When the history of the crossover is written, the Subaru Forester will most likely be one of a half-dozen cars to claim a close proximity to its genesis.

The original model, introduced as a concept in 1995, was based on an Impreza's chassis. Intended to snare American buyers keen on rugged outdoor pursuits, it was promoted under the catchy slogan of 'SUV tough, car easy'.

All-wheel drive, boxer engines and the use of turbos were all in place from the start and continued through two more generations, launched in 2002 and 2008. One look at the latest version of the Subaru Forester makes it clear that the slow transition from utilitarian, estate-bodied workhorse to soft-roader clone is finally complete.

Its predecessor had already grown far taller than any Forester before it. Now, Subaru has polished off the job with the chunkier, even bigger, SUV-shaped successor that we’re testing here. 

Ambitions have similarly been supersized for the new arrival. The Japanese manufacturer expects this Forester quickly to become its most popular model, capitalising on a healthy segment to overhaul the 170,000 global sales racked up by the previous version.

To do this, especially in such a crowded marketplace, Subaru must ensure that buyers can still see the Forester for the trees and value its distinguishing features accordingly.

The brand will feel that – with improved practicality, better efficiency, typically high ground clearance and a standard symmetrical four-wheel drive system in place – such a differentiation has been achieved. It’s time to find out if that’s actually the case.

Top 5 Mid-size execs

  • BMW 5 Series
    Superb engine and cabin, but ride and handling let the side down

    BMW 5 Series

    1
  • The second generation Jaguar XF

    Jaguar XF

    2
  • Audi A6
    The Audi A6 is a car that delivers in every area

    Audi A6

    3
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    The E-class more than lives up to traditional Mercedes values

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    4
  • Lexus GS
    The Lexus GS is unusual in the part of the market in not offering a diesel option

    Lexus GS

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Subaru range

Driven this week

  • Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40
    First Drive
    25 May 2016
    The new Clubsport fits the anniversary GTI mould perfectly - but it's still not the best Golf on sale
  • McLaren 570GT
    First Drive
    25 May 2016
    The entry-level McLaren perfected for the broadest audience. Brilliant to drive, with impressive cruising manners and enhanced usability
  • JE Motorworks Defender automatic
    First Drive
    24 May 2016
    The king is dead, long live the king. Are upgrades the best way to breathe new life into your Defender?
  • Car review
    23 May 2016
    Jaguar takes a typically sporting approach to its first SUV
  • Audi RS7 Performance
    First Drive
    20 May 2016
    Did Audi's RS7 need an extra 44bhp and 37lb ft? No, it didn't. Regardless, this Performance model has just that – and we've driven it in the UK