Subaru’s facelifted Forester crossover SUV went on sale in Japan over the weekend and, while maintaining its sober styling, the vehicle has been tweaked to give even die-hard Subaru fans something to grin about.

Subaru’s facelifted Forester crossover SUV went on sale in Japan over the weekend and, while maintaining its sober styling, the vehicle has been tweaked to give even die-hard Subaru fans something to grin about.

Speaking to CARtoday.com on Tuesday, Subaru SA managing director, Teresita van Gaalen, said the facelifted Forester would only be available here in 2006. She added that since Subaru SA was an importer, “we don’t know to what extent” the facelift will mimic the Japanese model shown here.

The exterior on the Japanese-spec model is significantly more modern, though thankfully for some, the new face of Subaru as shown for the first time on the B9 Tribeca when it was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show last month, was given a miss. Hence, the Forester’s original face remains largely unchanged apart from new headlights and the simpler bumper.

The interior is functionally elegant and includes features such as water-resistant fabric and interior lining, while the floor mat in the luggage space and the rear seat back are covered with heavy-duty materials to resist scratching, tearing and dirt. More sumptuously appointed than its predecessor, certain models come equipped with everything from power seats to a chilled storage compartment.

More importantly though, are the numerous adjustments made beneath the surface for improved performance and handling. Though not available locally the two litre natural aspirated and turbocharged powerplants have been revised to offer smoother acceleration and reduced noise levels with greater power output. No changes have been announced for the 2,5-litre engine currently available here.

This time round the direct-control automatic transmission, previously only used on the turbocharged version, is available in the naturally aspirated model as well. The gear shift control is regulated to ensure uninterrupted power flow and good fuel economy.

A Sportshift (electronically controlled, four-speed automatic) option is available to drivers who enjoy a more sporty driving experience. The adoption of double-cone synchromesh on first and third gears have made gear shifting smoother and more precise with the manual transmission.

Subaru’s outstanding handling has been retained and improved, with the chassis now incorporating a rebound spring in the front damper, front subframes and modifying the front suspension’s geometry.

Cornering stability is also improved thanks to a revised rear crossmember, which has been adjusted to provide extra rigidity to the rear suspension. And there’s a revised All-Wheel Drive system for even more stability and better performance on all driving surfaces.