Subaru Forester: to top or not to top?

Riley Riley


What is it?

Interestingly, Subaru doesn’t indicate the model grade on the back of Forester.

That’s a good thing or perhaps a bad thing, depending on the model you happen to be sitting in.

If it’s the entry level Forester, it removes the cringe factor (although there’s not much to cringe about).

But if it’s the top of the line model, then you probably want to shout it out — to let the rest of the world know you can afford it.

Granted, you could probably make an educated guess based on the wheels, the number of LEDs and other embellishments — but rather than put you to the test we’re happy top reveal this one is the top of the line 2.5-S.


What’s it cost?

Prices for Forester kick off at $33,490 for the 2.5i, $35,490 for the 2.5i-L, $38,490 for the 2.5i Premium and $41,490 for the 2.5i-S — all come with an auto.

The price of the 2.5i-S includes a 2.5-litre four cylinder petrol engine, with auto stop-start, a CVT-style auto that has seven gears or steps as they call them, steering wheel mounted gear change paddles, all-wheel drive and Si control which allows the driver to select different drive modes like sport and economy.

Sad to say, there’s no diesel version of the wagon available anymore.

In terms of equipment the S comes with leather and power adjust front seats, along with two-zone climate air conditioning and rear air vents to keep the grommets in the back happy.

There’s also push button start, an electric parking brake, height adjust driver’s seat, height and reach adjust steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, daytime LEDs, plus LED head and tail lights, as well as headlights that turn with the direction of the wheels — the list is extensive.

The S also comes with a sunroof, power tailgate, satellite navigation, active cruise control, larger 8.0 inch touchscreen and premium Harman Kardon 8-speaker audio.

The infotainment system offers voice command, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android auto — as well as a single CD player (that’s becoming something of a rarity).

It rides on larger 18 inch alloys with 225/55 series Bridgestone tyres and a full size spare.

A generous boot holds 498 litres, or 1768 litres with the seats down and the wagon can tow a 1500kg brake load.

Safety features include seven airbags, auto emergency braking, blind spot alert, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert with reverse automatic braking.


What’s it go like?

Same as the entry model.

You see, no matter which Forester you buy, it comes with the same 2.5-litre direct injection four-cylinder horizontally-opposed Boxer engine.

The flat four delivers 136kW of power and 239Nm of torque in its latest iteration, with drive to all four wheels through a 7-step CVT style auto, complete with paddle gear shifts.

With the extra equipment in this model, the weight of the car rises by about 50kg which is really neither here nor there.

In fact, we ended up using slightly less fuel over the course of a week — again insignificant.

We’re not huge fans of CVT and although the system in Subaru’s WRX is a standout, it fails to make the transition to the Forester — or maybe it just works better with the torquier, more powerful turbo?

For 75 per cent of driving it does a perfectly adequate job.

It’s the other 25 per cent that’s a problem, however, because the CVT ruins the drive experience.

Ask it the question and the result is not so much disappointing, but unsatisfying in the way we’ve come to think about performance — even my wife thinks so.

Revs remain constant as the CVT slurs the drive ratio to deliver the required motivation. It’s a difficult experience to explain and we’d suggest that you try before you buy to avoid disappointment.

The car itself is impressive and loaded with safety features. with the S adding some extra items such as reverse automatic braking and side and front monitors over the entry model.

The big question is: what do you get for the extra $8000 and is it worth it?

Scanning the fine print, the big ticket items are leather, 18 inch wheels, electric sunroof, power tailgate, satellite navigation, two mode X-Mode, LED fog lights, one-touch folding rear seats, and some extra trim inserts.

We’ don’t like leather, larger wheels will spoil the ride, sunroofs make you hot — but we’ll happily take satnav and the tailgate. The rest is trivial.

It’s worth pointing out the Premium model gets most of these things minus the leather, so it could be a good compromise at $38,490.

Either way, Subaru will be more than happy to take your money.

subaru forester 2.5s 5

What we like?

  • Fit and finish
  • Two zone climate
  • Rear air vents
  • Active cruise control
  • Satellite navigation
  • Power tailgate
  • Lots of safety features


What we don’t like?

  • CVT
  • Needs one-touch blinkers
  • Where’s the parking sensors?
  • Information overload
  • Too many beeps and confusing messages


The bottom line?

We liked the entry model and the 2.5-S simply ups the ante, but not by as much as you’d think. You need to work out whether the extra equipment is worth another $8 grand . . .  maybe not?

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Subaru Forester 2.5-S, priced from $41,490
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 8.5/10
  • Value - 8/10

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