2016 Subaru Forester tS review

2016 Subaru Forester tS review

You can’t accuse Subaru of missing a trend.

Long before SUVs heaved their oafish bodies into the gym, various Foresters – first the 1998 GT, then the 2003 XT – had been pumped with performance parts and gathered loyalists in the process.

Then the Fozza grew up and today’s XT is the first without a bonnet scoop or a manual (and with only a dreaded CVT). It blended – or blanded – into the scenery, and with a 2.0-litre turbo boxer four from the WRX detuned to make 177kW (down from 197kW) and 350Nm, its claimed 7.5-second 0-100km/h time is slower than that of previous generations.

Subaru Forester tS engineOn the surface, this limited edition Forester tS looks like a sticker-pack special, particularly given that STI badges tally six outside and five inside yet drivetrain changes amount to nil. But this XT Premium-based Forester is one for the original fan base, rather than for more sedate family-focused buyers.

It looks a bit JDM-cool on the outside, with pink licks on the front grille and rear diffuser, black mirrors and lower front spoiler, and multi-spoke Enkei 19-inch alloy wheels (up from 18s) with cheeky red Brembos behind them.

Under the skin there are new STI-sourced inverted dampers with 15mm-lower coil springs and flexible draw stiffeners, while the front gets a tower-bar brace and new stabiliser bushings, with extra subframe support for the rear.

Subaru forester ts rearThe changes hit rewind on Subaru’s attempt to make the latest Forester a more liveable proposition, primarily because urban ride quality turns lumpy (although crucially the ride is never harsh).

On twisting tarmac, however, it feels like the fast-forward button has been thumbed, with the tS delivering new-found front-end sharpness teamed with reduced bodyroll all round. The tweaks support the variable all-wheel drive and torque-vectoring systems, so this souped-up Subie SUV can be bullied through successive changes of direction without flinching.

Even when the average Bridgestone Turanza rubber starts to squirm, there’s decent adjustability on or off the throttle – although the stability control could have a more lenient, sporting tune. Even the steering now feels tighter just off centre, though it remains too slow.

Subaru forester ts sideThe Forester tS feels brisk rather than fast, its eight-step CVT smooth but uninspiring and the muted and linear delivery adding to the case for extra boost in a chassis that can now cop it. But that might be too old-school for this grown-up model.

Not that the tS feels premium for the price. A surprisingly characterful SUV it may be, but Subaru is asking $54,990 plus on-roads – $7K beyond an XT Premium. With a smallish boot and an Impreza-derived dashboard, the value equation disappears with the panoramic sunroof that’s swapped out for sports buckets (and they’re still too flat).

Any comparison with a similarly priced Commodore SS-V Sportwagon is valid but cruel. And that leaves this Forester tS as most definitely one for welded-on loyalists.

Subaru forester ts interior3.0 OUT OF 5 STARS

LIKE: Sharp handling; JDM-cool styling bits
DISLIKE: Needs STI poke; uninspiring CVT; hobbled by pricing 

Engine: 1998cc flat-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 177kW @ 5600rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 2400-3600rpm
Weight: 1657kg
0-100km/h 7.5sec (claimed)
Price: $54,990


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