- 2016 model-year upgrades to Subaru’s popular and capable SUV
- New technologies aid safety and convenience
- Choice of manual or Lineartronic transmissions, and three 2.0-litre flat-four diesel or petrol ‘Boxer’ engines
- Additional soundproofing measures and significantly upgraded cabin
- High standard equipment levels with connected touchscreen infotainment
The UK’s best-selling Subaru has undergone a range of enhancements for 2016, offering greater safety and convenience as well as the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) and ‘Boxer’ flat-four engines that are a lasting hallmark of the brand that brings out the best in both leisure and performance driving.
Since the very first Forester was introduced in 1997, European sales in the C-SUV segment have increased eightfold. Now, more than ever, the new Forester has the ease of use and practicality that appeals to customers looking for this type of vehicle.
Shaped around SUV buyers’ top priorities, the upgraded Forester offers more confidence-inspiring handling and improved refinement; generous interior space and cargo capacity, exterior dimensions that are suited to city streets, a commanding driving position and ease of entry and exit for adults and children, making it the perfect all-round vehicle.
High ground clearance and Subaru’s trademark Symmetrical AWD give excellent handling coupled to all-terrain capabilities that distinguish the Forester from its competitors.
Forester has been given a more modern and robust appearance, with updates to its front grille, bumper, and headlamps, as well as the rear lamps and alloy wheels.
The interior design is also more refined, with a silver frame and high-gloss black decorative panel. The leather seats are also improved, and the door grips and central pillars of the instrument panel are now wrapped in new, richly-textured material. Other new features include rear-seat heating and a new heated steering wheel.
The Forester is an exceptionally safe vehicle and has a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating. For 2016, the Forester it gets new headlamp technology to further improve forward visibility and safety, including steering-responsive headlamps, which illuminate corners as the driver turns the steering wheel.
All safety equipment on offer is fitted as standard to every model in the Forester range, including twin front, side, curtain and knee airbags, Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC; Subaru’s electronic stability control system) with trailer stability, and Subaru’s hallmark Symmetrical AWD technology.
Updated suspension at the front and rear ensures the car is comfortable and refined, particularly over broken or choppy surfaces, while a new steering box quickens the steering ratio.
Refinement is improved, with thicker door glass, more sound-absorbent seals, and additional soundproofing material throughout the cabin.
The range of engines remains unchanged, with buyers able to choose from three 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engines – a 150PS naturally-aspirated petrol engine and a 147 ps turbo-diesel unit from Subaru’s FB family of engines, as well as a DIT direct injection turbocharged petrol, which produces a punchy 241PS.
A six-speed manual transmission – available on 2.0i and 2.0D models – or an upgraded version of Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT automatic are offered, the latter available as an option on 2.0i and 2.0D models and standard with the 241PS DIT petrol engine.
Of course, the real standout features of Forester are its Symmetrical AWD, and the latest-generation Boxer engines, which not only sound fantastic but also contribute to the low centre of gravity, helping balance, road holding and handling.
In uneven or slippery road conditions, all-terrain capability is enhanced further with the X-Mode on Lineartronic CVT models, an All-Wheel-Drive control system which includes Hill Descent Control and makes traction even better than the outgoing model.
There are five trim levels for buyers to choose from, all with a generous level of standard equipment: XE and XE Premium trim levels are available on all naturally-aspirated petrol models; XC and XC Premium on all diesel models; and XT, the highest specification, is standard on 2.0-litre turbocharged petrols. See the chapter on ‘Equipment’ for full model walk-up and equipment listing.
Design, interior and infotainment
The 2016 Forester has an updated, more modern look, while inside the cabin, new materials and technologies have been introduced to further modernise it.
The exterior design has been refreshed with a new ‘S’-shaped grille motif, while the front bumper has been reshaped and now features L-shaped chrome trim, adding more volume and a wider stance to the lower part of the Forester’s front end.
The new steering-responsive headlamps, which turn into corners as the driver turns the steering wheel, are fitted in wraparound clusters, with new LED combination lamps at the rear.
