Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Subaru Forester
Forester grows
July 2008

MY boys went wild when I told them we had a Subaru Forester lined up for a weekly test.

“That’s the car from Gladiators … cool,’’ they exclaimed.

When you are aged 7 and 4, TV doesn’t get any better than a show where combatants can whack each other with giant inflatable pugil sticks without their parents moving in to break things up, sending them to their rooms and banning them from ice-cream for a month.

Subaru was a major sponsor of the Channel 7 program that offered the two winning challengers a Subaru Forester each.

Believe me, it was a prize well deserved after they survived encounters with a fearsome 140kg man mountain called Thunder, or the queen of the warrior women, Amazon.

Like Gladiators, the Subaru Forester has grown considerably since it first appeared in the 1990s.

Forester was the car that started the whole compact SUV fad more than a decade ago. Since then, it has recorded sales of almost 105,000 in Australia.

The third generation builds on all the endearing qualities of its predecessor _ impressive on and off-road manners, all-wheel-drive fun, good visibility, and flexible seating.

The latest wagon is safer, more refined, and roomier than the outgoing model.

It’s 75mm longer, 60mm wider and 110mm higher. Importantly, it affords those in the back seat 109mm more leg room (965mm total) and front occupants 29mm extra (1095mm), so even Thunder has nothing to growl about.

Ground clearance has been boosted 20mm to 220mm.

Despite coming with more standard equipment, the entry level X version is $1500 cheaper, starting at $30,490 for the manual. The XS is priced at $33,990 ($1000 cheaper) and the XS Premium $37,490 (also down $1000).

All Foresters come with anti lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), dual front, side and curtain airbags and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC).

There’s also remote central locking, cruise control with steering wheel controls, height and reach adjustable steering column, immobiliser security system, a multi-function dashboard display, power steering, windows and mirrors, rear seat back adjustment and centre fold down armrest, 60/40 split fold rear seat and three 12V/120W power sockets.

XS adds climate control air conditioning, front fog lights, rear seat base retractable cup holder and tray, self-levelling rear suspension, six-stack CD player with seven speakers, wood grain type centre console surround and 16 inch alloy wheels with full size spare.

XS Premium throws in eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat, leather trim and sunroof.

The willing 2.5-litre horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine has been tweaked to deliver a boost in power and torque and the five-speed manual transmission, as tested, showed better shift quality.

There’s also a noticeable improvement in noise suppression, with much less harshness making its way into the cabin.

The Forester has constant AWD, which ensures safe and sure-footed driving in a variety of conditions.

Fuel economy figures are better, at about 9.3 litres for every 100km covered _ a 3 per cent gain in the manual version.

All Foresters have a maximum five-star crashworthiness rating for occupant safety from the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Subaru expects to sell about 1100 a month in Australia – a 10 per cent increase on present sales.

Backed by the latest release’s increased sophistication, comfort, safety and performance, this should be achievable.

Those with an eye for value and a sense of adventure will be drawn to it.

So too, will those who have seen it on Gladiators and can recognise a real challenger.



ENGINE: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder horizontally opposed

POWER: 126kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 229Nm at 4400rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual, 4-speed auto ($2000 extra)

0-100km/h: 11 seconds

ECONOMY: 9.3 litres/100km average

FUEL TANK: 60 litres


DIMENSIONS (MM): 4560 long, 1795 wide, 1700 high, 2615 wheelbase, 220 ground clearance

PROS: Bigger, safer, more refined

CONS: Conservative cabin design, only one cup holder up front

BOTTOM LINE: From $30,490