WHEN the all new Subaru Forester XT came out, I felt disappointed, very disappointed. The reason for my disappointment was I had the perception that because it was bigger and had a smaller displacement engine (from 2.5 to 2.0 liter), Subaru sacrificed too much performance for luxury.
Moreover, the new Forester XT did not have the traditional hood scoop that Subaru installs on its performance models. In my mind I thought Subaru sold out and turned the Forester XT into a boring luxury SUV.
In the previous Forester XT, its engine control unit could be re-programmed by any reputable tuner to give about 50 more horsepower from factory at very little cost, while the new Forester XT has an engine control unit that cannot be re-programmed. With that frame of mind the all new Forester XT had a lot to prove.
Well, my initial perception and per-judgment of the new Forester XT was wrong, very wrong. Embarrassingly wrong and here’s why:
Its engine is very powerful. Notwithstanding the fact that the new engine is smaller, the all new Direct Injection Turbo provides a lot more power 240 hp and a whopping 260 lbs ft of torque. When you step on the gas pedal, you get stuck to your seat just the way I like it. Getting to 200 km/h is quick and easy (yes, I could not resist the temptation to go 200 km/h).
This car will easily leave in its wake probably all the locally available vehicles in its price range. Off the top of my head, the only car that I can think of that is quicker than the Forester XT that is close to its price range is the Subaru STI, which is 2.5 million pesos, half a million more expensive than the Forester XT. This car definitely has the best engine in its price range by a long margin. Engine-wise I would rate it an 8/10.
This excellent engine is mated to Subaru’s all-new Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission. The very successful and World Rally proven symmetrical all-wheel-drive layout has been retained together with its World Rally inspired suspension. The Forester XT has a high 8.7 inches ground clearance, but it still handles like a high performance sports sedan while maintaining a good comfortable ride. It is pure engineering genius.
This car has three driver settings: Intelligent mode, which is ideal for economy driving and city driving, Sport mode for a more spirited drive, and Sport Sharp mode for driving the car to its limits.
I put this car through its paces in the mountain roads of Cebu (Sport Sharp of course). The traction is really incredible. The steering is very precise. The car feels very planted to the ground that one becomes very confident with the car. This SUV handles so well that a lot of sedans will be put to shame on twisty highways.
To get a good feel of the ride comfort, I went to the flyover in Subangdaku, Mandaue City. It is so bumpy and poorly paved that it is the perfect test for ride comfort. The Forester XT is comfortable.
Handling of this car would get an 8/10 and for comfort also an 8/10.
Added to what is already an excellent drive train is a new feature called X-Mode. This feature enhances the capability of the Forester XT to go off-road by maximizing the power delivery with exceptional traction. This gives the driver a high level of control in non-pavement conditions.
The X-Mode feature has made the Forester XT an off-road capable SUV. I tested this feature on a downhill unpaved slippery road somewhere in the Kan-Irag area. I felt the car using the brakes and the transmission slowing the car down at the same time, giving me full steering control. It made what would have been a difficult maneuver quite easy. As an off-road vehicle I would give it a 7/10.
I could not test the safety features of this car for obvious reasons. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Forester XT was the only compact SUV of the 13 they tested that received a perfect score in all the safety tests conducted, including the new more severe front crash test. The Forester has the highest safety rating among all compact SUVs.
The new Forester XT costs 1.952 million and it is a bargain because this is hands down the best motor vehicle you can purchase in a price range up to 2.5 million. I say the best because when you buy a Forester XT you are buying three cars in one purchase: a sports sedan, an SUV, and an off-road car. I have never tested a car before that was this versatile and this good in every aspect.
Cebu’s roads are full of variations, from bumpy to pothole-ridden, with a few good ones. Considering this, there can be no better car than the Forester XT.