The all-new Subaru Forester, while looking eerily like its predecessor, is actually a completely new vehicle - inside and out.
During the regional launch of the all-new Subaru Forester in Taichung, Taiwan, we had the opportunity to sample the new SUV in both on and off-road conditions.
But before we start on the review, let’s take a closer look at the all-new Forester.
Subaru took the evolutionary path when penning the design for the new Forester, as the front end of the new model is not drastically different from the model it replaces. Even towards the sides, the new model bears some resemblance to the earlier model. Thankfully, the rear end has been redesigned with a pair of C-shaped tail lights that give the Forester a refreshing change.
Underneath lies the new Subaru Global Platform, first seen on the new generation Impreza and subsequently the second generation XV.
This new platform brings greater torsional strength for improved chassis rigidity, which leads to lower noise levels, enhanced comfort, and greater handling - but more on that later.
Our drive with the all-new Subaru Forester was restricted to a go-kart circuit and a specially-prepared off-road track, giving us a brief impression of the new SUV.
We first started off at the go-kart track, where Subaru prepared a Mazda CX-5 2.2D and a previous generation Forester for our comparison. A Honda CR-V was also present, but was made unavailable to us due to unforeseen circumstances.
In order to reacquaint ourselves with the Forester, we started off in the previous generation model before sampling the new model.
Right off the bat, the all-new Subaru Forester remained more surefooted and composed when urged through the slalom test. We also noticed that the steering is sharper and more responsive, thanks to the new variable ratio steering system.
Crucial, however, is the rear seat comfort. Not only have Subaru engineers improved the rear legroom of the new model, they also managed to improve the ride comfort. In the back seat of the new model, we noticed that, as the driver was wrestling the car through the slalom, we noticed that the pendulum effect was far less noticeable from the back seat of the new model. A quick check with the engineers on site confirmed our suspicion that they reworked the suspension to further improve the ride comfort. Additionally, as the rear stabiliser bar is now mounted to the body itself, lends itself much better handling than its predecessor.
As for the driving dynamics, the all-new Forester is by no means a challenger to the Mazda CX-5, but where the Forester claws back is how predictable the handling is, on top of the hallmark Symmetrical AWD system.
On one particular section of the go-kart circuit, we had to accelerate each SUV out of a turn, trying to provoke understeer. While the CX-5’s driving dynamics was the benchmark amongst SUVs, the all-new Forester managed to resist understeering when the Mazda understeered badly, with ESP kicking in. But we should also note that both cars were not using identical tyres and we weren't able to verify the respective tyre pressures. It is afterall a Mazda car arranged by Subaru for a Subaru event.
Moving to the off-road section, the all-new Forester further cemented its off-road credentials as it took on the entire course with relative ease thanks to a whole suite of electronic wizardry and gizmos, including the new Special X-Mode, Symmetrical AWD system with Active Torque Split, and Hill Descent Control.
The first section was the cross rollers, where only two wheels were in contact with the ground. Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD system senses wheel slippage and sends more torque to wheels allowing the wheel to spin freely so it digs through the slippery snow/mud to get better traction from the surface below
Then there’s the bumpy road section which highlights the rigidity of the new Subaru Global Platform. Coupled with the new suspension, massive 220 mm ground clearance, and improved rear stabilizers, the all-new Forester absorbs shocks remarkably well.
As mentioned earlier, the all-new Forester features the new Special X-Mode, which features two modes : Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud. When the Snow/Dirt mode is activated, traction control remains active just like the regular X-Mode. With the Deep Snow/Mud mode, traction control is deactivated, allowing the wheels to spin freely so it digs through the slippery snow/mud to get better traction from the surface below.
The side ramp and off-road slalom further cemented the capabilities of the Symmetrical AWD system and the new platform.
While our initial impressions of the all-new Subaru Forester are largely positive, we still need to sample the SUV locally before we can draw any conclusions. But as it stands, the all-new Forester offers a lot of potential.