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2013 Subaru Forester XT Review and First Drive

by Brad Leach -

  • OUR VERDICT: 4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4
  • PRICE RANGE: $30,990 - $50,990*
  • PROS: Lots of kit; spacious interior; punchy 2.0-litre turbo; well-sorted chassis dynamics
  • CONS: Front seats could be more supportive
  • Safety Rating: 
  • Green Rating: 
  • Fuel Consumption:  9.3L/100km
  • Write your own review

If you haven’t got your ‘A-Game’ finely tuned stay away from Australia’s piping-hot compact SUV segment. Fortunately for Subaru, the all-new Forester compact SUV is very much an ‘A-Gamer’ and now XT - the turbocharged sports star of the Forester family - has arrived boasting more performance, more space, better fuel economy and improved towing capacity. 



Include in that list XT’s extra technology and unique sports suspension and…well this is the Forester we’d have.

In fact we reckon Subaru is at the top of its game at the moment with a range of vehicles better than ever…a garage housing a Subaru Forester XT and BRZ sports car would be very tasty indeed.

 

Subaru Forester XT Overview


Entry to the all-new Subaru Forester range starts at $30,990 (2.0i manual). And, from this month, the lineup has a hero model – the well-equipped, turbocharged XT - $43,490 and $50,490 (XT Premium).

Subaru Forester XT drives all four wheels via the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system (BRZ remains the only 2WD Subaru in Australia) and the excellent eight-step Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – probably the best CVT auto we have driven. 



At first glance the all-new Subaru Forester XT is more expensive (plus $3,500 and $5,000 over the superseded versions) and the $50,490 Premium model sails into waters populated by credentialed rivals such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. But when you shop feature-v-feature both Subaru Forester XT models give their direst rivals cause to reach for the pain-killers.

The Subaru XT Premium in particular comes fully-loaded with extra features over the standard XT including electronic tailgate opening, the camera-based EyeSight safety system (which includes active cruise control and lane-keeping assist), leather interior, factory-fit satellite navigation and eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio.

So, now complete, the 2013 Subaru Forester lineup looks like this:

2.0i manual $30,990
2.5i automatic $32,990
2.0i-L manual $33,490
2.5i-L automatic $35,990
2.5i-S automatic $43,990
2.0D manual $35,490
2.0D-L manual $37,490
2.0D-S manual $43,990
2.0XT automatic $43,490
2.0XT Premium automatic $50,490

 

Subaru Forester XT Engine


Here’s some Subaru XT facts to digest: 4.7 per-cent more power, 9.4 per-cent more torque, 12.5 per-cent more towing ability, 19.0 per-cent better fuel efficiency and a 20.6 per-cent cut in exhaust C02 emissions. We said you’d best fire your best shot if you hope to capture any business in the mid-size SUV segment.

Forester XT employs Subaru’s new generation turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder Boxer engine. Changes compared to previous Boxer engine are plentiful and Subaru enthusiasts will note the revised 86mm bore, direct fuel-injection and re-positioned turbocharger (now under the engine). 



Maximum power is 177kW at 5600rpm and peak torque of 350Nm is delivered between 2400rpm and 3600rpm.

Drive is to all four wheels via a new version of Subaru’s intelligent Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle shifters for manual changes. Normally a six-step CVT, with SI-Drive in the ‘Sport Sharp’ mode, the transmission goes to a six-step manual mode.


Zero to 100km/h improves by 0.4 seconds to 7.5 seconds and fuel consumption (combined cycle) is down to 8.5l/100kms.

And possibly the best news of all for the many family campers and boating and jet-ski enthusiasts who are keen on Subaru Forester XT, the towing capacity is up to 1800kgs.

 

Subaru Forester XT The Interior


Likewise inside where Subaru wrought significant changes in direct response to customer feedback. Primarily that would mean more space and a more premium look/feel.

Front seat occupants enjoy a raised height and higher backrest in the new-design seats. The steering wheel adjusts for rake and rear for an excellent driving position but we thought the seats were a little lacking in side bolstering.
 


Subaru Forester XT models score alloy pedals and heated front seats.

