By Bill McCarthy
YOU can almost feel yourself yearning for a return of the Beast from the East when you climb into a Subaru Forester, writes Bill McCarthy.
Subaru is renowned for its off-road, four wheel drive capability and the Forester is first among equals on that score. Long seen as virtually indestructible.
But the snow didn’t come, so putting the four wheel drive capability to the test in the ice and snow never came to pass.
So no chance to try out the X-Mode with hill descent control, which, when activated, takes command of the engine, transmission, symmetrical all-wheel drive, brakes, and other components to provide the best traction and grip in difficult conditions.
In addition, hill descent moderates speed and braking for you when going downhill, allowing you to concentrate on steering.
So, a full-fat offroader with the aerodynamics of a London Routemaster bus, but the vehicle has real road presence.
Not only for its still robust and boxy shape, despite tweaks to the styling but also the fact that you don’t see too many of them on the road in the UK, although they sell plenty worldwide. So it provokes curiosity.
Now in its fourth generation it is slightly more aerodynamic than predecessors with more of an SUV type presence, with neat alloys, smart light clusters and integrated roof bars.
Powered by a 150bhp petrol engine on this model performance is hardly startling, but definitely adequate and it offers excellent torque to deliver good towing capability and for the all-important off-road challenges.
Drive is via the Lineatronic variable transmission, which is pretty smooth, but it still takes around 11 second to hit 60mph and it can get noisy under hard acceleration.
For a more engaging drive, there is a sport option through the SI-Drive selector, switching to sport sharpens things up, while paddles can be used for gear selection, something I found pretty superfluous to be honest.
Slight criticisms are the vague steering and lumpy ride at times, but it is packed with equipment at a competitive price.
Loyal Subaru owners will love the high-riding set up, commanding driving position and huge glass areas to offer good all round vision and allows plenty of light into the cabin.
Inside, the Forester uses improved quality materials and plastics, giving a robust feeling, intuitive dash layout and a big central touchscreen. The dash is well laid out with logical controls and switchgear.
The infotainment system lets you make phone calls and set the navigation via the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, or the voice control system. It’s easy to connect your smartphone or other mobile music device via the USB or standard AUX jack.
Car manufacturers like to offer something special. In this case, not a brolly or ice scraper a la Skoda, but sun visors which offer a slidable extension. Ten out of 10 for whoever at Subaru hought of that, such an aid for so little cost.
For safety, all Foresters incorporate EyeSight technology which delivers includes automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, sway warning and adaptive cruise control.
Practicality is excellent with the split rear seats offering plenty of stowage space, 550 litres with the seats in situ, rising to 1,573 when folded.
Subaru Forester 2.0i XE Premium Lineatronic
Mechanical: 148bhp, 1,995cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via Lineatronic automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Combined MPG: 43.5
Insurance Group: 16
C02 emissions: 150g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles