What is it?

Subaru released a comprehensively updated Forester range in September. It is, in effect, new from the ground up and includes a stellar list of standard features.

It’s a four model range — 2.5i and 2.5i-L, Premium and 2.5-S — all powered by a 2.5-litre boxer four with a 7-speed CVT style transmission..

There is no longer a diesel.

Peak power from the 90 per cent brand new flat four is 136kW, up by over seven percent on the previous model, with peak torque now 239Nm (only a minor increase here).

Fuel is standard 91RON and Subaru rates economy at 7.4L/100km.

We took the Premium taken on a 1000km loop to Bega and back, at average 6.9L/100km — with four aboard, luggage, and a pooch.

What’s it cost?

Forester starts at $33,490 plus on roads for the entry level Forester 2.5i AWD.

The 2.5i-L comes in at $34,490, while the Premium as tested, is a steal at $38,490. Go to the top of the ladder and it’s $41,490 for the S.

Standard across the range is SRH, or Steering Responsive Headlights. It’s surprising just how effective swivelling headlights are at night.

Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist system is also standard and includes Autonomous Emergency Braking with pedestrian detection. This was inadvertently tested when a telecommunications contractor wandered on to the road from behind a truck.

The safety package is extensive in the Premium, with DMS, or Driver Management System combining a swag of electronic aids. An infra-red scanner mounted in the centre of the upper dash, reads the driver’s eyes, effectively flashing a warning: “Keep ya bloody eyes on the road, ya mug”. It also monitors for drowsiness and has facial recognition.

The Vision Assist package has Blind Spot Monitoring, 360 degree camera view, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Reverse Automatic Braking, a system that will stop the car if rear sensors detect an object.

DAB or Digital Audio Broadcast audio is on board, as is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Intelligent Drive system debuts in the Premium and the much loved X-Mode has been given an update for the fifth generation Forester, with refinements to the combination of driving modes available.

Lane Keep Assist is included but is a little too enthusiastic in tugging the Premium back if the lines are getting close.

Being based on a new platform means more space space.

Shoulder room is up by 30mm to 1478mm, Hip and leg room have increased marginally by 5mm and 8mm. Cargo space has increased also, with the floor width now 58mm wider, 22mm taller, and opening width has gone up by a massive 134mm to 1300mm.

Standard capacity is now 498 litres, an increase of 78 litres. Access to the cargo area is via a powered tailgate (with memory height function), accessible via a button near the driver’s knee and on the remote key fob. The cargo area light has also been relocated to the roof.

Interior trim is classy and good looking. Plastics are a mix of soft touch and ripples, with splashes of leather style material adorning the dash.

The seats have cloth for the squab and backrest, with leather for the sides. There are no heating elements for the front.

The SI Drive buttons and Information buttons access information shown on both the upper centre screen and the colour dash screen.  

Inside, the cockpit is Euro, with the sweeping arch design seen in cars such as a Jaguar.

However, the self retracting seatbelts don’t always fully retract and tend to bang on the plastics of the clasp metal.

There are a couple of nice touches too.

There is a two-position seat memory function, and a personalisation function that allows a driver to have a Hello message come up on the top centre screen.

Comfort levels are enhanced with the addition of voice-controlled climate control with assistance from the Driver Management System. An extra pair of 2.1V USB ports are fitted for rear seat passengers and there are rear air vents too.

Outside Subaru continues its astounding ability to build a SUV-sized vehicle that looks like a station wagon.

All round vision is stupendous thanks to the large glasshouse, and the roof height also means that head room is gigantic.

Nearly every panel is new and Subaru’s signature “C” motif for the rear lights has been enhanced, with a design reminiscent of Citroen.

There’s C-shaped LED driving lights up front, a bluffer and more upright nose, and a lovely set of 18 inch alloys with Bridgestone Dueler 225/55 rubber.

Colour choice includes three new shades, Crimson Red pearl, Horizon Blue pearl, and metallic Jasper Green. 

What’s it go like?

The familiar burble of the boxer engine and a well sorted 7-speed CVT go together like Kirk and Spock. Although peak torque is at a typically high 4400rpm, the well spaced ratios in the CVT don’t dull what’s available below.

Punched hard it’s typical CVT to a point, with that combination of revs rising then steadying as the box decides where it wants to be. Under light throttle it’s more akin to a “normal” auto, with slurry but barely felt changes.

Acceleration feels smooth enough under any circumstance, but there are occasional judders in the lower rev and gear range under brakes.

On the highways from Eastern Creek through to Canberra, and from there to Cooma and Bega, and back, it’s an easy and relaxed machine.

On light throttle it sometimes hunts between sixth and seventh, but once in its stride sits somewhere around the 1600rpm range, quietly humming away.

Even fully loaded, it never struggles and or lacks urge.

The tyre pressure monitoring system showed the rear tyres to be a little lower in pressure. That remained consistent throughout the review period. The Premium’s suspension tune, though, never offered anything indicating that the slightly lower pressure was affecting the excellent ride and handling capabilities of the package.

Steering is light but not light enough to lose contact. It’s well weighted and ratioed to keep slow speed understeer to a minimum. Punted into the sweeping corners just west of Bega at speed had the AWD and safety aids quietly, unobtrusively, keeping the Premium well centred.

Lift off oversteer was noticeable, but only coming out of corners that easily allowed the highway limit to be met and with a full lift off of the foot.

Down the 10km worth of winding road at Brown Mountain had the CVT holding gear nicely, and the brakes hauling up the Premium with no fuss.

The suspension tune is perhaps a little on the soft side overall, yet even on the most undulating of roads never felt it would end in an unsettled, pogoing, result. Even with the extra load it felt composed and unflustered. With the responsiveness of the fly-by-wire throttle, instant action all round means a enjoyable and safe driving experience.

What we like?

  • Excellent safety and equipment list
  • Extra room that comes with the new platform
  • All round vision

What we don’t like?

  • No diesel option
  • Over exuberant lane keep assist

The bottom line?

Subaru continue to build cars that have an incredibly loyal following, and the Forester Premium makes it easy to understand why. It’s a solidly built unit, with an extensive feature list at an outstanding price. With opposition such as as Kia’s Sportage, perhaps Holden’s Equinox, and maybe even Volvo’s XC40 at the upper end — the Forester Premium holds its own nicely.

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Subaru Forester Premium, priced from $38,490
  • 8/10
    Looks - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Comfort - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value - 8.5/10
8.3/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).