Ended up buying a new 2014 Forester XT: Part 2

My findings on the fuel economy

I have had my new 2.0 litre 2014 Forester XT almost two whole weeks now. I have filled up with fuel three times. On average I am getting 8.73 litres to the 100 kilometres. For my American readers, for whom there are about 3.5 litres in a gallon, this works out to 24 mpg. For any Australian readers who would like to see the answer in gallons then this works out to around 31 mpg (because we have 4.5 litres in our gallons).

With a 60 litre fuel tank 8.73 litres to the 100 kilometres gives me a range of about 630 kilometres (394 miles) on a full tank of fuel—allowing for 5 litres to be left in the tank.

I should point out that I live in the outer suburbs of Perth and I work in the country. Hence I do zero stop-start city driving. In fact, I don’t do any city driving at all. Also, with the car this new I am not doing any ‘sports’ driving. I am taking it pretty easy.

My previous 2.5 litre turbo 2005/MY06 Forester got a very consistent 10 litres to the 100 kilometres which gave me a touring range of around 550 kilometres (344 miles) on a full tank.

I am getting more and more used to the CVT transmission. It does take a little while.

The idea of just getting the engine to a certain speed and then the car gradually gets faster and faster without the engine speed (i.e., rpm) changing is a bit different. This feels a trifle odd at first. So, for example,  you just put the engine at 2,000 rpm and then because of the CVT the car gets smoothly and quickly faster and faster as the CVT slides up. Then you have to drop the rpm or you will be speeding.

Smooth and fast. Surprisingly fast. Even for someone used to a 2.5 litre turbo in a slightly lighter model.

On the open road at 100 kph (which is about 60 mph) the on-board computer will report that the car is getting fuel economy in the zone of 7.6 to 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres, which is pretty amazing for a medium size AWD SUV. This is with the transmission in “I” mode, which is the full CVT mode and, according to the manual, the most fuel efficient mode.

Flick the transmission mode to “S” (Sports) mode and the on-board computer will quickly drop to 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres. This happens because in  Sports mode (S) the engine and CVT tuning changes. While the Forester will do 100 kph at 1,750 rpm in “I” mode, this changes to 2,000 rpm at 100 kph in “S” mode. Obviously this increase in rpm for the same speed has an immediate impact on the fuel economy.

The Forester manual recommends selecting “S” mode when towing.

Interestingly the rpms drop back to 1,750 at 100 kph if you select enhanced Sport mode (i.e., S# mode). However in enhanced Sport mode the transmission is very quick to select lower ratios and holds lower ratios longer. Even the slightest touch on the gas peddle will cause the transmission to drop both overdrive ratios (7th and 8th) and fall back to 6th (there are 8 gears in S# mode). A tiny bit more pressure and the transmission goes to 5th.

So you quickly get the idea and realise why using S# mode is not going to be a good idea if you are going for good fuel economy. But if you are after the feel of a much quick and more responsive car then S# mode achieves this.

Getting the transmission to select 8th gear when driving in S# (enhanced Sport mode) is  a challenge. Even on a 80 kph flat country road with minimal throttle—just enough to maintain the 80 kph—the transmission does not get past 7th (1st overdrive ratio). This is because in enhanced Sport mode (S#) the engine management system is programmed to maintain engine revs in case quick acceleration is desired.

All very interesting.