I must admit, when Subaru announced that the fifth-generation Forester would not be offered with a turbocharged XT version, I was really disappointed. It would be the first time that the Forester will not be offered with a turbocharged engine, marking the end of an era.
While Motor Image Pilipinas is still currently selling the previous-generation Forester XT, they are down to the last few units. Soon after that, the FXT as we know it will be no more. Instead, we’ll be getting this – the Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight – which is the new top of the line variant offered by Motor Image Pilipinas.
Now, you’re probably wondering whether this new top of the line model lives up to the iconic XT. To be honest, not really. But don't let that put you off, because this new Forester still has a lot going for it.
First up, the basics. The fifth-generation Forester uses all-new underpinnings called the Subaru Global Platform (SGP) which was developed to improve handling, safety, and comfort. While it's all-new underneath, Subaru didn’t make any drastic styling changes to over in predecessor. In particular, some could easily mistake this model as a facelift of the previous-gen Forester rather than all-new.
Visually, the new model features sharper headlights and a revised bumper with vertical foglight housings. Combined with the less elongated nose and larger grill, it gives the new Forester a tougher look at the front. The biggest styling change from its predecessor can be seen at the rear. The C-shaped LED taillights are now smaller in size and is now features a two-piece design with the garnish at located on the tailgate itself.
Step inside, and you’ll find a very spacious cabin. I’m not sure if it is because of the new platform or the larger greenhouse, but the fifth-generation Forester feels a lot roomier compared to its predecessor. The seats are more comfortable and won't give you a backache even when sitting in traffic for a few hours. The driver and front passenger seat also have more variables of adjustment thanks to motorized seat adjusters. Soft-touch materials all-around do give the Forester a plusher feel. There’s also a sunroof if you want to get some Vitamin D in. A touch screen infotainment system allows you to easily play your tunes on the go. There’s also a number of USB and power sockets throughout the cabin, allowing every passenger to charge their phone and other accessories.
Bigger space doesn’t stop with just the passenger compartment. Open the automatic tailgate, and there’s plenty of space to carry luggage for five people. Tumble the rear seats down by using a switch and you get almost the double space for transporting really big items. I personally like how Subaru has added a trunk cover as standard equipment as well, protecting cargo loaded into the trunk from the elements.
Situated in front of the driver is a traditional gauge cluster, which I like more than some of the newer fully-digital displays out there. Vehicle information is easy to read and can be found on the two digital displays, one in between the dials on the cluster and other on the center of the dashboard. Similar to the XT, the Forester 2.0i-S measures numerous vehicle parameters, giving the driver a better idea of how the vehicle is performing.
When it comes to power, gone is the turbocharged WRX engine, which most, if not all of us, have come to love. In its place is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter FB20 which produces 156 PS and 196 Nm torque, similar to what you’d find in the XV and the Impreza. It is paired with a Lineartronic CVT and sends power to the wheels via Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive System.
Honestly, I do miss the power of the XT. But let’s be honest, with the horrible traffic we have in Metro Manila, it is almost impossible to unleash all 241 PS of the previous FXT unless you head out to the expressway. That said, the new engine does have enough power for city use. Switch it into the S-Drive mode and power is delivered more instantaneously. On the highways, however, it's a different story. Power from the naturally-aspirated motor feels lacking, and overtaking takes a bit more effort with the engine needing to climb higher in the rev range. Because of this, the new Forester is quite a gas guzzler having only averaged around 7km/L.
Despite having reduced performance, the 2.0i-S does ride a lot better than the XT and to some people (if not most), that is a lot more important. The suspension is a lot softer now, absorbing bumps on the road better. Paired with the new interior, most people who do get to ride one would find it a lot more enjoyable as well as comfortable. Personally, I feel as if the suspension is a bit too soft for my liking. When riding at the back, it sometimes feels as if there’s a wavy effect or. Maybe that’s just me, or I’m used to vehicles having stiffer rides.
Thanks to the new platform, it also handles better on the road. When switching between lanes at speed, the car feels very planted. Despite being a tall car, there isn’t a lot of body roll. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a crossover in the Forester. It feels more like a sedan but with lots of space.
While it did lose the turbo, the fifth-generation Forester did learn new tricks up its sleeve. It is now more capable off-roading as we tested earlier this year. An improved version of X-Mode allowed us to literally take the Forester off-road on a full dirt track complete with big rocks. In fact, we even used it to go river crossing, so you don’t have to worry about most of the floods you might encounter this rainy season (unless you happen to live in Banawe).
Possibly the best feature about the new Forester 2.0i-S is EyeSight. EyeSight acts like your co-pilot and it essentially prevents you from doing stupid things on the road. A car suddenly stops in front of you? It will automatically apply the brakes, preventing you from getting into an accident. EyeSight doesn’t just look out for cars. It also detects bicycles, motorcycles, and, more importantly, pedestrians. That said, I feel as if it is almost impossible for someone to total the vehicle... as long as EyeSight is turned on (It can be turned off by a switch inside.).
Aside from improving safety, EyeSight also lets you relax while sitting in traffic, making driving a lot easier and traffic a little more bearable. Similar to how a cruise control works, the system can pilot for you when driving in a straight line, making it perfect for EDSA rush hour traffic or on the expressway. Simply adjust the distance to the car in front, and EyeSight will automatically move forward once the vehicle in front has also advanced.
The Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight is currently priced at Php 1,828,000, which makes it a lot cheaper compared to the previous top-of-the-line Forester XT priced at above Php 2 million mark. However, the 2.0i-S doesn’t have the same performance as the XT it replaced. Instead, it offers EyeSight, more room, and a more comfortable ride, which would make it a more reasonable purchase.
But, I do have one issue with the 2.0i-S. Most of the features found in this variant are also found in the Forester 2.0i-L EyeSight which is priced at Php 1,698,000, a whole Php 130,000 cheaper. The only things missing from the i-S would be the more advanced X-Mode with Deep Mud and Snow and the sunroof, features most of us could live without. Externally, the i-L does have smaller wheels and non-LED foglights, but other than that they are essentially the same with EyeSight being available on both models. This then makes me wonder if all the extra features are worth the additional Php 130,000. I'm sure though there are others that would want to have the extra goodies.
Nonetheless, the Forester 2.0i-S EyeSight is a great vehicle for those who choose to buy one and as a successor to the XT. Personally, I would still choose the XT as the performance factor is a big plus. But to most folks, having EyeSight and a more comfortable ride is the obvious choice. Now, if there was only a Forester XT with EyeSight, that would be perfect.