I’ll say it upfront… it was going to be tough for me not to like this car. What it offers and what my lifestyle requires are as close as damnit to a perfect match.
Here’s the Scooby: roomy, comfortable, well-specced, indecently quick and probably the best-handling chassis in this niche.
And here’s me: has a family, likes the odd weekend away, is not adverse to Kimi-esque bursts of speed on asphalt and gravel, and owns a few bicycles.
That last little sliver of information naturally results in a fair amount of stick from the rest of the CAR mag crew. Being die-hard petrolheads, the merest suggestion that perhaps they might also enjoy the pleasures of cycling results in hisses and various hand gestures designed to ward off evil spirits. I have not given up.
That info also offers up another clue as to why the Forester 2,0XT and I would become good mates. If you are a cyclist, you’ll know that throughout its four generations the Forester has enjoyed favour among outdoor sports enthusiasts. From snowboarders and kayakers to trail runners and mountain bikers, the Forester’s utilitarian looks, AWD traction and versatile interior space has made it a firm favourite among weekend adventurers. Basically, it’s been “The Cool Car” among this cognoscenti for the last two decades – particularly in the US and also right here in SA.
For the last six weeks, the Forester has been my regular car. Offered as a stopgap until my Forester 2,5XS long-term test car arrives later this month, I’ve been enjoying its delights on the weekday morning school/work run, the Saturday morning grocery shop, and on the odd farm road muddied by the one of the wettest Cape winters ever.
Thanks to 288 dm3 (1 240 dm3 with seats folded) worth of luggage space, the Forester swallows family-size quantities of paraphernalia with ease and accommodates its occupants in a roomy, leather-seated cabin with a large window surface area all round, including a double-volume glass sunroof as standard. It also comes with premium touches like an auto-powered rear hatch, keyless entry, multi-functional colour display with a reversing camera, and auto headlamps and rain sensor wipers.
XT models have long been lauded for their pace and this one’s 177 kW 2.0 turbopetrol engine, coupled to its symmetrical AWD system, means the car not only embarrasses many a hot hatch between traffic lights, but also feels very settled, devouring large stretches of gravel road. It also has an “X-Mode” that uses the central and rear diffs to traverse steep, low-grip terrain.
There is of course, a downside. The Forester range is not cheap and this XT will cost you R529 000. That’s a lot. It’s also a price tag that puts it among the Swedes, Germans and Brits – generally viewed as premium brands a notch above the likes of Subaru.
It’s not the most frugal car either. The 2,0 turbopetrol engine gave us 10,2 L/100 km when we tested it in May last year, but carrying my family and fuel-economy wrecking cyclocross bike on the Thule roof-mount, meant I battled to get it under 11,3 L/100 km. And there were no Kimi shenanigans involved – I purposely drove with a very light foot.
That said, the Forester XT remains a popular car in South Africa – particularly among the weekend warrior caste – and I’ll be a little sad to see it go in a couple of weeks. It really is a helluva lot of fun watching Mr Boy Racer’s dismayed frown slowly recede in my rear-view mirror as the Subaru catapults from the robot. The XS replacement will be with me for the next 20 000km and, featuring all the same interior and luxury touches as the XT but a more frugal 2,5 petrol engine (and R100k cheaper), it’s probably a more sensible bet for a responsible family guy like me. Probably.
Model: Subaru Forester 2,0XT
Engine: 2,0 litre, four-cylinder boxer turbopetrol
Power: 177 kW @ 5600 r/min
Torque: 350 N.m @ 2400 r/min
Maintenance plan: 3 yr/75 000 km
Price: R529 000