Get beyond about fifty per cent throttle in the Forester eBoxer and a little bit of roughness and shunt from the hybrid driveline materialises, particularly as the petrol engine takes the lead from the electric motor. When you want anything approaching full power, the familiar mix of steady apparent over-revving from the 2.0-litre flat four and slipping from the gearbox presents – and, as ever, the gearboxes’ manual mode isn’t entirely successful at mitigating the latter.
So, on the road at least, I suspect other hybrid SUVs would feel more responsive and slick to drive. Off the road, however, the Forester’s hybrid CVT drivetrain and mechanical four-wheel drive system make it easy to meter out just as much torque as you need to eke out traction or to climb or crawl.
Detailed on-road ride and handling impressions will have to wait until later, but on an admittedly smooth test track the Forester’s body seemed reasonably well-controlled for a car of its size, its steering linear and precise enough, and its ride quiet and absorbent.
Real-world fuel economy test will also have to come later - but don't expect too much on that score. Subaru's claim is that the eBoxer system makes for an eleven percent improvement to the city economy of a like-for-like 2.0-litre petrol model, and that open-road efficiency is only slightly better than it might be in that conventionally powered petrol alternative.
Should I buy one?
Subaru's eBoxer hybrid powertrain feels like a slightly tentative step towards electrification, but a vitally important one for Subaru. It’s unlikely to catapult the Forester up the sales chart the way that Mitsubishi’s PHEV powertrain transformed Outlander sales – but, while there are clearly a few creases still to iron out of it, it does feel like it belongs on a typically dependable, capable Subaru. And that, as with anything, feels like the right place for the firm to start.
If you want a family SUV to use almost entirely on the road, and the drivability and economy of a diesel are your bottom-line requirements, this may not be the hybrid SUV for you. But if you need the towing and four-wheel drive capability that were once considered key for SUV buyers but increasingly only remain so for a minority, the Forester eBoxer ought to be high on your shopping list.
This is a bit of a curious, unusual animal: an old-school, new-generation family 4x4 that uses fairly avant-garde technology to serve a time-honoured brief in an uncompromising but pragmatic way. Oddly, considering all of that, you might quite like its sense of simplicity.
Subaru Forester e-Boxer specification