The updated Subaru Forester XT, along with the rest of the range, gets some slight tweaks to enhance the appeal of the much-loved SUV.
The 2016 Subaru Forester was refreshed in February this year receiving minor detail changes inside and out to all but the Forester XT and Forester 2.0i-L). But it was to the suspension that the biggest improvements occurred, with Subaru sending engineers Down Under to sort out the ride and handling of this mid-life update.
The bread and butter models have all been tweaked and visually to a greater degree than the Forester XT Premium we’re testing. This model runs a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol making 177kW at 5600rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2400-3600rpm. This is mated to a CVT which, when Sport Sharp (S#) is selected via the Si-Drive system (there are two other modes, Intelligent and Sport) will do its best to act like an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with eight preset ratios.
And, on the whole the CVT does a good job, although when left to its own devices will slur its way through shifts and feel peaky as it responds to the throttle. Concerning the engine, there’s plenty of grunt available and across a decent spread, so the Forester always feels perky enough to keep up with and move past traffic. That said, the CVT does sometimes trip itself up requiring a decent shove to get at the right amount of grunt.
Subaru has spent a great deal of engineering effort to retune the way the Forester rides and handles to stifle some of the criticism levelled at it when it was first launched. Subaru sent its engineers Down Under to fiddle and test with the Forester’s suspension.
The Forester XT now offers a comfortable and reasonably flat ride with the dampers able to provide decent support on the black top. One issue, though, is that the suspension isn’t particularly long legged and, so, when driving across rutted dirt roads it can become a little crashy. The secondary ride is pretty good, though, so most bumps and knocks are filtered out of the cabin.
And, where the old Forester used to push wide when hurried through corners, this tweaked Forester XT feels more agile; more resistant to body roll mid-corner and is less likely to run wide of the corner when pushed, but that’s also in part down to the adoption of Vehicle Dynamic Control on the XT Premium we tested. You can now confidently say that Subaru has exorcised the Forester’s ride and handling demons.
As a family car, the Forester continues to stack up on the inside. It offers a nice high-set driving position that, via the electric seat adjust, can be raised even higher. Vision all the way around from the driver’s seat is excellent, although the reversing camera is a little too grainy in low light to be particularly effective.
Over in the backseat there’s more than enough legroom for two adults, the middle seat is more of a perch as the transmission tunnel robs legroom. There are ISOFIX mounting points on the two outboard seats, and three top tether mounts.
The back seats are 60:40 split fold and while they don’t fold totally flat (the seats can be dropped via two boot mounted levers) they do increase the boot from 422 litres to 1474 litres. And because of the boxy design of the Forester the boot space is quite usable. Under the boot floor is a full-size (18-inch spare wheel).
Subaru’s multimedia system is good, although it does seem a little off the pace in terms of not offering, say, Apple Car Play or Android Auto integration. Beyond this gripe, the system couldn’t be simpler to use. There are shortcut menu buttons along the side of the touchscreen panel, the sat-nav is clever and quick to respond, and the fact the climate control is separate from the unit is a big tick in my book.
The Forester XT Premium gets Subaru’s clever EyeSight system which works very well and isn’t as easily tricked by non-line lines on the road as some systems we’ve experienced recently. And this brings me neatly to safety. The Forester offers permanent all-wheel drive, airbags, adjustable front seat belts, daytime running lights, stability and traction controls and, on the Forester XT Vehicle Dynamics Control which will brake the inside wheel when understeer is detected to help push the car into the corner. It gets a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers with de-icers, dusk-sensing headlights, and more. The Forester achieved a five-star rating in 2013 which the 2016 model also carries.