Subaru finally plugs a glaring gap in its successful medium SUV range with an automatic version of the Forester 2.0D turbo-diesel. It broadens the MY15 Series II line-up that now also includes better trim, updated multimedia and sharper pricing.
WHAT IS IT?
With the vast majority of medium SUV diesel buyers preferring autos, Subaru’s hitherto manual-only 2.0D offering has lacked the transmission required to take on the high-flying Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D and the like. That’s all changed with the Series II gaining a CVT and more value to boot.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Petrol prices may be low, but medium SUV diesel sales continue to bound along. So it’s surprising to learn that one of the booming segment’s most respected combatants – the Subaru Forester – has long lacked an auto diesel offering. Now it does, and with the new CVT comes a host of range-wide upgrades well worth considering.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
It might not be the prettiest SUV on the market, but repeated exposure to the current Forester underlines its fiercely competitive packaging, driveability, efficiency and value. The Series II makeover improves on all that with a smooth and refined diesel auto of sufficient (rather than sparkling) performance capabilities, backed up by more compelling value. Try before you buy any rival medium crossover.
PLUS: Refinement; dynamic; packaging; vision; value; quality; efficiency
MINUS: Needs more low-rev torque; gawky styling; no rear vents; no EyeSight or idle-stop tech on diesel
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IS THERE a more beautiful SUV… said nobody ever? If that cheap jibe is the only major missive aimed at the long-overdue automatic version of the Subaru Forester diesel, then the latest addition in a subtly revised range might get ugly indeed for rivals.
The $35,490 2.0D-L Lineartronic CVT and the more salubriously specified 2.0D-S for $7K extra broaden the already popular Japanese medium SUV’s appeal. And it shouldn’t surprise that its allure is in the way the newcomer looks and feels from behind the wheel.
As with all MY15 models, the Forester’s cabin has been deftly enhanced with less cheapo plastics, more brightwork, a big new touchscreen, voice-recognition tech, improved multimedia, and digital graphics that no longer look pilfered from a Laserdisc player.
All build on a continuing mix of adult-friendly comfort and space, confidence-boosting deep glasshouse, and family-aiding practicality, though the lack of driver’s lumbar support and rear-seat vents, and an oddly high cargo floor (containing a full-size alloy spare) still need correcting. And the clever EyeSight preventative safety tech remains the provenance of Subaru’s petrol-powered models.
Meanwhile, the world’s sole horizontally opposed diesel steps up to Euro 6 emissions compliance thanks to a thorough makeover, scoring a multitude of efficiency and NVH-mitigating measures to create an uncannily quiet operator.
Weighing up to 1667kg, the diesel auto is no waif, and with identical 108kW/350Nm outputs as the continuing (bar the previous ‘2.0D’ base) six-speed manual, off-the-line performance isn’t blistering. However, speed builds strongly with revs, enhanced by the satiny smoothness of the intuitively responsive CVT, so it’s capable of rapid progress. Largely normal in behaviour, there’s virtually no lag or slippage detectable in this lively drivetrain combo.
Throw in balanced (if overly light) steering, measured handling and always-dependable roadholding from the beautifully planted permanent all-wheel-drive chassis (particularly on gravel, where the stability control intervention is nicely calibrated) and the diesel delivers the same dynamic prowess as its impressive petrol-powered sibling, even if the 2.0D-L is saddled with unrefined Yokohama Geolander tyres. Despite riding on inch-bigger Bridgestone 225/55R18s, the 2.0D-S maintains the Forester’s supple suspension quality.
There’s a compelling new value story, with range-wide price cuts of between $1500 and $3500. The base 110kW/198Nm 2.0i-L manual petrol is now $29,990, while the volume-selling 126kW/235Nm 2.5i-L CVT petrol is $2K cheaper at $32,990.
Last year, the latter won our rigorous medium SUV Megatest on the strength of solid consistency. The 2.0D CVT only builds on that. So never mind the face, the Forester is like Miss World winning on personality and brainpower.
Model: Subaru Forester 2.0D-L Lineartronic
Engine: 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TD
Max power: 108kW @ 3600rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1600-2400rpm
0-100km/h: 9.9sec (claimed)
On sale: Now
Click here to read the full range review of the Subaru Forester