SUBARU'S fifth-generation Forester, due in Australia around September, is set to have its eye on you. Well, more accurately, its cabin-mounted camera will.
The midsize SUV brings a tech-first to this segment in the form of a Driver Monitoring System (DMS) that comprises a camera mounted in the upper centre stack, integrated to driver recognition software. Its primary function is one of safety, monitoring the driver’s face for signs of drooping or distracted eyes and early indicators of fatigue. But the system also delivers a convenience benefit in terms of the facial recognition that allows automatic adjustment of a bunch of individual driver settings such as seat position, climate control, and exterior mirrors.
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Yet the new DMS is arguably less significant than the radical rethink on the Australian line-up. The product planners have gone crazy with the Samuri sword, slashing the entry-level 2.0-litre atmo petrol models, diesels and manual gearboxes. Gone, too, are the top-spec turbocharged XT/XT Premium models. Instead, the new Forester will be offered only with a heavily revised version of the FA25 2.5-litre flat four, now making 136kW (up 10kW) at 5800rpm and 239Nm (up 4Nm) at 4400rpm. Default transmission will be the current CVT Subaru calls Lineartronic, offering a stepped sporting mode. Torque distribution continues to be delivered 50-50 front to rear via Subie’s Symmetrical AWD system. Expect a small gain on the current 8.1L/100km fuel figure; Subaru Oz aren’t saying at this point.
So it’s one powertrain spread across three, maybe four models. A performance flagship running the new-gen 2.4-litre turbo is not on the horizon, according to Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie. “The XT/XT Premium models were only contributing around 70 sales per month, so we believe this new, rationalised line-up is the right one. It’s working well for Impreza and XV,” he told Wheels. Christie also confirmed a plug-in hybrid would join the range, but indicated it would be well into 2019.
The new Forester is crucial for Subaru globally as it’s historically the brand’s best-selling model, and urgently needed in Australia to return the nameplate back to the sharp end of the segment now ruled by the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV 4, which has also just revealed its new form. Subaru's new model is built upon the Subaru Global Platform (SPG) that underpins Impreza and XV, and a slightly larger, stiffer body delivers improved accommodation, rear seat accessibility, and massively improved cabin quality. Wheelbase grows 30mm to 2670mm for an overall length of 4625mm. The boot aperture is appreciably larger; luggage room is increased, and ground clearance is a claimed 200mm.
In terms of safety, the 2018 Subaru Forester adds reversing AEB, as an improvement to the current Eyesight driver assist system (standard across all model) as well as seven airbags, and increased use of high-tensile steel for improved collision protection. Naturally multi-media and connectivity all moves forward a generation.
In real terms, pricing won’t move significantly upwards, but stripping out of the smaller-engined manual at the previous entry point is likely to make the new entry-level model around $34,000, running to the mid-$40s for the as-yet-unnamed top-spec Forester.