Forester a family fire-breather
REMEMBER those days before you had kids? When the world was your oyster, all your possessions fitted in a backpack and going to bed before 2am meant you were having an early night?
Remember how you said having them would never change your life? How the kids would fit into your routine, how you would still go trekking in Nepal, how you would never ever part with that special performance thrill seeker in the garage?
Well... so here we are, trawling the shopping centre for a pram park, standing in line for Wiggles tickets and hoping for a 6am sleep-in. And that rev machine in the garage? Gone. Long gone. A distant memory replaced by an oh so practical usurper that can make light work of the kitchen sink and is about as exciting as one, too.
Fear no more. Subaru has answered the call for a more performance-oriented soft-roader with the Forester Special Edition. It runs the impressive WRX turbo 2.5-litre engine linked to the WRX's auto paddle-shift five speed unit and a 45/55 split AWD system.
At $50,000 it really is the top-of-the-range market but hey, you can't live on memories alone.
It is difficult to believe that a car that takes up the same room as a mid-range sedan can be so much more spacious. Leg room is rather generous even for adults in the back row and you can fit in three car seats which is a rarity for modern five-seaters. Blue-trimmed leather suede seats are attractive and comfy with an eight-way electric adjustment setting, making it easy to find the ideal driving position. The rear splits 60/40 to further increase an excellent cargo area equipped with a security blind. There are plenty of little hidey holes but the narrowness of the Forester makes the centre console feel a bit squashed.
On the road
With a WRX turbo 2.5-litre engine under the bonnet you would expect the S-Edition to get up without too much effort and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
Subaru has tried to dampen engine noise but there is still enough of a roar to deliver an exciting driving experience even with screaming kids and the shopping in the back. It delivers its best performance at midrange with a refined fluidity absent in many soft-roaders. The S-Edition has a specially tuned sporty suspension which means the shocks and springs have been tightened to help prevent body roll.
We didn't think that it stuck to script too well though, with the tight suspension making heavy work of slight imperfections. The steering didn't feel like it had too much feedback either but perhaps we're being a bit picky in expecting the S-Edition to deliver the same sort of performance as the WRX. Good ground clearance and steely all-wheel drive make it a good performer off the bitumen as well.
What do you get?
A glass sunroof and premium sound system add the wow factor to a full house of inclusions. Bluetooth, an easy-to-use navigation system and reverse camera are standard as are electric seats, dual zone air-conditioning and USB audio input.
The instrument panel is classy and front footwell illumination quite practical but the dash and door plastics, despite silver accents, are of the cheap and nasty variety – certainly not what you would expect from an investment exceeding $50,000. Like all Subarus the S-Edition boasts a five-star ANCAP rating with six airbags and the traction control VDC system that senses vehicle direction and uses brake, throttle and engine management to help maintain stability.
There is no shortage of contenders in this segment but the top fight should come from the Toyota RAV4 ($36,990), Mazda CX7 ($38,990), Nissan X-Trail (38,490), Hyundai iX35 ($35,490) yet none has the punch of this Forester.
Excellent space, good storage, a lot of oomph and a top safety rating makes the S-Edition a contender. Inclusions are generous and visibility good.
The S-Edition is available only in five-speed automatic and although the paddle shifters are easy to use, the grunt offered by a manual could be so much more satisfying.
With a 2.5-litre boxer engine and a claim of 0-100km in 6.5 seconds you would expect the S-Edition to be heavy on the juice. The 10.5 litres/100km combined average is about on par with the competition but it does tend to get a lot thirstier during city driving.
I don't know that you'd call the Forester a classical beauty but a new deeper grille and the vent on the bonnet that showcases the boxer engine, keeps things interesting.
If you're a loyal Subaru customer, a proud WRX driver who has had to give up the beast to accommodate the practical needs of a family or a SUV driver looking for a bit of grunt and driving pleasure, then the S-Edition is worth a second look. Provided that is the hefty price tag isn't a deterrent.
Model: Subaru Forester S-Edition.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive compact SUV.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged horizontally-opposed Boxer petrol engine generating maximum power of 193kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 347Nm between 2800-4800rpm.
Consumption: 10.5 litres/100km combined average.
Performance: 0-100km in 6.5 seconds.
Bottom line: $50,990.
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