First Drive: The all-new 2019 Subaru Forester is simply unflappable

You’ve seen the videos of Eu Jin taking the all-new Forester from Hat Yai to Hua Hin (in one tank of fuel!), and then another one where he tested Subaru’s famous AWD and the EyeSight driver assistance system. Here’s our first drive of the car on Malaysian roads, and spoiler alert, we think really highly of it.

This is the fifth generation of the SUV, and there are three variants of the all new Subaru Forester offered here in Malaysia; they are the 2.0i-L, the 2.0i-S, and the 2.0i-S EyeSight (or ES).

The overall design remains familiar but there is enough to differentiate it from its predecessor. C-shaped LED DRLs adorn the LED headlamps and that shape finds its way to the rear light cluster as well. These are standard in the 2.0i-S and 2.0i-S ES, while the 2.0i-L gets bulb-type DRLs. Finally, a prominent skid plate finishes the lower apron.

That’s it? Not really, as the changes go beyond skin deep. It is 30 mm longer at its wheelbase at 2,670 mm, resulting in an overall length of 4,625 mm. It is wider as well, with an additional 20 mm to give it an overall width of 1,815 mm.

Boot space has increased by 100 litres to 520 litres. This means luggage plus the family dog will fit nicely at the back, and you have 2,155 litres if you fold the rear seats down (60:40).

What does this all mean? Increased room where you and the fam will spend most of your time. There are acres of real estate here, a criterion that is highly valuable in a family SUV. What’s more, the rear seats are also reclinable for added comfort.

There is only one engine option in our country, which is Subaru’s 2.0-litre, horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine (codenamed FB20) and it is mated to a Lineartronic CVT transmission. The powerplant is good for 156 PS (153 hp) and 196 Nm of torque.

You’d think these figures are humble… and you’re right, so let’s address it right now.

We’re not advocating power for power’s sake, but there will be occasions where more of it is necessary, like when you need to pass a truck or to avoid an accident.

In this era of turbocharging it’s not something we think about anymore, but in the Forester the manoeuvre does require a bit of “pre-planning”. In short, having just enough means having slightly less peace of mind in these situations.

The modest engine finds a perfect partner in the CVT, however. The Subaru intelligent Drive provides two drive modes. It is modern and refined and does not retain much of the ‘rubber band’ character in Intelligent mode.

In Sport mode, the transmission gets 7 virtual speeds. In the former, it is smooth and quick to find the meat of the engine – around 4,000 rpm – and in the latter feels like a quick little conventional auto box with its virtual gears.

Ride and handling is where the all-new Forester really, really shines. Our route took us from Petaling Jaya to Gambang (half an hour away from Kuantan), and it handled the twisty bits of the Karak highway with ease – nay, with aplomb.

There is a sophistication in the suspension setup, which is a McPherson strut and double wishbone combo. Small imperfections on the road are isolated, while bigger undulations are absorbed well. The Forester will take any corner (at appropriate speeds) with poise, and even mid-corner bumps won’t faze it.

This is also in no small part due to Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. It hangs on to the chosen cornering line well even when we were a little ham-handed, and when we were tidier, the traction out of the apex was immense. The unmistakable Subaru DNA is well and truly alive in the Forester.

The system is even more impressive off road. There are two different settings to choose from for when the tarmac ends: Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud, via the X Mode dial. The latter allows for more wheel spin, causing the tires to dig into the ground and find more traction.

Even on normal road tyres, we climbed small hills effortlessly, and descended them with even more ease as its Hill Descent Control system turns on automatically when X Mode (either terrain) is engaged.

This halo variant comes with the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. The system uses a pair of cameras (or stereo cameras) to provide information for a suite of assistance systems like adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking.

A full review is coming soon, but this was a fantastic first impression of the car. There are downsides to the car too, like its divisive looks and the lack of any other engine option. However, these are easily offset with all the positive takeaways from the car. Subaru’s new Forester. Go check it out for yourselves!

Subaru Forester 2.0i-L RM139,788
Subaru Forester 2.0i-S RM149,488
Subaru Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight RM159,788



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