We continue to like the dashboard design in the new Subaru Forester – nicely styled conventional gauges and a precise MFD housed in a nice binnacle centre-dash.

Subaru Forester XT Premium adds an eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and the excellent camera-based EyeSight safety system (the lane-keeping assist system is very prompt – again one of the best we’ve tested).
 


Rear seat accommodation affords leg-room which is the envy of some in this league and current Subaru Forester owners will note a relocation of the mounting points for the child seat upper tether straps – shifted from the cargo area roof to behind the seats (improved rearwards visibility for the driver).


Cargo capacity is also up – by 55-litres in the Forester XT and by 38-litres in the XT Premium with its power tailgate.

 

Subaru Forester XT Exterior & Styling


We’re keen on the looks of the all-new Subaru Forester – modern and sophisticated, but with the familiar style which has endeared the model to more than 2.0-million buyers globally. Some 170,000 Foresters have been sold locally and in fact, adjusted for population, this model enjoys more penetration into Australian new car sales than in any other country.

As we know, aerodynamics received particular attention in design of the latest Subaru Forester – efficiency improved by 11 per-cent to Cd 0.33. 



Sport XT versions are distinguished externally by the mesh front grille and good-looking, new 18-inch alloy wheels.

But there’s no raised cool air intake duct on the bonnet – gone in the interest of aerodynamics. Instead Subaru Forester intake air is ducted from the sides of a cleverly-designed front bumper.

 

Subaru Forester XT On The Road


We were in the Murray River border region for the Subaru Forester XT launch – some great roads but a massive pall of summer bushfire smoke at times gave the sky an ominous look. Subaru ‘s Japanese engineering team worked with their Australian colleagues in refining/finalizing the Forester XT’s suspension calibration on local Aussie roads and this attention to detail pays-off.

We were keen to try the Si Drive with its ‘Intelligent’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport Sharp’ setting and these roads were ideal. No doubt about it, particularly in ‘Sport Sharp’ mode there is a perceptible change in dynamics with crisper throttle response particularly noticeable (along with different gear-shift functionality).
 


In all settings, ride is sportily ‘European’ firm and the all-wheel-drive chassis delivers the predictable mild understeer at the limit on turn-in…and also the predictable top-shelf cornering balance. Along with the extra kit inside, it is this sportier dynamic which would have us leaning towards the XT when buying a new Subaru Forester.

Refinement levels – like the other Forester models – are much improved over the previous Subaru Forester and both the regular ST and ST Premium we drove were commendably quite on both sealed roads and the two dirt sections. 



While we didn’t tackle any demanding off-road conditions, those who plan on doing so should check-out the ground clearance of all contenders – Subaru says the Forester’s 220mm means it’s at the front of the pack.

 

Subaru Forester XT Challenges


As the sporty member of the Subaru Forester lineup, the XT deserves more sporty/supportive front seats.

 

Subaru Forester XT Verdict


Every model in the new Subaru Forester lineup is a beauty but our vote goes to the XT. The turbocharged 2.0-litre, sportier chassis dynamics and the technology included in the XT Premium model combine to get our vote.

 

Subaru Forester XT The Competition


Wagon or SUV…as always the Subaru Forester crosses both disciplines.

All-new Hyundai Santa Fe is a cracker and is sharply priced from $36,990 to $49,990. As always with Hyundai you do get a lot of car for your coin with the Santa Fe but for some Subaru Forester buyers the big Korean may be a tad too large/SUV-ish. 



Likewise Kia’s just updated Sorento. With prices from $37,490 to $50,390 the Sorento packs a punch with its 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine but all-wheel-drive models are exclusively diesel.

Mazda CX-5 is a Car Showroom favourite and is just about to score a more powerful 2.5-litre petrol engine. Great to drive and handily priced from $27,800 to $46,200 the CX-5 hasn’t won all those awards for nothing. 

Mitsubishi’s all-new Outlander is a definite Forester rival. While sharply priced, the Outlander doesn’t quite match the Subaru Forester XT for driving dynamics or premium feel.

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