New wheel designs round off the external changes, with a new three-dimensional, six-spoke 17-inch design and a black and silver diamond-cut finish for the new 10-spoke 18-inch wheels.
But it’s the upgraded cabin that represents one of the largest and most important changes to the 2016 Subaru Forester.
The interior is trimmed with more high-grade, soft-touch materials. The door grips, dashboard and steering wheel get metallic silver high gloss black accents, while air conditioning controls in the centre console are painted silver. The grip button on the handbrake lever is chrome plated, rather than in a black plastic finish, and XT models get a new chrome finish to the cup holders in the front and rear.
The driver’s instrument binnacle has a new, higher-res colour LCD display for a more modern, clearer display.
An enhanced infotainment, navigation and audio system is fitted as standard to all Foresters. A seven-inch touchscreen display allows smartphone-style control of the navigation and infotainment features, with a swipe and pinch function for map displays. The system also houses a standard-fit rear view camera.
There is also a range of other functions, controlled though a voice control facility. This allows the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road while selecting a favourite radio station or album, setting a new satellite navigation destination or changing the power or temperature of the climate control.
The system also enables Apple iPhone users to activate Siri® Eyes-Free functionality, providing full voice control of their iOS mobile device when linked to the infotainment system.
Its smartphone functionality extends to a range of apps that can be downloaded onto users’ phones or tablets, which pair-up with the vehicle via Subaru Starlink, making Forester one of the most connected cars on the road. Starlink enables occupants to find out weather forecasts and traffic reports, access wireless audio, receive the latest news updates and check their calendar while on the move.
A series of modifications have been made beneath the surface of the 2016 Forester to improve cabin refinement. There is thicker glass in every door and the front quarterlights at the base of the A-pillar to reduce wind noise. For the front quarter lights and front doors, glass thickness has increased from 3.5 mm to 4.0 mm, while rear door glass is now 3.5 mm, up from 3.1 mm. The seals around the door window frames use a new, more sound-absorbent material to further reduce noise. Additional soundproofing is added around the dashboard, particularly where it meets the base of the windscreen and in the front footwells, minimising engine and wind noise.
The upgraded 2016 model-year Forester upholds Subaru’s tradition of safety and stability. The all-steel unitary structure of the Forester is engineered to deliver the highest level of crash safety performance ever seen in a Subaru, with a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating.
Notable scores include 91 per cent for both ‘adult occupant’ and ‘child occupant’ categories and maximum points were awarded for side impact protection in the ‘adult occupant’ category. Testing showed good protection of the knees and femurs of both front seat passengers in frontal impacts.
The front bumper also scored maximum points for pedestrian protection, while the bonnet area was also praised.
The Forester has Subaru’s traditional ring-shaped reinforcement frame and, compared to its predecessor, a greater proportion of ultra-high tensile steel. The body is among the strongest, yet lightest, of any similarly-sized SUV.
The side sill and A-pillar, which represent the main structural parts of the cabin for occupant protection are reinforced with ultra-high tensile steel. For greater side impact protection, the B-pillar is also reinforced, along the roof rail, to improve occupant protection in the event of impact on the roof or rollover.
The Forester features whiplash-reducing seats, with stiff frames and tall backrests, and ISOFIX anchors are fitted for child safety seats in the rear cabin.
Front, side, curtain and knee airbags are all fitted as standard, while activation technology ensures the front seat airbag will only activate for an adult, removing the need to turn the airbag on and off for children and infants sitting in the front passenger seat.
Other features enhancing occupant protection include a retractor mechanism for the brake pedal; a collapsible steering column and a separation mechanism between the bodyshell and tilt bracket of the steering column.
But active safety plays a big part. The 2016 Forester has new Steering Responsive Headlights, which allow the headlamps to rotate left or right into corners as the driver turns the wheel. By illuminating the road ahead in the direction in which the vehicle is traveling, the Forester’s night visibility is greatly improved, particularly useful in rural, poorly-lit areas.
Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) electronic stability control system works in conjunction with the Forester’s Symmetrical AWD system for superior stability on all surfaces.
