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Subaru Forester

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Subaru Forester
5/10

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Road Test

Subaru Forester 2.0D XSn

Driven October 2008

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Have a long, hard look at the rear of this Forester. Take a mental picture. Got it?

Now replace that image with a horse's arse. 'Cos that's what'll obscure your view of most Foresters. That, and the big clanky horsebox hitched to the Scooby's towbar.

This is a car aimed at affluent, rural sorts. People with horses, in other words. Horses that need shifting from stable-yards to show-grounds.

Luckily, the Forester now comes with Subaru's excellent boxer diesel engine. It's smooth, powerful and torquey - ideal for towing.

But the horsey types have been made to wait. Subaru launched the Forester back in April, but has watched buyers digress to Kugas, X-Trails, RAV4s and Freelanders. All of which had diesel power. Now, Subaru hope to win back their loyal customers with an oil-burner of their own.

It's a bloody good one too, and well worth the wait. We're familiar with Subaru boxers in petrol form, but this is a first in diesel guise. We've driven it in the Legacy, and liked it. Don't expect the usual turbodiesel traits though; the boxer has less lag and, appropriately, a more instant punch. It likes to rev too, so you can hold on to gears longer. It even sounds quite interesting. It's a diesel with soul.

So the Forester will whisk an equine load around with ease. It has self-levelling suspension as standard too, an improvement over the old car.

But improving on the old Forester doesn't necessarily mean it is good enough. Engine aside, there's little to compliment. The interior trim is from an Impreza, and feels a bit cheap (you'd be disappointed if you'd forked out £25,495 for the top-spec version).

And, at speed, the ride is horribly choppy. Taking a series of bumps feels like bouncing off a springboard, only to land on a bouncy castle. You just can't get this thing to settle down, without killing speed. Seems the engineers did a fine job on the engine, but forgot all about the damping. Which is surprising, considering the suspension is a posh, multi-link affair.

None of which will matter to Forester buyers. They'll be more interested in its four-wheel-drive and rugged durability. No pretentions, no fuss, no drama. In fact, the Forester is slightly dull - for once, a lifestyle SUV that doesn't bang on about being a lifestyle SUV.

The boxer diesel makes it into the Impreza later this year too. With any luck, that should provide an altogether more exciting form of horsepower.

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