The purpose was to showcase the new Forester’s new-found prowess against its predecessor — and another all-wheel driven Japanese brand that’s based in Hiroshima, with many (including this writer) having a high regard for its road-going abilities.
This would be the first time we actually pitted both new and out-going Forester SUVs against a direct competitor. In all honesty, I was under the mistaken notion how similar they’ve become.
To recap, the new Forester has grown in size to offer prospective owners greater cabin space, thanks to its added overall dimensions for better cabin ergonomics as well as a wider and faster operating powered tailgate among others.
A seven virtual speed Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission with paddle shifters manage the 154hp/196Nm 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated boxer engine for the Symmetrical All-wheel Drive system.
The short circuit was divided into three sections that included a slalom, S-bend and a “wet surface” coupled with a sharp turn.
Rival and old Forester
Starting with the Hiroshima-based competitor’s AWD system, it provided a good feel of traction off the line.
Going though the slalom, its body-roll felt controlled when dealing with abrupt side-to-side weight transitions, but gunning it through the S-bend did show to have some understeer, while the wet section just saw the front end completely wash away.
Taking to the older Forester, the amount of body roll was more apparent compared to the competition, with the only difference being the lack of understeer, as a result of the four-channel anti-lock braking (ABS) system that takes into account the driver’s steering input and traction on all four wheels.
While trying to turn into the corner, the ABS system will apply the brakes to an individual wheel (which sounds like gears grinding) to try and help “pull” the car into the turn.
Even when going into the corner with excessive speed, the SUV simply maintains a neutral stance and refused to let understeer set in.
Next up was the new Forester. My only regret was not having a timed-lap for better comparison. It is markedly better than its predecessor in the way it behaves.
The amount of roll has been significantly reduced, which adds to the confidence when tackling the tight bends. Together with its four-channel ABS system to help keep the nose pointed in the intended direction, the new Forester felt surprisingly nimble to steer.
The offroad course was meant to showcase how well the vehicle’s various systems cope. Aside from the AWD system, the new Forester has a 40% more rigid chassis, similar 220mm ride-height and an improved X-Mode feature.
The course comprised six sections starting with the cross-rollers and bumpy road section (laden with large rocks) to show off its higher torsional rigidity that resists chassis-flex.
Although this SUV doesn’t look the part, it does have the ability to tackle different loose surfaces, thanks to the inclusion of the updated X-Mode, which allows the Forester to deal with gravel and loose dirt or muddy situations.
It was also up to the offroad challenges with its hill descent control as well as a respectable 20-degree angle of approach, 26-degree angle of departure and 22-degree tip-over point to endow it with the ability to handle situations like a steep hill, side ramp and an off-road slalom.
During the new Forester’s launch, Subaru said it is marketing it as a vehicle with creature comforts that can be trusted to go anywhere - whether it’s onroad or offroad.
This SUV is due to arrive in Malaysia by the second half of 2019.