VDC features emergency brake assist, which assesses the need for braking assistance according to the braking force applied by the driver and the speed at which the brake pedal is depressed. The result is almost identical braking performance on both wet and dry surfaces. A brake override system gives priority to the brake when both accelerator and brake are pressed simultaneously, protecting against unintended acceleration.
Trailer Stability Control (or Towing VDC) improves safety during towing, activating braking control and engine torque control to enhance stability if the system detects a change in yaw angle from an attached trailer. This is particularly helpful when avoiding hazards in the road or during high winds.
EyeSight is Subaru’s advanced driver assist technology, which acts as a second pair of eyes for the driver.
In the UK, Outback was the first model to be fitted with EyeSight followed by Levorg in early 2017. Going forwards, EyeSight will be introduced across the Subaru range.
The institute for Traffic Accident Research and Data Analysis in Japan produced a study of Subaru vehicles involved in accidents 2010-2014 and found that there were 61% fewer accidents involving EyeSight equipped cars versus cars without EyeSight.
Globally, the milestone of 1 million EyeSight-equipped vehicles on the road was reached in 2016.
EyeSight uses two stereo cameras to capture three-dimensional colour images with excellent image recognition, and is nearly as capable as the human eye. EyeSight can recognise vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians and lane markings. It is more accurate than traditional camera and sensor technologies as it can distinguish objects as opposed to noticing that there is an unidentified obstacle.
A camera is mounted either side of the rear-view mirror to monitor the road for potential hazards up to 110 metres ahead. EyeSight takes an image from each camera and compares these images to determine the distance of this object. The larger the displacement of each image, the closer the object is.
Depending on the vehicle’s speed, accidents can either be completely avoided or the severity significantly reduced.
EyeSight consists of six different technologies:
Adaptive Cruise Control
Adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a set distance from the car in front.
The system will alert the driver of a potential collision using a visual and audible warning. If the driver does not take evasive action, the brakes will be applied automatically to either prevent the accident entirely or reduce the severity of an impact depending on your speed. If the driver brakes but does not apply enough pressure, the system will significantly increase braking force.
Pre-collision Throttle Management
If the car is parked facing an obstacle, EyeSight will warn (visual and audible) the driver if they accidentally select drive instead of reverse. The system will also cut engine output to help avoid a frontal collision.
Lane Sway and Departure Warning
The driver will be alerted with a visual and audible warning if the vehicle sways or departs its lane without indicating.
Lane Keep Assist
The system will offer gentle steering control if the vehicle is about to deviate from its lane at approximately 40mph or above.
Lead Vehicle Start Alert
It will prompt the driver, with a visual and audible warning, that traffic ahead has started moving.
Practicality and packaging
Practicality is core to the Forester’s success as a family vehicle, a result of intelligent packaging throughout the vehicle.
It features a large, practical cabin, with high visibility all-round. Occupant space is among the most generous in class, with the floor structure and long wheelbase allowing generous legroom for all passengers.
Unusually for an All-Wheel Drive vehicle and a direct consequence of the low-mounted Boxer engines, the Forester’s transmission tunnel is situated low enough to allow for a flat floor structure in the rear of the cabin.
The high hip point and relatively low instrument panel give driver and passengers a commanding view of the road ahead, while ensuring it remains easy to get in and out. This latter point is aided by wide door openings and a low, flat side sill with an anti-slip surface. When closed, door sills are covered by the doors, preventing dirt building up and getting passengers’ trousers muddy when they enter or exit the car.
As well as a large cabin, the Forester’s cargo capacity is also generous, with 505 litres of boot space with the seats up, rising to 1,592 litres with the seats fully folded. The load bay is 884 mm high, 942 mm long, and up to 1,166 mm wide, aided by a large boot opening and flat floor for easy loading and unloading of large items. For example, most mountain bikes will go in without need to remove the front wheel.
The Forester has always been a popular choice for dog owners, and the capacity and shape of the boot – and a range of dealer-fit accessories, such as tailgate sunshades, dog guards and removable boot lining – make it all the more accommodating for family pets.
The tailgate features a hook from which owners can hang items such as sporting or outdoor activity equipment. On each of the side-panels inside the luggage compartment, pull-latches are fitted for quick and easy folding of the rear bench seat.
