What is it?
Given that Subaru prefers to define itself as an SUV brand these days, it’s strange that it should have been without what we might think of as a conventional family SUV, at least on European shores, for so long.
The Forester has been as close as the firm has come to making one (leaving aside the short-lived, US-built B9 Tribeca), but it’s only really been big enough to escape definition as a ‘crossover estate’ for a model generation or so. Moreover, after Subaru dropped its boxer diesel engine last year, it has spent a good portion of its life without the kind of powertrain it needs to do really well on this continent.
This year, however, the tables ought to turn in the Forester’s favour a bit when the fifth-generation of the car arrives because – just as European customers continue to clamour, for better or worse, to avoid buying diesel – it’ll be arriving with a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain which Subaru has branded the eBoxer. It’s a fairly mild hybrid application, if that word can be applied in a non-binary sense; though it can power the car in emissions-free running for short periods, it features a fairly small electric drive motor with only 16bhp and 48lb ft of torque, and also a small lithium-ion drive battery.
But being small also makes Subaru’s hybrid powertrain light: the whole setup, electric motor, battery, power electronics and all, only adds 110kg to any model (and it’s going in the current XV and, later, in the Impreza too). For that reason, but also because it’s been designed to drive into a reengineered version of the same CVT that other Subarus use, it doesn’t adversely affect either the utility or offroad capability of the Forester too much.
So, where other petrol-electric SUVs have greatly reduced capacity for towing, this one can manage almost 1800kg on a braked trailer - and, since it has the same asymmetrical four-wheel drive system as any other Subaru, it doesn’t effectively become a heavy, underpowered front-wheel drive field ornament when the battery runs out.