Now I have had a test drive of the 2014 Forester 2.0XT

After experiencing the Gen4 2014 2.5S naturally aspirated (NA) Forester on Friday—and not being that impressed with it—I decided I had to try out the 2.0 XT turbo Forester on Saturday.

I had a friend visiting from the country who wanted to go to a coin collectors and sellers function at the Burswood Casino—oops, I mean the Crown Casino (as it is now called)—so the plan was to drop him off there and then go on to City Subaru. I arrived at Subaru around 11:30 a.m.

Because I am so well known at Subaru these days they simply chucked me the keys, made some joke about not going all the way to Collie for the test drive (which is two hours away at highway speeds), and off I went—all by myself.

I was driving the XT Premium, which is about $58,000 drive away. If I bought an XT I would just be getting the regular XT which is about $11,000 cheaper at around $47,000. But, as far as I know, both XT models should drive and feel the same; there should be no difference.

I had a solid 45 minutes driving around Victoria Park and South Perth before deciding to return the car to City Subaru.

Two things were immediately very obvious:

  1. The suspension in the XT is firmer. It was much preferable, to me anyway, to the not-so-firm suspension in the 2.5 NA models.
  2. The 2.0 litre XT with its twin-scroll turbo, as you would expect, is MUCH quicker than the 2.5 litre NA engine.

So far so good.

Next I wanted to test the braking effect of changing down gears with the CVT. This had not quite worked out how I expected when I test drove the 2.5S. There are no significant hills to go down anywhere around Victoria Park so I could only do this test on moderate declines and also trying engine braking on flat roads.

As reported in other reviews around the Web, the high-torque version of the CVT gear box in the XT works more like I expected for engine braking. Using the steering column paddles to drop two gears caused a noticeable braking effect—much more than was evident with the 2.5S and more than I experience with the ‘normal’ automatic in my Gen2 Forester. In fact dropping back three gears, which drops you through both the over-drive ratios and the first drive ratio, the engine braking was considerable. Not as strong as a manual gearbox but much stronger than a ‘standard’ torque-converter automatic.

Another thing I noticed was that there seemed to be less engine noise in the XT. This could be, maybe, because the 2.5 NA is a noisier engine than the 2.0 turbo, or it could just be my imagination. No other reviews I have read have mentioned this.

But . . . as for the 2.5S, the 2.0 XT feels big. There is no getting away from the fact that the new Forester feels BIG even though it is only slightly larger than the Gen3, which is only slightly larger than the Gen2. Driving the Gen2 Forester you feel like you are driving a mid-sized highly manoeuvrable car. Driving the Gen4 you feel like you are driving a less manoeuvrable large car—in comparison. Most likely after a couple of months of ownership and regular driving you get over this; maybe!

So in the end, should I go any further with my Forester plans, it is going to come down to the amazing fuel economy of the 2.5 NA versus the better suspension, the quickness (and it is surprisingly quick), and what I think is a better CVT in the 2.0 XT.

Interestingly when I mentioned the tighter suspension to the salesman when I returned the car he said that the XT has the same suspension as the NA models. Seriously, I find this hard to believe based on my two test drives.

Update >>>

I have found an article in ‘Car and Driver’ that confirms my view that the suspension in the 2.0 XT is ‘tighter’ than in the 2.5 NA models. The following comes from the review:

Hard driving is met by safe, relentless understeer, even in the turbo, with its stiffer sport-tuned suspension and additional chassis bracing.

So, the way I read this, they are saying the turbo has sport-tuned suspension and additional chassis bracing.

You can read their full review here.