There are a number of under-floor storage compartments to neatly stow smaller items and stop them from rolling around. One thoughtful touch is a compartment designed to hold the retractable cargo cover – when it has to be removed to accommodate taller items, it doesn’t need to be left at home or in the garage, but can be stored neatly under the luggage floor.
The Forester was the first car in its class to feature a power tailgate, which opens and closes at the push of a button in the cabin, using the key, or using a switch on the tailgate itself. The power tailgate is a standard feature on XT, XC Premium and XE Premium models.
The Forester is available in six different trim levels. They are:
XE and XE Premium available on naturally-aspirated petrol models; Lineartronic as an option.
XC and XC Premium on all diesel models; Lineartronic as an option.
XT with 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and Lineartronic as standard.
Standard features on all cars include 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear fog lamps, roof rails, luggage hooks and boot lamp, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, heated door mirrors, USB and auxiliary audio input jack, tilt-adjustable and telescopic steering wheel, Subaru’s Vehicle Dynamics Control (with Trailer Stability Control), Hill Start Assist, Bluetooth connectivity and a Multi-Function Display.
All models equipped with Lineartronic are fitted with the X-Mode system, Hill Descent Control and steering wheel paddles to change gear, while all petrol versions of the Forester (except the XT) are fitted with Auto Start/Stop.
XE and XE Premium models add automatic on-off headlamps, HID headlamps with auto-levelling control, power-fold door mirrors, power-sliding and tilt-adjustable sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear stick, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, one-touch folding and reclining rear seats, automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear vision camera system and cruise control.
Lineartronic XE and XC models receive two-mode Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive), while XE Premium and XC Premium models also get leather seats.
The top spec XT adds 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, twin exhausts, Keyless Access and Engine Start button, sat nav, three-mode SI-Drive, power tailgate, aluminium pedals and a revised front bumper with different LED daytime running light arrangement.
For Premium and XT models with standard leather, a new seat position memory function is added to the driver’s seat, with owners able to save two different positions with switches located on the driver door. The seat memory function lets drivers save the position of the seat base, backrest angle, seat height and angle of the seat base.
The 2016 Forester is powered by the latest generation of Boxer engines. Buyers can choose from three 2.0-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engines: a naturally-aspirated petrol engine and a turbocharged diesel unit from Subaru’s FB family of engines, as well as the FA20DIT direct injection turbocharged petrol unit, engineered for high power, responsiveness and efficiency.
Due to the compact shape of the Boxer layout, all Forester engines are located deep in the engine bay for a low centre of gravity, a Subaru hallmark which helps minimise body roll and improve road holding.
2.0-litre (150PS) Boxer Petrol
Key features of the FB 2.0-litre petrol engine are a relatively small cylinder bore and long stroke (84 x 90 mm), which aid efficiency and provide easy torque at low engine speeds.
The petrol engine is fitted with Subaru’s intake and exhaust Active Valve Control System (AVCS), which enhances fuel efficiency by varying the timing of the intake valves to provide optimum air flow in and out of the engine. Tumbler Generator Valves (TGV) create vortices within the combustion chamber for efficient combustion. Earlier modifications to the engine – for the 2015 model – sought to reduce mechanical friction to improve fuel efficiency, with new oil seal surface treatment reducing resistance at sliding parts of the crankshaft, and a two-layer coating to piston-guards.
In addition, an even spread of temperature throughout the cylinders allows the engine to operate as smoothly as possible, with water jacket spacers to prevent engine coolant from coming directly into contact with the lower cylinder wall. The engine also sits on fluid-filled mounts, which successfully suppress vibration and contribute to a more comfortable cabin environment.
The engine produces 150PS at 6,200 rpm has a torque output of 198 Nm at 4,200 rpm, with combined fuel efficiency of 43.5 mpg. A competitive CO2 figure of 150g/km is achieved when the engine is coupled with the Lineartronic CVT transmission.
