When I saw the new Subaru Forester X Sport for the first time, my first thought was something along the lines of “wow, that is a lot of orange.” The Forester in this guise has been with us for some time, so it was inevitable for Subaru to give it a mid-life refresh, though I wasn’t quite expecting so much orange bits.
The onslaught of citrus, both inside and out, are the tell-tale signs of probably the most flamboyant special edition Forester to-date. However, is it as sporty as its new nameplate suggests? Let’s find out.
At $47,990NZ, the Forester X Sport fits in between the entry level petrol Forester at $42,490, and the petrol Forester Premium at $49,990. Like the middle child crying for attention, the Forester X Sport is certainly a standout when compared to its petrol, and to a lesser extent hybrid, counterparts.
Aside from that aforementioned orange detailing around the roof rails, side skirts, front spoiler, badging, interior stitching, air vent surrounds and console, you get blacked out 18-inch alloys, blacked out grill, black driving light surrounds, and a black strip along the boot lid.
The orange is very much a marmite sort of touch, in other words you will either love it or not. However, when contrasting with the black bits and bobs against the Crystal White Pearl paint of my test car, it does look rather good and certainly stands out in the carpark of your local.
Under the bonnet, things are very much Forester. The strong 2.5L boxer four-cylinder petrol engine appears again, producing 136kW and 239Nm of torque. You also get the seven-speed Subaru Lineatronic Transmission, or SLT. Subaru claim a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.4L/100km and Subaru’s symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system is standard. Naturally.
The X Sport throws in plenty of kit which until now was only reserved for the range topping Premium and e-boxer Hybrid. This includes an electric sunroof, water repellent interior, electric heated front seats, power operated tailgate, electric folding rear seats, keyless entry, auto headlights and wipers, and push button start.
Other onboard tech includes the premium 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. This contains sat nav, DAB+ Digital Radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and Bluetooth. Also featured is a CD player, which, as this writer is still fond of listening to the odd album on disc rather than just Spotify, was nice to have, if a bit outdated. Subaru also gives the X Sport its Driver Monitoring System, which uses facial recognition to identify, and monitor the way you drive.
As far as safety is concerned, the Forester X Sport, like most of the range, is well catered for. Subaru’s latest generation “Eyesight Safety” system is on hand, acting as extra set of eyes always on the lookout for hazards. You get auto emergency braking, which works up to speeds of 80km/h in both urban and city environments, lane departure waning, active lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, parking sensors front and rear, rear cross traffic alert, and a reversing camera with a front and back view, though no 360 function. The X Sport also gives you seven airbags.
All the switchgear feels chunky and well put together, and when you actually get on board, you sit quite high up, with plenty of forward visibility. The A-pillars aren’t too intrusive either which is nice. The orange-stitched leather/cloth seats are quite supportive and offer moderate levels of comfort. What really deserves a mention is the sheer amount of space.
The X Sport is more proof the Forester has plenty of room to slob out, both for driver and passengers. The head and legroom in the rear is first rate, and entry and exit for rear passengers is a doddle. There is no need to deform yourself while exiting the X Sport. The boot will also house 498L of whatever with the rear seats up. Also, the Forester’s towing capacity has been increased by 300kg to 1800kg all up, which should make towing that dingy much easier.
On the move, you can make good progress with that boxer four pot providing solid pulling power and plenty of low-down torque. However, even with Subaru’s Intelligent drive mode set to Sport, its not really what I would call a sporty drive.
The steering weights up a tad, and if you really concentrate, the throttle response is sharpened ever so slightly, but there is not enough here to give it that Sporty edge. The SLT gearbox is fine, allowing you to flick up and down gears at will via the paddles, however this also doesn’t really supply you with a feeling of engagement.
That said, don’t think for a moment the Forester X Sport is not a lacklustre drive, the springs and damper set up makes for a very plush and comfortable commute. Aside from minimal tyre roar, ride comfort is very good and you do feel quite planted in the bends despite the high riding dimensions.
The Driver Monitoring System is also very effective, it managed to alert me if my eyes were not scanning the traffic ahead for a few seconds, earning this writer a digital wrap on the knuckles.
The Forester has always been more than competent when the going gets unsealed. X-Mode, while not ideal for big mud bogs, can allow you to tackled some pretty rough terrain pretty well. X Mode allows you to select between snow/dirt and deep snow/mud.
The snow part was kind of irrelevant during my week with the Forester X Sport, but its comforting to know you have it on tap when the Ski season starts again. The X Sports 220mm of ground clearance is good, allowing you to devour many bumps and ruts which may appear.
In summary, the Subaru Forester X Sport doesn’t really live up to its Sport nameplate in terms of a thrilling drive. However, its comfortable, very spacious, full of safety kit and other tech, and contains a bit of flair which has been somewhat missing from the Forester family. Whether or not its right for you, greatly depends on you love or dislike of orange.