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The Mercury Cars Guide : August 28th 2010
4--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, August 28, 2010 Diesel Forester is a safe bet Keith Didham DRIVEN It has been a long time coming, but Subaru has finally joined the diesel- powered softroader brigade with its Forester. The question is, was it worth the wait? SEEMINGLY some things in motoring take an eternity. Subaru's move to offer diesel engines within its range didn't come with a rush, it was more of a measured pace. Car buyers, wary of the petrol- engined Forester's thirst for fuel, have been hanging out for a more frugal diesel alternative. And now they have it. We have driven it --- and generally love it. Subaru first fitted the clean- burning 2.0-litre turbo diesel to the Outback and quickly followed by adding it to the Forester SUV --- and you can spot the oil burner by the oversized and bulging air scoop on the bonnet to feed the engine's intercooler. By the way, in my eyes that intake actually improves the Forester's looks. In recent years Subaru has been roundly criticised for dropping the ball when it comes to styling. The Forester, with its longish snout, is not the most attractive looker in the SUV rat pack, but I know plenty of people who love to disagree with me. They have held a love affair with the Forester for years --- a loyalty hard won thanks to the wagon's all-wheel-drive abilities and five-star safety features. There are two new diesel Foresters to pick from --- the choice depends on the level of equipment you want. The base version, the 2.0D, sells for $35,990 plus on-road costs. The swankier 2.0D Premium lives up to its name and has a premium price of $39,990. The difference between the two boils down to leather upholstery, of which I am not a great fan, a powered sunroof, bigger alloy wheels, a power adjustable driver's seat, stronger headlamps and a better audio system. However, in this case the $4000 premium seems well justified. Apart from that, the mechanicals are identical in both models. Most car companies slug buyers a hefty premium for a diesel engine --- and don't believe all you are told that diesels are dearer to build. Subaru, to its credit, has kept the price of the diesel at less than $2000, which when you look at the savings in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle is a good deal. However, there are some glaring omissions in the new Forester. The big one is that there is no automatic, so you have to make do with a six-speed manual. An auto will come in time, but at the moment Subaru has lost sales to buyers who demand an auto --- and let's face it, if you live in the city, why would you have a manual anyway? The other downside --- and not a major one --- is the Forester's towing capacity. Many buyers were waiting for the diesel version so they could tow their caravan. The diesel version does have a greater tow capacity than the petrol, but it's only 1600kg (up 200kg), so it is hardly class- leading. The good news about the Forester is that it has become substantially more frugal than its petrol twin. Over a week I achieved, without any effort, 7.5l/100km around the city and low sixes on the highway. Subaru's own figures are 6.4l/100km for a mix of city and highway driving, and 5.7l/100km out on the open road. The bottom line here is that the diesel is cheap to run. The turbo boxer engine, which is surprisingly noisy, develops 108kW and 350Nm of torque, with most of that right where you need it at between 1800 and 2400rpm. On the road, the Forester's performance is a little underdone and that's largely, I suspect, because of the tall gear ratios. First-gear acceleration is adequate, but if you let the revs drop in second or third the wagon struggles to pick up the pace. We have heard of reports of an overly light clutch action, but we didn't find this at all in the test vehicle, but the shifting felt notchy. Where the Forester does excel is on gravel roads --- it's so good I reckon it is now the class leader for ride comfort and feeling of stability. And as expected from Subaru, safety is a big selling point. The Forester gets six air bags, brake assist, hill-start, a self-levelling rear suspension and active head restraints. Inside, the cabin is roomy and comfortable, but there's too much hard plastic trim for my liking. The Forester, if you can get your head around the styling and don't mind a manual gearbox, offers affordable motoring and for the price plenty of value. COVER STORY Subaru Forester
August 14th 2010
September 11th 2010