It’s always nice to do a back to back comparison of like models from a manufacturer. In this case, the new diesel auto Foresters from Japanese maker, Subaru, were parked in the driveway and A Wheel Thing checks out the L and S models.
Two litre engines seem to be the rage and there’s no difference here, plenty of torque at 350 Nm, from 1600 to 2400 revs and a surprisingly low 108 kW at 3600 revs. These two, though, aren’t intended to be high revving diesel sports machines, they’re family friendly load luggers. Hence the addition to the range of the automatic option, in the form of a CVT (constant variable transmission).
It’s here where, in A Wheel Thing‘s opinion, the Achille’s heel is exposed. The way the CVT works sapped performance and response, didn’t provide the instant on throttle response from standstill a hydraulic auto does and blunts rolling throttle response as well… For an explanation on CVT’s, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable_transmission
From a standing start in Drive, there’s a lag, a hesitancy, almost as if you’ve asked someone a question and they need a moment to process it before answering. With other diesels of same size and torque matched with a hydraulic ‘box, there’s more of a instant response, providing quicker acceleration and potentially a safer environment with oncoming traffic.
Rolling response is also not as sharp, with little of the normal feeling of being shoved back into the driver’s seat, lacking that increasing linear, almost wave like build up. the transmissions are electronically geared, with seven rations programmed into the system and available for selection via the gear lever or flappy paddles.
The diesels themselves were somewhat more chattery than expected under load.
Fuel economy averaged out at just under 7.0L per 100 kilometres, coming close to equaling Subaru’s official figures (6.3L combined, 7.6L urban, 5.7L highway).
The 2016 Forester has a strong family link to the first model, with a series of evolutionary designs. Compared to the previous model, the changes are subtle but noticeable if you look for them. Subaru’s designers have avoided the high profile look of SUV’s by providing a station wagon look to the Forester family, with a lower window line into the doors, which also offers a measure of extra visibility from inside.
Apart from the wheels, which were 18’s on the S, with an almost Eiffel Tower design to the spokes and clad in Bridgestone Duelers at 225/55 size and 225/60 Yokohama Geolander rubber on the L (with a simple five spoke design for the 17 inch alloys), the cars are virtually identical. The S came fitted with a sunroof (a good sized one, covering half of the roof), an electric tailgate with memory height, roof rails, single exhaust and…no rear parking sensors.
That last one troubled A Wheel Thing momentarily; there is a reversing camera with lane guidance, but, as a driver trained in the day to judge distance using mirrors and to watch (in a car sales environment) others guiding movements, the decision was made that this is not an oversight but a chance for careful family oriented drivers to be a driver, not a pilot.
Both cars featured non LED driving lights at each lower corner of the front bumper, flanked by black urethane that leads to the rear via the sill panels. Both cars rear windows had privacy glass fitted and had a rear window spoiler/dust deflector.
On The Inside.
To be honest, the interior of the S is a bit of a letdown; the L features a key start, cloth trim and manual seats, the S is keyless (push button) faux leather and electric driver’s seat, plus heating (High/Low) for both front pews. Given there’s no in between model, this may account for the lack of luxury feel for the top of the range S. There’s no other difference between the two, as plastics are the same; dour, a touch hard to the touch and eye, the same look and feel to the tiller and gear lever as well…
Subaru have also chosen to stay with a cargo space design A Wheel Thing finds somewhat odd; there’s a full sized spare instead of a space saver but laid at an angle. The liftable floor terminates in a downward angled slope towards the tailgate, ideal for items that have rolled or moved in transit to fall out as soon as the ‘gate is opened….Cargo space is good at 474 litres with the rear seats up, which increases to 1474 with them laid flat.
Also, the Forester diesel autos don’t come with the award winning Eyesight system, a curious decision. What they do get is the Starlink navitainment system, the simple yet utterly effective ergonomics for the aircon and the clean look to the dash, plus both get the lockable centre diff for off road shenanigans.
On The Road.
The L felt softer in the ride than the S; it’d be hard to say the slightly higher profile tyres would have had much of an impact, so possibly a different suspension tune or slightly lower tyre pressure would account. Both cars gripped in the tight roundabouts, off camber turns and sweepers equally, with a touch of squeal from the Yokohamas occasionally.
As they’re identical mechanically, the drive was the same, steering and brake feedback the same and headlights at night gave a good spread across the road. Consequently, they both offer a competent package, torque sapping CVT aside.
They’re both nice cars to have but depending on your feelings about CVT versus traditional autos, the driveability may be a sticking point. Otherwise, fit and finish, the feature list for each and, of course, the massive options list available, plus a good price point (range starts at around $29K) should have them high on the “To Check Out” list.
Head to www.subaru.com.au for the range plus pricing and download the brochure.
Subaru Forester L and S.
Engine: 2.0L diesel.
Transmission: Constant Variable Transmission (CVT).
Power/Torque: 108 kW/350 Nm @ 3600/1600-2400 rpm.
Tank size: 60L.
Consumption: (claimed) 6.4L/7.6L/5.7L per 100 kilometres (combined/urban/highway).
Dimensions: 4595 x 1795 x 1735 (L x W x H in mm).
Wheelbase: 2640 mm.
Weight: 1627 kg.
Cargo: 422/1474 litres.