2.0-litre (147PS) Boxer Diesel
The 147PS Boxer diesel is unchanged for the 2016 model year. It has been designed to reduce noise, vibration, and improve fuel economy. The engine has a common-rail injection system to enable precise combustion control, and glow plugs to speed up engine heating for greater fuel efficiency from a cold start. Engine cooling for diesel models is aided by an upgraded radiator, oil cooler and radiator fans.
Diesels with the Lineartronic transmission return 46.3 mpg and 158 g/km CO2 on the combined cycle, and go from zero to 62 mph in 9.9 seconds. With the standard six-speed manual, they return 49.6 mpg and 148 g/km CO2 on the combined cycle, and accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 9.9 seconds.
2.0-litre (241 ps) Petrol with Direct Injection Turbo (DIT)
The FA20 DIT engine is based on the naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre FA engine found in the Subaru BRZ sports car. This is a horizontally-opposed four-cylinder unit developed from Subaru’s FB petrol engine for greater efficiency, economy, power and lower emissions.
Fuel feed by direct injection improves cooling around the cylinder head and provides the best air-fuel mixture for efficient combustion.
The DIT engine has a square bore and stroke (86 x 86 mm) – a thinner bore and longer stroke than in previous Forester models – in order to improve fuel efficiency and low-end torque. The pistons have been modified to suit the bore. The piston crown has a shallow concave surface to better control the injected fuel spray, while a two-layer coating applied to the piston skirts keeps friction to a minimum. The shape of the combustion chamber has also been adapted to suit a high compression ratio (10.6:1) and direct injection.
The twin-scroll turbocharger is positioned directly beneath the engine, with an under-body guard to prevent damage during off-road driving. Subaru engineers have been able to make the exhaust system more compact, cut the engine’s emissions through improved catalyst heating, and improve the engine’s throttle response over earlier turbocharged petrol engines.
The DIT engine features an advanced cooling system. To promote faster engine warming after start-up, a cooling channel rapidly increases the temperature of the engine oil by circulating coolant around a short path passing through the warm air in the engine’s bottom-bypass. This quickly reduces friction between moving parts, improving fuel efficiency. Cooling circuits also optimise the distribution of coolant to the cylinder head and around the spark plugs and fuel injectors.
The 2.0-litre DIT engine produces 241PS at 5,600 rpm, while it can provide its maximum torque output of 350 Nm from just 2,400 rpm. Forester models equipped with this engine can accelerate from zero to 62 mph in just 7.5 seconds, and on to a top speed of 137 mph.
The Forester Turbo returns 33.2 mpg combined and emits 22 per cent less CO2 than the previous generation petrol turbo at 197 g/km.
The DIT engine has Lineartronic CVT transmission as standard, developed specifically to support the engine’s torque output and strong acceleration.
Two transmissions are offered in the Forester, depending on specification. They are either a six-speed manual transmission or an updated version of Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT automatic.
The six-speed manual is standard on diesel and naturally-aspirated petrol models.
The Lineartronic CVT (continuously-variable transmission) adds further off-road capability, as it includes Hill Descent Control (HDC) and X-Mode system, which intelligently manages the car’s power and torque, brakes and drivetrain to maintain traction on even the most slippery surfaces.
Lineartronic is available as an option on diesel and naturally-aspirated petrol models and is fitted as standard to turbocharged petrol models. Turbo models receive an upgraded Lineartronic transmission, to support the engine’s higher torque.
Lineartronic has been updated for 2016 with a new speed control system. This is designed to keep the engine speed from peaking ‘out of sync’ with the driver accelerating. Previously the CVT allowed the engine speed to rise before the speed of the vehicle increased under acceleration. The new speed control limits this phenomenon, and results in a more consistent feel of acceleration between the throttle pedal and engine.
Naturally-aspirated petrol-engined cars use a lighter and more compact version of the Lineartronic CVT, as fitted to the Subaru XV. The transmission features a torque converter with built-in twin dampers which help to limit vibration and maximise fuel efficiency.
All Lineartronic models benefit from a custom driving mode, Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive). Each SI-Drive mode has been tuned to offer a unique combination of benefits in efficiency, drivability and driving enjoyment.
