We drive the Subaru Forester 2.5 S-Edition Turbo... again
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What happens when boy racers finally grow up and start a family?
Well, they usually conform, and end up settling for a spiritless sedan or a party-pooping people carrier, consigned to a life of dull motoring forevermore. Unless, of course, they opt for the Subaru Forester 2.5 S-Edition Turbo...
You see, the Forester S-Edition is part SUV, part performance powerhouse, meaning you can quite feasibly trade in that hot hatch for a white-hot wagon. To satisfy your parental instincts, it has myriad safety features, and of course plenty of space for the family. And to appease the petrolhead in you, it employs the very same 2.5-litre turbochargerd Boxer engine found in the WRX. Yes, that means 193kW at 6000rpm and 347Nm at 4000rpm. Lovely.
We've tested the Forester 2.5 S-Edition, which was launched earlier this year, here at iafrica Motoring headquarters before, but this is the first chance I've had to pilot the beast. Needless to say, I just couldn't refuse. The test car arrived in a trademark Subaru hue: World Rally Blue.
First impressions are a tad conflicting, since the Forester has decent ground clearance — it is not averse to the odd spot of off-roading — and that typical SUV stance (it measures over 4.5 metres long), while also featuring a number of hints at the fire that lurks in its belly. Anyone with even a passing interest in going from 0 to 100km/h in the fastest possible time would quickly pick up the visual clues to the S-Edition's sporting credentials: 17-inch STI style alloys, a red S-Edition badge, dual exhaust pipes, a sports spoiler (luckily nothing as extreme as the wings found on the WRX STI though), and, of course, that signature gaping vent in the bonnet, feeding air to the top-mounted intercooler.
High intensity Xenon headlights, coupled with chrome-trimmed fog lights, add to the menacing look from the front. The S-Edition also features a black grille (as opposed to silver on the six other Forester models), satin silver roof rails, a double-sized sunroof, aluminium sports pedals, and rear privacy glass. Interestingly, it turned a few more heads than I expected.
No manual option
Strangely, the sporty S-Edition is available only in automatic guise. The five-speed SportShift transmission is an old-school unit — no fancy twin-clutch shenanigans here — but works surprisingly well with the WRX powerplant. And if you feel the need to grab control of the cog-swapping, long rubber-coated paddles mounted on the steering column allow you to override the auto 'box.
Symmetrical all-wheel drive, with variable torque distribution allowing up to 80 percent of torque to be sent rearward, means the S-Edition stays well and truly planted in the corners — despite its lofty ride height — as well as remaining surefooted in wet conditions and off-road.
Slight turbo lag is evident, but the 2457cc horizontally-opposed lump is a beaut regardless. Subaru claims that it can haul the 1500kg Forester from zero to 100km/h in about 6.5 seconds, which rivals most hot hatches. The engine note is characteristically Boxer, although the exhaust tone is fairly muted. The S-Edition tops out at a shade under 230km/h, not that a family man should be travelling at anywhere near that speed...
There is, of course, a downside to all that peachy performance: the fuel consumption. A colourful sticker on the test car's windscreen brazenly points out the S-Edition's claimed combined consumption of 10.5 litres per 100km and CO2 emission figure of 248g per km. Ouch.
Drive it like you stole it and those numbers climb quickly. But to be fair, the folks at Subaru have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to drive economically as they've included a vacuum gauge, which among other things allows you to know how efficiently you are driving at any given moment. The problem is, when long stretches of open road appear in front of you, it's difficult not to bury your right foot, which means the 60-litre tank goes from full to empty quicker than you can say "I didn't realise I was speeding, officer".
Inside the cabin
The interior is dominated by black leather and quirky blue Alcantara trimmings. The seats — eight-way electrically adjustable — are particularly comfortable and there is plenty of room for even long-limbed drivers. The multifunctional steering wheel fits nicely into the palms, and features controls for audio, Bluetooth and the cruise control.
All Foresters, bar the bottom-of-the-range offering, benefit from a reverse camera feeding images to a full-colour LCD monitor mounted in the centre of the dashboard. USB and auxiliary ports are neatly hidden away under the central arm rest, which even features a special tray to house an iPod or hard-drive.
The back bench is also fairly roomy, and a retractable centre cushion featuring illuminated cup holders is a highlight. Thanks to the extended rear, luggage capacity is generous, with the boot able to hold up to 450 litres with the back seats in place and over 1600 litres with the seats folded flat. A retractable cargo cover is standard across the range.
The petrol Foresters come with a three-year or 100 000km warranty, and a three-year or 75 000km maintenance plan. So, plenty in the way of peace of mind, then.
Greetings from other Subaru drivers, by way of flashed headlights or a friendly wave, were a pleasant surprise. I mean, I've experienced that sort of thing with classic cars, but never with a new vehicle. It's great to know that the Subaru camaraderie is still alive and well. It's not something you see from too many brands today...
So, the Subaru Forester 2.5 S-Edition Turbo is like no other vehicle on the road today. It's spacious, comfortable and, although pretty darn thirsty when driven with spirit, it is truly quick.
Now, all we need is a manual version...
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.