When the crossover craze took off a few years ago, Subaru were already waiting. For decades, the iconic Forester has popularised the all-rounder leisure SUV. More mid-sized these days, Subaru have given the 2022 Forester 2.5i-S a ‘mid-life makeover’.
Polishing the fifth-gen Forester comes with the express aim of expanding its audience and appeal, which, when you think about it, is quite a task. Everyone from angsty P-platers, to composed mid-30’s types, and this writer’s elderly neighbour – they all love the Foz.
Subaru themselves use this fact as advertising. But if you already appeal to everyone, we suppose you can still appeal to well, more of everyone. With some conservative restyling, safety and technology enhancements, that’s what the new Forester strives for.
Looking at the 2.5i-S we see that it is evidently, a Forester. That seems a funny thing to say, but it’s worth noting. In the current tussle to make a distinctive SUV, Subaru are already there, leaving no need to abandon the prevailing theme.
The facelift is appropriately subtle, with minor alterations to the bumper, headlights, fog lights and grille. It isn’t particularly pretty, precisely how a great-looking Subaru should be.
Gone are the chrome fog light housings, pronouncing the classic round fog lights on a blackened backdrop. The headlights have been plucked at the top corners, while the bumper pokes further into them from the centre, forcing a more angular shape.
While the grille has expanded and dons less chrome, the silver bumper lip loses the tacky indentations for a cleaner look. The 2.5i-S, along with the Sport and Hybrid variants, also features a further tidy up of the rear bumper lip.
Exclusive to the 2.5i-S and Hybrid S are new 5-spoke 18-inch alloys which instantly give the car a more capable and convincing appearance. Standard exterior equipment for this variant also includes roof rails, LED fog lights, rear mud guards and an electric sunroof.
All is clearly well on the outside. But moving inside the car, there’s a few hiccups. The obvious one is the fact that Subaru can do much better.
The interior design is by no means hideous, but there is a weird mix of honeycomb inserts, brushed silver, grey and black upholstery, curves and angles. It evokes neither a classic nor modern feeling.
What is classic Forester is the seating position, but the seats themselves – albeit heated and nicely trimmed in leather – are nowhere near as comfortable as they should be. Try as you might to use the 8-way power adjustment you can’t really reach perfect comfort.
Still, the space is a practical one, with sensible placement of key functions, and the effort put into technology and safety is undeniable.
A high resolution 8.0-inch infotainment display features full smartphone connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both can be activated by simply asking aloud, although you need to be very clear.
Tunes are blasted through an 8-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system, with subwoofer and amplifier. Essential driving information including climate settings, fuel economy and driver aid indicators, is visible on the multifunction display atop the dash.
It’s a Subaru specialty we’ve really warmed to. From there it’s all about driver safety. A near obsessive focus on collision avoidance and driver attention defines much of the in-car experience. Subaru’s familiar Vision Assist is a proxy to your eyes being on the road.
Detecting obstacles as you go, Vision Assist works in tandem with Subaru’s next generation EyeSight system, a collaboration of radar, cameras and individual hazard detection functions that provides impressively accurate steering and braking intervention.
What might appeal to some drivers more than others is the facial recognition technology used in the driver monitoring system in the Forester. However you feel about it, it can do some nifty things.
On the fun side is hand gesture-controlled aircon temperature adjustment, and in-car settings tailored to five different faces. Yes faces. On the serious side is the attention alert, which notices a driver nodding off behind the wheel. It genuinely works, too.
If you mimic a microsleep by slouching over the cluster, it is very quick to beep at you. You can sometimes trick the system by holding your head still but taking your eyes off the road, so best not to depend on it. And best not to try any of this at home.
In the back of the car, things are fairly-well family oriented (and the seats are oddly more comfortable). The kids can play on their iPads all the way to Yamba thanks to dual USB ports, and stacks of legroom gives them enough space to kick each other.
For the smallest of humans, a baby seat is easily installed using the ISOFIX anchor points. The boot is massive too, and more stuff can be slotted in by folding down the 60/40 split seats.
Ceiling mounted cargo hooks are a new addition for the facelifted Forrester, and the 2.5i-S also comes with a power tailgate. On the road, the verdict on just how the updated Forester drives is simple – it is essentially the easiest SUV in the world to pilot.
The ride is mellow and fluid, though not floaty, and hard bumps are absorbed beautifully. Road noise is so minimal it’s almost awkward without the sound on or the window down. Steering has been weighted for comfort, but not at the expense of accuracy.
Of course, the iconic boxer engine with symmetrical AWD offers superior wet weather handling. Subaru sought exactly this safe, smooth, simple demeanour for the Forrester, with aluminium engine mount brackets and a retuning of the front springs and dampers.
As you might have guessed by the name, the Forester is powered by a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder boxer engine, producing a low key 136kW and 239Nm of torque. Unfortunately, the car can feel weak when fully laden or when pacing up to 110km/h too.
The “7-speed” CVT isn’t the most attentive helper either. In another car this might cause concern, but in this segment of SUV, you’re not typically asking for big power and a performance transmission anyway.
Thankfully those who remain attracted to the Forester for its original go-anywhere appeal aren’t left searching. X-Mode and hill descent control have both been revised and do a good job of keeping off-road over-achieving in the family line.
Our test vehicle was very eager in the dirt, and felt strong through sections that at first looked beyond the car’s means. The Forester has the traction and balance to go to work, and 220mm ground clearance to keep it off the rocks.
The 2.5i-S gets dual X modes – snow/dirt and deep snow/mud. Under our test conditions, only snow/dirt was needed. In comparison to normal drive settings, there was a significant improvement in grip on loose dirt, and vastly reduced slip up unpredictable climbs.
Hill descent sees a big improvement from the pre-facelift fifth generation Forester and proved a very useful way to keep the car composed as we bobbed down a steep hill for five or so minutes.
The 2.5i-S retains a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and by the end of our road test we’d achieved 8.9-litres/100km in fuel economy. According to Subaru a combined 7.4-litres/100km is possible.
Pricing before on road costs sits at $44,190, with an endless list of optional extras available. To build your own Forester, visit the Subaru Australia website.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Subaru Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Subaru Forester 2.5i-S, contact your local Subaru dealer.