Three engines are offered in the Subaru Forester. Buyers can opt for a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol, a 2.0-litre diesel or a range-topping turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol.
Most buyers will go for the 2.0-litre diesel, due to its reasonably low emissions and competitive claimed 50mpg economy.
Subaru's boxer diesel was a cantankerous unit to start up and a rowdy one to live with. This is as much to do with its tonal quality as its volume. Although numerous modifications to the common-rail system, radiator, oil cooler and turbocharger maps all have helped eradicate some of the harshness, vibrations and noise that the Boxer engine was known for.
Our noise meter reckoned that the Forester was actually a couple of decibels quieter inside than the new Ford Kuga; it’s just the mid-range thrash that stays with you. Unfortunately, due to this diesel’s unusual requirement for revs – and a reluctance to perform without them – the maelstrom at 3500rpm is a fairly constant companion.
Nevertheless, there is a noticeable bite among all the bark. Although Subaru insists that 258lb ft is available from 1600rpm, in reality it remains sulkily in its corner on a stool until beyond 2000rpm and then charges enthusiastically into action.
As in the XV, this makes for spasmodic, lag-dulled progress at times, but it doesn’t prevent the Forester from delivering strong performance. Despite a weightier body (although not at all heavy by class standards), it can still hit 60mph in around 10sec, placing it respectably close to the class leaders.
The naturally aspirated petrol engine may look relatively weedy on paper and feel a little sluggish in real life, but it actually performs quite well in the 0-62mph sprint. It's relaxing and refined below 3500rpm, but accelerate harder and you'll find that boxer thrum more evident.
It's not overly intrusive or off-putting, but it does discourage spirited acceleration. The issue, then, is not with the result of the boxer’s endeavour but the experience of interacting with it.
Gearbox options include a slick, well weighted manual transmission – for both petrol or diesel units – or Subaru's 'Lineartronic' CVT automatic for petrol models.
The continuously variable transmission is the only gearbox available for range-topping turbo variants of the Forester. While undoubtably quick, its high emissions and low economy (an official 33.2mpg) will no doubt serve to make it a niche model.