For naturally-aspirated models, SI-Drive allows drivers to select one of two modes to match current driving conditions: S Mode, which improves throttle response and provides six simulated gears, and Intelligent Mode, ideal for everyday driving situations and improved fuel economy.
The XT model features a third SI-Drive setting to further improve the flexibility of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine: S Mode provides eight simulated gears for more immediate acceleration, as well as sharper engine and throttle response, fully exploiting the turbocharged engine’s potential.
For 2016, S Mode has been retuned to offer more urgent ‘in-gear’ acceleration, with shorter ratios programmed in for each of the eight simulated gears, with the final eighth gear tuned specifically for slightly higher economy at cruising speeds.
SI-Drive is controlled by a switch on the steering wheel for all models equipped with the technology. All Lineartronic models are equipped with paddle shift, and, for XT models, the S Mode switch features a red line for improved recognition of the vehicle’s most performance-oriented engine mode.
To ensure best-in-class off-road capabilities, all Forester models have Subaru’s legendary Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, with the addition of the X-Mode control feature on Lineartronic models.
Models with manual transmission employ a centre differential coupled to a viscous limited-slip differential. Torque split distribution is set at 50/50 front/rear, with the viscous coupling adjusting the distribution whenever a wheel slips to ensure optimised traction.
Lineartronic models are fitted with an electronically controlled Multi-Plate Transfer (MPT) clutch which controls and distributes torque to the rear wheels. The default torque split distribution is 60/40 per cent front/rear, but if slipping is detected at the front wheels, the system is able to apply more torque to the rear.
Forester’s all-terrain performance is improved by the X-Mode system, which is standard on all models with Lineartronic CVT. X-Mode is selected by the driver via a switch on the centre console, to optimise the integrated control of the engine with Lineartronic CVT, All-Wheel Drive and Vehicle Dynamics Control. X-Mode also incorporates Hill Descent Control to ensure the vehicle’s speed remains constant when driving down steep slopes.
When testing X-Mode, Subaru engineers noted that the time taken for a wheel to regain traction on a simulated mud- or snow-covered road was reduced by more than one-third compared to the outgoing model. The Forester’s off-road capabilities are further enhanced by a high minimum ground clearance of 220 mm and overhangs that allow for steep approach and departure angles.
Chassis and running gear
The Forester’s suspension and body are stronger than those in its predecessor, providing benefits to handling performance and stability, with impressive levels of ride comfort.
The front suspension is fully independent with thicker MacPherson struts for greater rigidity, making the steering more responsive and naturally-weighted.
The strut’s top mount is stronger, increasing the damping force and sharpening responses. Grip is improved and body roll decreased by the addition of a rebound spring to the strut, which reduces inside wheel rebound and outside wheel-lift under hard cornering.
The rear suspension is independent, with a double-wishbone set-up.
High-response valves are fitted to the rear shock absorbers with lateral link front brackets, while thicker rear cross-members give better rigidity and steering response. Upper wishbone mounts are fitted with rebound stoppers to reduce inner wheel lift under cornering.
Ride quality and stability are improved by using pillow ball bushes in lieu of traditional lateral bushes, meaning that poor road surfaces are less likely to affect wheel alignment. The suspension is set up with slight negative camber, ensuring maximum tyre contact when cornering.
Front ventilated disc brakes are fitted, ranging in diameter from 294 mm to 316 mm depending on model, while solid discs at the rear, ranging in diameter from 274 mm to 278 mm. Brake response is improved over earlier generations by using a shorter brake hose than the previous Forester, coupled with a low-expansion friction material, ensuring less pressure is lost under heavy braking.
The Forester uses electric rather than hydraulic power steering, reducing fuel consumption by two per cent. For 2016, the steering ratio has been reduced by 9% (down from 15.5:1 to 14.1:1) for a more immediate response, now requiring just 2.8 turns of the wheel from lock-to-lock. The front cross-member has been stiffened to further improve steering stability.
The power tailgate, which is a standard feature on XT, XC Premium and XE Premium models, features a memory function to allow programming of the final opening height of the tailgate to specific user requirements. The open and close button is also backlit, to make it easier to find in the dark.