TWO point six eight seconds. Sometimes it helps remembering seemingly pointless data like this. You see, the new Subaru Forester Prodrive takes 2,68 seconds to get from rest to 60 km/h. That is quite fast, yes – but how fast, exactly? Well, let’s put it this way – if you drive a Jaguar XKR, Lotus Elise 111R, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Chrysler 300C SRT-8, or even a Mercedes CLK63 AMG, to name a few, then you’d better become accustomed to pretend not seeing the oddlooking and burbling SUV next to you at a robot. Don’t even try… In the typical traffic light grand prix, this fairly inconspicuous looking compact SUV will blow away any these the cars in an embarrassment-inducing mixture of turbo rush, tyre smoke and turbulence.
To help you avoid extreme humiliation, allow us to point out some identifying features of this fearsome new destroyer of reputations. At first glance, it looks like your archetypal Forester. But pay attention. There is a black mesh grille in front, as well as a chin spoiler. Viewed from the rear, there is only a discreet rooftop-mounted spoiler, and a slightly bigger exhaust. But in profile it gets much easier, because you can easily see that it’s been lowered by 50 mm, and that it rides on attractive 18-inch multi-spoke alloys.
But most of all you’ll be able to identify this flying new Forester by its sound. In recent times Subarus have lost the charming boxer beat of the firstgeneration Impreza. The good news is that the warble is back. For the Forester Prodrive, Subaru South Africa has removed one of the catalytic converters, and freeflowed a section of the exhaust. And then it added the Euro4- compliant Prodrive performance kit, comprising changes to the turbocharger and reprogramming of the engine management software. The result? A very distinctive boxer beat at idle, and a totally addictive, and very raunchy, burble under power. Oh, and 185 kW, developed at 5 400 r/min, and 350 N.m of torque at 3 500. It sends that power to all four wheels via a standard five-speed manual gearbox (you can also have an automatic Forester Prodrive), and Subaru’s proven “symmetrical” all-wheel drive. Out on our test strip the Forester scorched to 100 km/h in 6,38 seconds, clocked a 26,45-seconds kilometre sprint, before head-butting its speed limiter at 205 km/h with the same force as Os du Randt running flat out into a wall. This thing is fast. But it did go back to Subaru with a whining diff…
However, easily the best news is that this Forester is not only a one-trick pony. It also handles. Subaru South Africa has not only dropped the suspension and fitted bigger wheels, but the vehicle now also sports inverted strut suspension – an arrangement that improves unsprung weight. Of course, the suspension is also firmer.
Find a twisty piece of road andthis is a SUV that can keep up with the hot hatches. It has tremendous grip, and its biggest strength is powering out of corners. Even the basic Forester is an impressive handling machine, but this Prodrive version is something else – there is notably less of the pitch, dive and roll tendencies of the typical SUV. Driven enthusiastically, however, it will reveal two weaknesses. Firstly, it is slow to react to initial steering input, and, secondly, the standard seats are simply not grippy enough. But these are small glitches in a machine that never fails to entertain.