So many carbuncles have lurched from Subaru’s design department in the past decade that the Forester is perhaps fortunate just to be a little ungainly in the flesh and not laughably hideous.

It’s marginally larger than before – swelling by 15mm in the hips and 35mm front to back – yet it’s the grumpy pout of the adopted family nose and a conspicuously large glasshouse that make the car appear proportionally unbalanced.

The range-topping XT uses a turbocharged version of the BRZ coupé's engine

Subaru says it has moved the Forester’s A-pillars 200mm further forward and curved the roofline 63mm down to the tailgate in the interests of sleekness, but this hardly closes the gap to the high-shouldered, simpering SUVs that make up its competition. 

The platform is shared with other Subaru models (notably the XV) and its wheelbase is 25mm longer than that of the previous generations of Subaru Forester. Although, this will be the last generation of Forester to do so, with the next iteration set to be built on Subaru's Global Platform architecture.

The suspension set-up – MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones at the back – has been fettled, thickened and strengthened in the pursuit of better handling (on and off road) and stability. A parallel search for improved efficiency has resulted in the hydraulic power steering being replaced by an electric system. 

The engine line-up, based around Subaru’s four-cylinder boxer unit, is carried over from the previous Forester, with the exception of the new turbocharged 237bhp petrol unit.

Reduced friction inside the naturally aspirated 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine makes for a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy, but by far the biggest seller in Europe will be the unchanged 145bhp 2.0-litre diesel. This popular unit was given a large update in 2015, with the fitment of a new high pressure common-rail injection system, improved glow plugs, new radiator, fan, and oil cooler, and revamped turbo settings, was all done to reduce noise, vibration, harshness and improve fuel economy. There was also the addition of a Lineartronic gearbox option for the diesel models, with the same CVT unit used as the one found in the most powerful petrol version.

Whichever boxer you choose, power will be deployed to all four wheels, although how the car does this depends on the transmission selected. Models with the six-speed manual gearbox get a centre differential coupled to a viscous limited-slip diff, which will adjust the default 50 percent front/50 percent rear torque split as required.


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Cars with an updated version of the Lineartronic CVT get an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch to apportion the twist, and they run a slight front-end bias torque split (60 percent front/40 percent rear) by default. The automatics also have a button-operated X-Mode system, which optimises the gearbox, traction control and all-wheel drive system (including hill descent control) for low-traction driving.

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