The practical eccentric
Welcome to Galimoto’s experimental format of reviewing cars, a shortened and sweetened version of our regular reports, embellished with a small side shot of specifications. The honours of being subjected to this new formula first go to the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5 XS.
As with most contemporary Subarus, this model reports for duty with distinct looks and eccentric technology. It appears lower and longer than its SUV rivals while completely ignoring any trends or accepted norms when it comes to power source, drive-train or equipment.
Twin-scroll common-rail turbo-diesel, dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifts, computer-controlled adaptive four-wheel-drive and integrated multimedia systems simply don’t exist in the Forester’s vocabulary.
The Subaru equivalents for these are flat-four petrol, sticky five-speed manual, all wheel drive with viscous-coupling centre diff and an aftermarket double-din entertainment unit come reversing camera. It’s like Subaru is unaware of its competition and simply does its own thing; a concept that I adore.
The same goes for its interior, which didn’t get the memo about superb materials and exquisite craftsmanship. No, what you get here is perfectly acceptable to someone who owns and loves a Toyota Corolla; from 1993.
Unless you actually own/ed a ’93 Corolla, that means you can expect everything to operate perfectly, arranged in an uncomplicated fashion. The seats are covered in a substance that resembles leather and the dashboard is decorated with a few strips of what looks like wood.
Turn the key and the boxer four rattle into life, feed them maximum fuel quantities and they respond instantly with a whiff of Beetle clatter. The motor lacks torque in its bottom region which presents you with two choices: buy a turbo Forester or rev the nuts ‘n bolts off this one.
Once operating near its limits, power delivery is slightly coarse and noisy but transferred to the road exceptionally well. Whining gears and buzzing diffs announce that the metal is doing its job, accompanied by substantial body roll but fantastic grip levels.
And let’s not get too excited here – the Forester wasn’t meant to be a flat, nippy racer. Its ride geometry offers good comfort levels and reasonable off-road competence but I found the low-range ratios (21% reduction gear) a little too tall.
The chunky lever lives right next to the hand-brake and I lost count of how many times I chucked the Forester into low range every time I parked. Yet again I should curb my criticism, as the XS Forester will climb and crawl as much as can be expected from any medium-sized SUV.
Its odd proportions will easily conquer pavements and plaaspaaie; and the somewhat off-centre engineering surely appeals to someone. I just don’t know who that someone may be. However; they can look forward to a practical, spacious, slightly thirsty and, despite its wonky ride and sticky gearbox, fun to drive vehicle.
The initially spongy brakes absorbed an emergency stop with brutal precision and full-bore acceleration resulted in an equally vicious 100km/h in 8.3 seconds. Forester’s main beams are a little on the weak side; the clever audio system isn’t.
Warranty and service plan come in the shape of three-year 100,000km and three-year 75,000km; included in the N$318,000 asking price. I think that’s a reasonable amount for a very unique and ever-so-slightly weird car.
0-100m: 5.5s / 87.2km/h
0-200m: 9.2s / 106.1km/h
0-300m: 12.3s / 121.3km/h
0-400m: 15.1s / 132.2km/h
1/4mile: 15.2s @ 82.3mph (132.4km/h)
Climate Cool, overcast
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/2
Odometre 4 600km