In petrol-head parlance, a Q-car is a vehicle that looks unassuming – even ordinary – yet delivers an unexpected punch in performance. It’s the kind of car nobody notices, but which can burn rubber and blow smoke into the eyes of even the fanciest machines. But here’s a new twist to the Q-car concept: A compact SUV with sports car urge. By DEON SCHOEMAN.
The Forester is Subaru’s highly popular compact SUV. An all-new Forester generation made its local debut last year and also introduced a diesel model to the line-up. With all-wheel drive, a choice of manual and automatic gearboxes and a reputation for solid reliability, it’s no wonder the Forester has a growing local fan club.
But the S-Edition Turbo bats in a completely different league. Yes, it is unmistakably a Forester. And yes, it’s still a compact SUV with four-wheel drive. But it looks more resolute, more menacing than its siblings, thanks to bigger wheels, a subtle body kit, a gaping air scoop grafted onto the bonnet and twin exhausts.
Even so, the S-Edition doesn’t have the most arresting of shapes. In line with its Q-Car approach, those exterior add-ons make it look different to the common or garden Forester family members, but they certainly don’t transform it into an obvious tar-burner.
It’s too angular and too boxy to look truly exciting. Some might even call it unattractive and too utilitarian.
In other words, this super-Forester retains an essentially conservative design, emphasised by its raised stance. The brightwork on the grille and the fancier wheels are meant to add some top-model lustre, but do little to dilute the Subaru SUV’s quintessentially practical, utility image.
The interior does offer some welcome relief from the ordinary, though. Settle in behind the grippy, thick-rimmed wheel, and you’ll quickly get to like the comfortable, Alcantara-clad sport seats. They’re nicely bolstered too, which ensures decent support when tackling the twisties.
Since the S-Edition is the flagship of the Forester line-up, it’s offered with a comprehensive array of standard gear. The list of features is exhaustive, spanning just about everything the hedonist’s heart would desire. Vitally, the execution is solid and quality driven in the best Subaru tradition.
Standard equipment includes electric windows, mirrors and seats, cruise control, remote central locking, climate control, a seven-speaker sound system with subwoofer and iPod connectivity.
The spacious cabin easily accommodates four or even five adults, while the boot offers 450litres of cargo space. If that isn’t enough, folding down the split rear seat will boost load carrying capability to a capacious 1,660litres.
Safety kit includes front, side and curtain airbags, together with active systems such as ABS-controlled brakes, and ESP stability control. But it’s the heart beating under the bonnet that matters most.
Powering the Forester S-Edition is a 2,5litre flat-four engine, complete with turbocharger and intercooler. It’s a direct transplant from the Impreza WRX sedan, with only small changes in power and torque output to better match the auto gearbox and the taller final drive of the Forester. The result? An indecently rapid SUV.
As the stats confirm, the S-Edition Turbo is quite capable of burning rubber – and no wonder, given its maximum power output of 193kW at 6,000rpm, and a 347Nm torque peak, on tap from 2,800rpm.
The engine is a latest-generation design, offering reduced internal friction, high efficiency and low maintenance costs. Variable valve timing, 16 valves and electronic fuel injection are all standard, which also benefits fuel consumption and emissions ratings.
The gearbox is a five-speed automatic with shift paddles mounted on the steering column. Drive is to all four wheels via Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, which can vary the torque split between the front and rear axles.
The result is a mostly satisfying driving experience – and one more akin to that of an athletic estate car than a sports utility vehicle. The wide-spaced gear ratios mean there’s a bit of lag before the turbo spools up and gear changes are slow when compared to dual-clutch designs. But once on song, the S-Edition feels unstoppable.
Subaru claims a zero to 100km/h time of 6.5sec, and a 228km/h top speed, and those seem plausible enough. The raised driving position tends to blunt the sensation of speed somewhat, but there’s no doubt that the S-Edition covers ground both rapidly and effortlessly.
Effortless is also the best way to describe the Forester’s road manners. The all-wheel drive system provides plenty of grip, and the mild understeer at the limit is easily remedied. There’s less body roll than expected and the steering, while light, does a fine job of finding apex after apex.
At the same time, ride quality remains supple enough to iron out bumps and dips, with the independent suspension front and rear finding a useful compromise between tautness and response.
The result is a chunky, purposeful all-terrainer that isn’t scared to tackle gravel or mild off-road challenges. But we assume that buyers of this S-Edition will be interested mainly in this Forester’s proficiency on tar, and in the right hands, it will easily intimidate much fancier, sportier machinery.
So, the Forester S-Edition Turbo is every inch the Q-Car of the SUV world. It looks pure and practical SUV, yet goes like the clappers and can cling to the tar through corners with the tenacity of a sports car.
Add all the creature comforts and the interior space, and this Subaru is versatility personified. DM
Understated, purposeful and capable SUV with a thrilling penchant for sports car-rivalling dynamics.
Conservative aesthetics. Some lag at low revs.
Subaru Forester 2.5 S-Edition Turbo
Four-cylinder, horizontally opposed, 2,493cc, turbo
193kW @ 6,000rpm
347Nm @ 2,800rpm
While we have your attention...
An increasingly rare commodity, quality independent journalism costs money - though not nearly as much as its absence.
Every article, every day, is our contribution to Defending Truth in South Africa. If you would like to join us on this mission, you could do much worse than support Daily Maverick's quest by becoming a Maverick Insider.
Click here to become a Maverick Insider and get a closer look at the Truth.
One of the largest carp ever caught on record was done so using the ashes of the fisherman's deceased friend.