Words and photos by Manny N. de los Reyes
WHEN YOU want to go trekking through mud and sand and driving over rocks and even across a river, you’d normally bring a dedicated 4×4 like a tricked out old Land Cruiser, Defender, or Wrangler — not a shiny, luxurious crossover.
But we did just that — all of that — with a brand spanking new Subaru Forester.
Because it can do it. All of it.
Like most crossovers, the Forester shares its platform with its sedan sibling — in the Forester’s case, the Impreza.
But that’s as far as the Forester’s similarities with most other crossovers go. And that’s because the Forester is made by a company that has practically been synonymous with all-wheel drive.
And which is also why Subaru was daring enough to take their popular SUV and have more than 20 members of the Philippine motoring media take a crack behind the wheel, not just on the high-speed expressways of NLEX and TPLEX, not just on a spirited blast on the northern provinces’ national roads, but also for some playtime on rough dirt roads and a couple of river crossings.
You don’t do this with your everyday crossover.
While most compact and subcompact SUVs and crossovers are front-wheel drive and send their torque only to the rear wheels when needed, Subarus send power to all four wheels — all the time. Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive gives the cars that extra traction at all speeds and in all road conditions — giving its driver and passengers that extra capability and margin of safety.
The 2019 Forester has been reengineered to include a host of enhanced features, resulting in a balance of easy, confident handling and a spacious, comfortable interior — attributes we all appreciated on our extensive on- and off-road experiences over two days.
Safety, technology, and performance continue to be top priorities with the inclusion of a strong suite of active safety features that comprise Subaru’s core technologies: Subaru Global Platform, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Boxer Engine, and the new — and very effective — EyeSight Driver Assist technology.
The Forester is powered by a 2.0-liter normally aspirated (no Turbo version in the current model) direct-injection boxer engine. Gear shifts are now done via new seven-speed (in manual mode) continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The new Forester rests on the Subaru Global Platform, which delivers a safer, smoother driving experience by having less shake and body roll while reducing road noise. True enough, it was a pleasure sitting in the back seat of the Forester and relishing the smooth and silent ride and the generous increased legroom — much like being in an executive sedan (but with much better outward visibility).
The Forester comes with X-MODE function, which enhances driving performance on challenging terrain through optimized integrated control of the engine, all-wheel drive, brakes and other functions. Drivers can activate X-MODE via a new dial switch to transition from Normal to Dirt to Snow and Mud. This feature made it almost a no-brainer when we traversed the rock and pebble-strewn sandy riverbed. The generous 220mm ground clearance made short work of the river. We just had to look out for the small boulders — made easy by the excellent visibility. Even with riding comfort-oriented all-terrain tires, the Symmetrical AWD gripped the sandy bed like a crab grabbing its prey with its claws. Even with two carmates having no experience driving on soft sand, let alone through a river, our Forester went straight through the two knee-deep rivers we crossed without breaking a sweat.
The cool, new feature on the 2019 Forester is EyeSight, an advanced driver assist technology that includes Automatic Pre-collision Braking, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lead Vehicle Start Alert, Lane Departure and Lane Sway Warning. EyeSight proved its worth, when on one occasion, the vehicle in front of us braked hard suddenly, the system braked even before our driver could react. Fabulous!
In addition, features such as Auto Vehicle Hold and Subaru Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) are also available on the new model. Auto Vehicle Hold works to reduce driver fatigue by keeping the vehicle still when the driver’s foot is removed from the brake pedal while the vehicle is stopped. SRVD uses radar sensors installed on the rear of the vehicle to detect objects and vehicles behind and alerts the driver with its three main functions: Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
The new Forester also introduces redefined interior features such as divided seatback pockets, USB charging ports and air-conditioning vents behind center console, bringing a more luxurious riding experience for the passengers. Aside from the added rear legroom, the latest Forester also boasts increased cargo room with a wider rear tailgate opening. There is also an available power rear tailgate.
The new Forester uses extensive high-strength steel that delivers durability and rigidity. The ruggedness of the SUV is further underscored with the raised body, claddings and underguard, coupled with well-defined fenders with prominent protrusions. The updated design pays homage to the model’s earlier predecessor — hence the resemblance — with subtle updates on the grille, headlights and tail lights. It’s almost as if Subaru does not want us to forget its legendary go-anywhere heritage.
All things considered, ninety-nine percent of all crossovers can do what the Forester does. But this Subaru is the one percent that can do more. Much more.