Subaru has unveiled the latest, fifth-generation version of their long-running Forester, boasting a number of upgrades and new standard features, along with improvements in engine performance, cabin space, cargo room and ease of use.
There’s nothing too radical in terms of changes, but the improvements and upgrades are significant enough that they should keep the 5-seat compact SUV at the top of the heap in terms of popularity.With more than 12,000 sold last year, the Forester was Subaru’s best-selling model in Australia, while total sales since the local launch 21 years ago are approaching 250,000 units.
“With the launch of this new generation, we see every opportunity to build on that success, thanks to the new model’s great combination of emotional value, practicality and technology,” said Subaru Australia Managing Director, Colin Christie. “New Forester is even more family-friendly – spacious, safe, fun and efficient, offering a great combination of comfort and adventure.”
As previously reported, the 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel Forester variants have been dropped, leaving the model lineup - 2.5i and progressing through 2.5i-L and 2.5i Premium to the range-topping 2.5i-S – powered exclusively by an updated version of Subaru’s naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol boxer engine.
Subaru’s standard Symmetrical AWD with X-Mode remains, but like the engine, both have been upgraded; the latter to “strengthen off-road and steep hill performance”. New additions include a standard electronic parking brake and an Auto Vehicle Hold function that keeps the vehicle stationary in circumstances like an intersection or on a hill when the brake pedal is released.
While the 2.5-litre capacity of the Forester’s boxer four engine remains, Subaru claims the engine features 90 per cent new parts, including an Active Valve Control System on the exhaust valves, thermal management system, a stronger block, redesigned heads with stronger gaskets, plus a modified crankshaft, pistons and con rods amongst a long list of changes.
Combined with an increased compression ratio, the result is an engine that’s quieter, almost two kilograms lighter and more powerful, with 136kW and 239Nm, compared to the current engine’s 126kW and 235Nm.
Offered on a naturally-aspirated Forester for the first time is the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) system. Limited to the 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S, SI-Drive allows a choice of fuel efficient (I mode) or performance (S mode) driving, and while the economy figures have not been confirmed, either with or without SI-Drive, there is a larger fuel tank (63lt vs 60lt) to increase range.
The Forester’s CVT transmission retains the 7-speed ‘manual mode’ but has been upgraded and recalibrated in line with the engine to deliver “sportier” performance. Similarly, the X-Mode off-road driving assistant carries over for all MY19 Forester grades, but is said to be improved, with the 2.5i-S featuring two modes and adding display information for left and right roll angle, plus incline angle.
Bigger Outside, Roomier Inside
Built on the Subaru Global Platform (SGP), the new Forester is longer and wider than the model it replaces, and while the external dimension changes are minor, repacking the componentry within has resulted in some impressive gains in both passenger space and luggage capacity.
At 4625mm, the Forester is 15mm longer than the old model, while width has been increased 20mm to 1815mm. More importantly, the SGP platform has allowed an increase in wheelbase to 2770mm (up 30mm) and its arguably this change that’s had the greatest impact inside.
Front seat occupants get marginally more shoulder, hip and leg room – 30mm, 5mm and 8mm, respectively – but the winners are rear seat occupants, with 20mm more shoulder room and 15mm more hip room, while leg room is up by an impressive 65mm. A more upright C-pillar makes for easier rear seat access, especially when adding child safety seats and seating children.
In the luggage area, overall floor length has increased by 35mm to 908mm with the rear seats up and 290mm with them folded to 1856mm. Width is up 58mm to 1585mm, with increases in load height as well.
A squarer load area has been matched with a modified tailgate, with an opening now 1300mm at its widest point (+134mm) and 1258mm at its lowest point (+158mm). On the Forester 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S, the power-operated tailgate now opens smoother and faster. Changes to the backs of the second-row seats have been made to provide a flatter floor area, with total cargo volume increased by 78 litres to 498 litres (VDA).
Minor Style Makeover
In terms of appearance, the new Forester is said to draw on the “dynamic x solid” design philosophy seen on other Subaru models, like the XV and Impreza.
The main grille is deeper and lower grille larger to give a more solid look to the front end that was updated for 2017. Profile features are largely unchanged, while the C-shape headlight design is now replicated on the tail lights.
New-look wheels are offered on all grades, with the 2.5i and 2.5i-L getting 17-inch alloys, with 18-inch for the 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S. Nine exterior colours are offered for 2019, three of which are new – Crimson Red pearl, Horizon Blue pearl and Jasper Green metallic.
Inside, the makeover is equally subtle, with the focus said to be on “elegance and user-friendly functionality”. The result is silver-framed display and control areas, redesigned air vent grilles, a more substantial look to the centre console and the use of large wrapped surfaces to reinforce the feeling of increased space that’s backed-up by the dimensional changes.
Interior design changes are also said to improve the performance of the Forester’s six-speaker audio system, specifically playback frequency at low and high ends.
Behind the steering wheel that’s smaller and more comfortable (on a steering column that now features more tilt- and tele-adjustment range), the driver gets an LCD driving information display between the two main analogue gauges, while the central dash set-up consists of a two-level ‘Multi-Function Display’ (MFD).
On the MFD, the upper 6.3-inch screen shows information like air con settings, clock and outside temperature, while the main 6.5-inch screen below (8.0-inch on 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S) covers functions such as Vehicle Dynamics Control, AWD X-Mode setting and fuel efficiency information, with additional navigation info for the 2.5i Premium and 2.5i-S’s standard sat nav.
The main screen also shows the usual rear-view camera display, safety and infotainment functions, with steering wheel buttons allowing the driver to alter the display or access additional information without their hands leaving the wheel. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard, while the climate control air con has been improved and the Forester audio system upgraded with digital radio included for the first time.
Key safety changes include the adoption of steering-responsive headlights and the third-generation Subaru EyeSight driver assist system with HUD across the Forester range, while Reverse Automatic Braking and adaptive headlights have been added on all grades except the 2.5i.
EyeSight has been upgraded with an improved camera, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Centreing Control and Preceding Vehicle Adaptive Steering Control, as well as a manual Speed Limiter that limits torque and/or applies the brakes if the driver exceeds a pre-set speed. Amongst the other standard safety features are Active Torque Vectoring for improved cornering stability, Pre-collision Braking function, Adaptive Cruise Control and Emergency Stop Signal functions.
On the 2.5i-L, 2.5 Premium and 2.5i-S, a Front View Monitor and Side View Monitor improve vision in blind spots, while the Driver Monitoring System on the same model grades adds ‘Driver Focus’ that can recognise driver preferences for things like air con, mirrors and seat settings, while also issuing visual and aural warnings if it detects distracted vision from the driver and signs of fatigue.
In terms of safety rating, there’s no ANCAP data on the new Forester (as this issue went to press), but Subaru are confident it’ll achieve the same 5-star rating as its predecessor and continue the trend established in 2003 when the Forester was the first Japanese-built vehicle to achieve a 5-star ANCAP rating.
2019 Subaru Forester – model pricing*
Forester 2.5i $33,490
Forester 2.5i-L $35,490
Forester 2.5i Premium $38,490
Forester 2.5i-S $41,490
*Manufacturer’s List Price only, excluding ORCs.
See your Subaru dealer for further details.