reviewEnzo Teodoro

No Fault In These Stars

reviewEnzo Teodoro
No Fault In These Stars

All car manufacturers have a certain character. Back in the 90's, when you hopped into a Mitsubishi or a Nissan, it felt very Japanese. A Suzuki, didn't. It felt bolted together by your classmates who worked on it after class, kind of like Subaru. They never felt so consumer Japanese.

 I always felt that Subaru had a chip on their shoulder, and for what? The truth is that they made horrible cars and the only way they could make them great was by bolting in a turbo larger than Floyd Mayweather's ego and slapping six letters at the back of the car that read, WRX STI. 

By 1997 a crossover by the name Forester surfaced. It was built on the rally pedigree chassis of the Impreza and it arrived with the slogan, "SUV tough, car easy". It looked like a dog boinked a swan and gave birth to something with four wheels. You got the distinct impression that the engineers at Subaru weren't very pleased to make this crossover. Remember, this was a time when they were dominating the World Rally Championship.

Subaru was Colin McRae, blue and gold, and 555. I'm almost certain they would've rather spent time building a new racing differential for the WRX than wasting their time on tail lights for what, an Impreza on stilts? That's like Maserati pouring efforts on an SUV. Oh dear, it's 2016, they ended up doing that too.

God, save us. 

Unfortunately for the Suby purists, it was a sales triumph. And when something succeeds in the automotive world, it is most certainly repeated. So they had to make a new one. You see, sometimes it's not what you make, but how you market it. Subaru capitalized on the Impreza's rally pedigree and made the purists believe that the Forester had rally DNA running through its veins.

Nobody ever says, "Oh, the Nissan GT-R is a fantastic automobile. I'm gonna go and get myself a Juke". That's nonsense. They are as different as meatballs and smoked salmon cream cheese. Things are quite different for Subaru. The Forester actually shares parts and technology from its sports car chasing brother, which makes it quite a bargain.

"The moment you enter the Forester, this newly refreshed one, you can immediately tell that they've gone to town on this crossover." 

Gone are the days when the only redeeming factor of a Subaru was how quickly it could beat your curfew. I used to be transported to school in a second generation Forester and the cabin sounded like there was a thousand pesos worth of coins jumping around the cabin. Of course, there were none.

It was quite horrible, actually. It was the kind that rattled your mind on the way to school. I'd arrive exhausted, and my day hasn't started yet. Today though, the moment you enter the Forester, this newly refreshed one, you can immediately tell that they've gone to town on this crossover. 

They've completely ditched the use of cheap and gross plastic materials in exchange for soft-touch leather with contrasting stitching. The steering wheel is sculpted beautifully and they fit your hands the same way you picture your imaginary supermodel girlfriend to fit yours. The seating position is commanding and sporty, while the view on all corners are void of blind spots, which is great.

The seats are lovely and offer what I look for in every car, excellent lumbar support. Also, the rear seats are comfortable, but a bit too reclined for my liking. I just wish it had some rear aircon vents for those scorchingly hot Manila days. The Forester morphs into a real greenhouse once you retract its mega sunroof the size of Texas. It adds a beautiful sense of air the moment light enters the cabin. So where to?

Within five meters of driving away, you can tell that it's in a different galaxy from the Subarus that were sold almost a decade ago. The road noise is so minimal, you'd have to turn down the stereo completely to make it audible. And believe me, you wouldn't want to do that when you have a stupendously good 440-watt Harman Kardon 8-speaker sound system. The ride is compliant even on our main thoroughfare that happens to be made of moon rocks. There's a recurring feeling that you are in a solidly built vehicle, and that makes it feel expensive.

Even the infotainment screen is great. The quality of the resolution is sharp, which means that camera would've been great for Snapchat. Filters, anyone? Also, you can pretty much connect any device that you wish through the USB port, and wirelessly connecting to the Bluetooth system is as easy as counting one, two, three. Also, thank you Subaru for finally equipping the refreshed model with a set of projector lenses. It makes a ton of difference when the sun fades into darkness.

"If you let it catch you sleeping, you'll see your speedometer swing north of 210 km/h."

The real superstar here is the relentless engine that lays under the hood. It's a turbocharged 240 horsepower BOXER-4 engine that allows you to pretty much pass anything you deem that is in your way. It is mated to a Lineartronic CVT, which I can't say does the engine much justice. It's great for pottering around town, but when you put the hammer down, it just doesn't have the immediacy and delicacy of a dual clutch or torque converter for that matter. It's a good thing then that it comes with Subaru's Intelligent Drive system. 

On Sport Sharp (S#), the throttle response is a lot sharper and the CVT gives you an artificial set of 8 gears versus the standard setting of 6 for maximum torque in every 'gear'. Watch out though, if you let it catch you sleeping, you'll see your speedometer swing north of 210 km/h. All is great though, because despite all of its power, it manages to return decent fuel economy at 8.2 km/L on a combined cycle. 

"Almost every car in Subaru's lineup is worth falling for at the moment."

"It's spacious, it's comfortable, it's fast, and it's a Subaru."

It isn't all about straight line speed though, this crossover. The rally car on stilts takes corners with a lot more grace than its rivals do thanks to its symmetrical all-wheel drive system. And because it has a boxer engine, meaning the cylinders don't pump vertically, but horizontally, like they're 'boxing' each other - they could mount it much lower in the chassis giving it a lower center of gravity. More weight at the bottom means less swaying and tipping, a testament to their engineering brilliance. It doesn't really matter where you take this exciting bit of kit.

When the weather turns against you, press the little button that says X Mode and let the computer wizardry work its magic and sort out where to find traction. There isn't much to not love about this crossover. It's spacious, it's comfortable, it's fast, and it's a Subaru - not the old flimsy ones. The new breed. I really have fallen in love with it. Really. I have. Actually, almost every car in Subaru's lineup is worth falling for at the moment. For me, it's really a toss up between this or the stunning red Levorg that Ken blasted through mountain passes with. Where to find 1.9 million pesos is the real problem.

Wanna grant me a loan?

2016 Subaru Forester 2.0 XT

Engine: 1998cc, DOHC 16V Horizontally-opposed BOXER-4, Turbocharged
Fuel: Gasoline
Power: 240 bhp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 2,400 - 3,600 rpm
Transmission: Lineartronic CVT, AWD
0-100 km/h: 7.5 seconds
Top Speed: 221 km/h
Fuel Economy: 8.2 km/L Overall
Price: PHP 1,913,000
+: Engine, styling, Harman Kardon audio, standard equipment
-: No rear aircon vents, CVT doesn't give justice to the stellar engine
Verdict: The best of both worlds in speed, weather, and terrain
Rating: 9/10

Ex-Automotive Executive

Instagram: @enzoteodoro