing camera is activated, the image is shown on the infotainment screen as usual. But Subaru uses the high-resolution information display on top of the dash at the same time and shows the front wheel and surroundings on the passenger side. The image is created by a camera built into the exterior mirror that looks towards the rim of the wheel. Scratches on expensive aluminum rims are a thing of the past.

With a three centimeters longer wheelbase, now 2.67 meters, the 2022 model year Forester offers slightly more legroom than its predecessor. Shoulder and elbow room have also increased. In general, the space available in all seats is generous. It’s very easy to get into the back because the doors open almost 90 degrees. This also makes it easier to fit child seats. And due to the conservative design, it has an excellent view of the exterior, which cannot be said for many more expressively styled crossover models. Beauty comes before practical use.

The trunk of the Forester has a familiar format. 509 liters can be stored in the rear. The rear seat backrests can be easily folded down. Then there is a flat cargo area and there is 1779 liters available. Under the boot floor you will find a small compartment with a volume of 15 litres.

We drive the top model with the long designation. The price is as safe as the appearance of the car: 43,990 euros. Yet with everything from LED headlights to leather seats to Harman/Kardon’s premium audio system. The list of teams is too long to post here. If you want it cheaper: The basic Trend version is now available for 34,990 euros. And also with all-wheel drive, automatic transmission, automatic climate control, LED headlights, EyeSight driver assistance system. And also with a five-year warranty up to 160,000 kilometers. That is not a matter of routine.


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