The fifth generation Subaru Forester is expected in SA in the first quarter of 2019. Picture: QUICKPIC
The fifth generation Subaru Forester is expected in SA in the first quarter of 2019. Picture: QUICKPIC

Subaru has delivered a stronger, safer and more comfortable fifth generation of its private-buyer crossover favourite.

The Forester cult looks set to keep growing, with a mostly new 2.5l flat-four petrol engine, a bigger interior and a raft of new safety technology when the car arrives in SA in the first quarter of 2019.

Local specifications will be announced later in the year and it appears likely that the firm’s upcoming 2.4l turbo flat four petrol engine will find its way into the Forester at some point, but it has not announced when.

For the first time, the Forester will include a driver monitoring system to keep tabs on driver fitness and attentiveness, and it includes automatic braking when the car is going backwards as well as forwards.

Subaru claims 90% of the boxer engine is all new, with direct fuel injection helping it to 136kW of power at 5,800r/min. It will climb 10kW from the outgoing 2.5 motor, and it carries 63l of petrol. In its US-specification, the over-square engine (it has a 94mm bore and a 90mm stroke) also fills in the early going with 239Nm of torque from 4,400r/min.

There are no performance claims for the five-seat crossover, but the US models will eschew turbocharging in favour of old-school natural breathing. It retains its all-wheel drive layout, too, and adds claimed improvements in manual-shifting options for the "seven-speed" continuously variable transmission.

The interior boasts more space and more equipment. Picture: QUICKPIC
The interior boasts more space and more equipment. Picture: QUICKPIC

At 4,625mm long, the Forester has grown 15mm longer than the outgoing car and, at 1,815mm, it’s also 20mm wider. Its 1,730mm height is actually 5mm lower than the outgoing Forester, while its 10.8m turning circle is 20cm bigger than before. The 2,670mm wheelbase is a 30mm stretch over the fourth-generation car, which Subaru insists translates directly to increased rear legroom.

It’s built on the same Subaru Global Platform that hosts the Impreza, with more high-tensile steel in the cabin construction and a lighter body-in-white.

Coupled to its all-wheel drive system is the X-Mode, which is Subaru’s catchall name for its dial-operated driving mode system. Bringing the engine, transmission, brakes and skid control systems together, the X-Mode pre-packages different set ups for slippery surfaces and off-road work. It carries 220mm of ground clearance, with what it insists are its widest possible approach, departure and ramp-over angles.

It insists it has worked harder on the interior, even down to rear doors that open wider and a steeper C-pillar angle to make it easier to exit and enter.

The extra width has created more space between the front passengers, while the cargo area opens up to 1,300mm in width.

There is a new infotainment system, now offering an eight-inch display screen for its entertainment and navigation functions. There’s also a new operating system for the climate control air conditioning, which automatically adjusts the temperature depending on the number of passengers.

It’s now compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while there are USB sockets in the front and the rear and three different storage sections in the front-seat backs alone.

Its Driver Monitoring System (DMS) isn’t just for checking on the driver’s alertness, but also adjusts to each driver’s seating position, mirrors and even air-conditioner preferences.