Forester has X factor

Subaru Forester XT
Subaru Forester XT

It took a while to warm to the third generation Subaru Forester but this fourth edition is a far more appealing thing.

The styling’s been toned down and the technical ability ramped up. There’s also the return of the turbocharged Forester XT alongside turbodiesel and normally-aspirated all-wheel drive models, a car we’re going to try here.

The Forester XT’s 240PS turbo petrol engine is a peach, getting to 62mph in just 7.5 seconds and running on to a top speed of 137mph. The addition of a turbo makes it feel so much brawnier than the breathless lump in Subaru’s BRZ sportscar and the Lineartronic CVT transmission is paired with X-Mode, a whole suite of electronics designed to get the best traction off road. On tarmac, the body control is excellent even when taking liberties in corners and visibility is excellent. The steering could use a little more feel but that’s a minor gripe. The Mazda CX-5 just got a serious rival for the title of best handling SUV.

You’ll be surprised in fact by just how far you can go across poorly surfaced terrain. But of course, the terrain you’re most likely to be using in your Forester will usually be tarmac-covered. Just as well then that, in a Lineartronic XT auto model at least, you’ll be able to set your car up for that too, thanks to ‘SI-Drive’, the ‘Subaru Intelligent Drive’ system accessed via this steering wheel switch.

Sit this fourth-generation car next to its predecessor and it actually looks less adventurous. A bit more generously proportioned maybe, but a lot of the more overt detailing has been toned back. It’s still a fairly good looking thing but it’s no head turner. The interior has come on leaps and bounds though, with Subaru wisely investing in the ‘touch points’ such as the steering wheel, handbrake and gear shift, while optimising the switchgear feel of all other controls. Those of you who remember Subaru interiors feeling about as plush as a Photo-Me booth will appreciate the use of higher grade materials on the dashboard, the centre console and doors. Some of it still looks a little Japanese generic and it does look a whole lot better with a touch screen in the double DIN entertainment slot.

Overall, this Forester emerges as one of the best cars in its class if you really plan on using it to its full potential.