Yes, yes, we all know that every young blade petrol head wants his wheels small, light, low but with hints of its killer instinct for all to see. But what when the needs of a long journey, whether measured by time killing traffic or long distances over variable roads and weather, beckon? And everyone will need his own personal survival kit of friends, entertainment, grub and of course, beer.
Enter the burgeoning compact-SUV-crossover. It's car enough to be easy to drive. And since every car now aspires to have some legitimacy in proclaiming itself a "sports sedan", the performance stats are more than convincing. So the compact-SUV-crossover has loads of performance, on top of ability to load more than a car.
So what does a petrol-head choose from? The Honda CR-V stands out, but we don't have the IMA-hybrid to reinforce its green credentials. The Mazda CX-7 is drop dead gorgeous, but the petrol heads want the turbo-direct injection version. The Korean sisters - Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are best in turbo diesel, but the Euro-market gets priority production allocation over ours. The Germans - X3, X1, GLK, Q5 - cost quite a bundle. Bang for the buck, they can only turn to the last of the rally bred marques.
No longer a station wagon
The third-generation Subaru Forester was all new from the ground up four years ago, and since then, local sales have close to doubled in volume every 365 days. Perhaps, an object lesson to Fuji Heavy Industries (FHI), the makers of Subaru, that having decent style can do wonders to sales. Bizarre styling of other mainstream models aside. It is a legitimate compact-SUV-crossover as it is 110 mm taller, 45 mm wider, 90mm longer of wheelbase and 76mm longer in overall length over the station wagon predecessor.
Under the skin
The minimum turning radius was even made smaller by 0.1 m. Off-road capability is further improved through optimized approach and departure angles, coupled to a generous 215-mm ground clearance. The quick ratio steering is ably supported in its handling role by multi-link struts in front. Double-wishbone rear suspension attached to a sub frame, not only dramatically reduces NVH but also makes room for a deeper and wider luggage compartment. The front is dimensioned safer to pedestrians in the event of collisions. Subaru's search for even stiffer torsional rigidity - for better handling consistency, crash worthiness and safety - meant it had to bid adieu to one of its hallmarks: frameless side windows. Still, whatever close quarter ingress/egress a partially rolled down frameless window enables is made up by larger doors and 75 degree opening angles.
Drive it to believe in it
Motor Image, the local distributor of Subaru, encourage look-see showroom gawkers to take a test drive, having full confidence in the convincing driving and riding qualities of Subaru cars. But even before mounting any model for the road test, the showroom floor perusal alone will evidence FHI engineers' handiwork in detail; the slot for iPod cord between the armrest and the docking jack makes sure your cables are not pinched; anti-slip mats line the shelves and the bottoms of cup holders; netting hangars on the "D" posts and easy-in/easy-out parcel cover for the trunk. Lowering the rear backrest? No need to grapple for cranks and levers as there is an easy to use push button on the seat side bolsters.
The givens that enthusiasts appreciate
Behind the wheel, seasoned fans or Subaristas-to-be will take comfort in the "driven givens"; the instant fit driving position, the pliancy of the Mercedes Benz like ride, the instant harmony of throttle, brake and steering, possibly the best seats in all car classes, besides all the technicality of boxer engines, all-wheel drive, the electronic advances for braking, slipping and roll over control. The manual override feature for the 4-speed auto that respects your choices. For those who only trust numbers, data from the hooded trip computer takes glare free pride of place on top of the audio console. Despite all the technicals, Subaru did not allow increased mass to dilute the sporty driving feel that they are proud off.
The Impreza lives in it
Though the skeletal structure is stretched Impreza, the higher ground clearance, soft long travel springs and 65 series tires preclude record breaking circuit times. With the hard charging, soft riding and capacious Forester, Subaru is aiming for the Impreza driver who needs more space. With dual catalytic converter and dual silencers in the rear, Subaru is not abandoning the sporty expectations of anyone who loves the Subaru appeal, especially if you get this sports sedan slayer, the turbo XT.
An all rounder, if you nurse the throttle
Delivering enhanced economy (15.16km/l on highway test for the new 150 PS 2.0-liter with revised variable valve timing, 12.19km/l for the 230 PS 2.5-liter XT Turbo), instant responses, free revving with the all important boost in power is not lost in the compromise. With a leather steering wheel, cruise control, remote radio controls, double stitch water resistant fabric and a glass panorama sunroof that also bathes the rear passengers in warm light, the Forester XT is also appealing to the executive car market, as many SUVs are carving their niche from that segment. 2011 model upgrades include red instrumentation illumination, revised fog lamp pods, frosted aluminum roof rails and door pulls. 0-100km/h acceleration time of a little over 7 seconds puts the XT squarely in sports car territory. In the crowded compact-SUV-crossover segment, none can quite match its blistering performance and this is what a Subaru is all about.