2014 TowCAR of the Year – Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic

The Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic has won the 2014 TowCAR of the Year competition, in association with CAR and Leisure Wheels magazines, Campworld and Forever Resorts.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic

Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic

The competition, which saw twelve automatic 4×4 vehicles tested with 1.4-ton Jurgens Penta caravans at the Boekenhoutkloof Traffic College, tries to find the SUV which performs best in a host of towing-related categories which are evaluated in controlled conditions.

The Outback Diesel CVT, which features a Boxer turbocharged diesel engine, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive™ and Lineartronic™ CVT automatic transmission, overcame the odds after its on-paper specifications seemed to be disadvantaged against larger and more powerful automatic 4×4 SUVs.

The Traffic College’s massive skidpan, where the tow vehicles’ traction and stability systems could be tested to the limits and beyond, as well as an enclosed test track, proved to be an ideal and safe base where the vehicles could be put through all their paces. The test day also included a 15 km road section, with inclines and declines, topped off with some fast and slow stretches, and bumpy and smooth sections.

Eight judges decided the outcome of the towing test. The panel included professional vehicle dynamics testers, top advanced driving instructors who specialise in towing, award winning motoring journalists and a professional racing legend who is also a keen caravanner.

The judges had to score each SUV in ten categories. These included exterior, interior, handling, stability, engine, transmission, braking, parking, cruising ability and value for money.  All the SUVs were driven over exactly the same route, in exactly the same conditions, performing exactly the same tests along the way.

Says Jakes Jacobs, one of the judges and a legend of vehicle testing and racing in South Africa: “We judged these vehicles only as tow vehicles, towing a caravan designed for tar roads.”

The judges cited a number of the Outback’s facets which impressed them the most, including excellent handling and stability, as well as the collaboration between the two-litre turbocharged Boxer diesel engine (110 kW and 350 Nm) and the Lineartronic™ transmission, with its simulated gearing.

“The engine had almost 40 kW of power less on tap than some of the other SUVs, but thanks to the brilliant transmission, with its simulated gears and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, the available power was always immediately accessible,” explains Jacobs.

“Some of the other SUVs had almost 500 Nm of torque to play with, but thanks to less effective auto transmissions and drivetrains, much of the torque was lost in translation, so to speak. Combine that with the Outback’s excellent handling and confidence-inspiring ride, as well as the roomy interior, and you end up with a very good, practical and safe towing package.”

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Subaru Forester XS 2.5 Lineartroninc CVT review

Forester XS 2.5

Forester XS

Forester XS

The 4th generation Forester still looks like a Forester, just a bit more stylish. It is so uncool that it is cool to those in the know. I love these cars. It’s not about style. It is about substance. A major criticism in the past was the fuel consumption.

The engineers at Fuji have performed wonders. They introduced an auto stop start system, adjusted the gearing, gave us more gears and improved the aerodynamics. The result a much better 8.1 l/100km for the normally aspirated 2.5 petrol XS in mixed driving. Expect less than than 7 l/100km on the open road. If you need a comfortable car with good performance,  fair space, a huge boot and the capability to take jeep tracks in its stride, look no further.

Subaru Forester XS

Subaru Forester XS

The exterior of the new Forester is much less quirky than the previous generations and more mainstream. In fact the car is more mainstream than previously. This is not a bad thing. Its a handsome (but never pretty) beast now, looking more car like and behaving like a car. Of course beneath the fashionable body lurks a bit of a wolf. With the push of a button the rear door/gate opens and closes to make it easy to load luggage or shopping when your hands are full.

The new interior is much better than the model it replaces and is now about on a par with the Germans. It is and feels spacious and well appointed.

Subaru Forester dashboard

Subaru Forester dashboard

It has a premium multi-function display (with reverse camera), six speakers, full connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control and 7 airbags. The driver’s seat is power adjustable. The interior trim for the top 3 models is leather, which includes steering wheel, gear knob and handbreak. There are a number of hooks, cup and bottle holders, storage trays and anchors. The boot is 505 litres with the rear seats up and a massive 1564 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

Ground clearance is 220mm and it comes packed with X-mode on CVT models in addition to symmetrical AWD. X-Mode centralises control of the engine to make use of the centre differential, rear differential, brakes and traction control to give controlled descents in steep, low-grip terrain. The Forester goes far off the beaten track and performs impeccably on gravel roads and in the rain. The paddle gears just behind the steering wheel work very well.

There is a SI-DRIVE  switch which lets you choose a driving mode to suit your driving style and conditions.  You can select one of three driving profiles, ranging from gentle (economical) power delivery to a sporty mode with super sharp response. The headlights and wipers are automated.

You can tow a 750kg unbraked trailer. Top speed is 196 km/h and 0 to 100 can be done under 10 seconds. Dynamically this Forester is much better than earlier models. Handling is crisp, steering is accurate and it sits well on the road.

Forester_XS_rear-side

This Forester is a car you will grow to love. Whether you buy it as a SUV or a station wagon it does everything so well and will serve you well. Subaru’s are known for being robust and reliable.

Also look at the VW Tiguan, Audi Q3, Ford Kuga, Honda CRV, Kia Sportage and Renault Duster.

We tested the 2.5XS Premium Lineartronic CVT which costs R429 000. Power is 129kW@ 5800rpm and torque of 235Nm is available from 4100 rpm. The range starts at R329 000 for 2.0X six speed manual. The top model is the hot turbocharged 2.0XT producing 177kW and costing R529 000.

The warranty is for 3 years or 100 000 km and the maintenance plan 3 years or 75 000.

Forester_XS_ass

New Subaru Forester safest ever

Subaru’s new Forester, due to arrive in March this year, has been awarded a five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP. Thanks to advanced safety systems, cutting-edge chassis design and high-tech safety assistance systems, the all-new Forester is the safest Forester ever built. The Euro NCAP rating follows a five-star Australian ANCAP safety rating which the new Forester also scored earlier in 2012.

Forester_2013Since 2009, a more comprehensive and rigorous assessment system has been implemented at Euro NCAP, which evaluates Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, Pedestrian Protection and Safety Assist. Scoring well in all areas, the new Forester was awarded the maximum-possible score for the protection of all body areas in a side barrier test, while its front bumper scored top marks for pedestrian leg protection.

The fact that the new Forester features better visibility – thanks to the A-pillar sitting some 200 mm further forward than before – and all-round raised seating positions, also enhances its crash safety performance while providing better all-round visibility for a safer drive.

The new Forester is loaded with safety technology which not only serves to keep its occupants safe but also reduce the risk to other road users. Standard safety systems include ABS with EBD and VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control), which monitors all four wheels and ensures the Forester remains stable at all times. Complimenting these systems are seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag) and a collapsible brake pedal and steering column which go further to minimise injury upon impact.

The new Subaru Forester also provides five three-point inertia reel seat belts for all occupants (pre-tensioned at the front) along with ISOFIX child seat mounting points with tether anchors. Adding extra safety is the new reversing camera, which links to the multi-function display screen to provide a clear view behind the new Forester.

Marketing Manager at Subaru Southern Africa, Ashley Lazarus, says “the all-new Forester represents a crown jewel for Subaru in many respects, with safety being an important facet of its focus. With its top Euro NCAP safety rating and its advanced technology, the new Forester is sure to appeal to a wide variety of existing and new customers in South Africa.”

Subaru XV Lineartronic CVT review

Subaru XV Lineartronic CVT

The XV is a new range for Subaru. It fits between the iconic Impreza and the practical Forrester.

The XV competes with the Audi Q3, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX5 and VW Tiguan type cars and beats most of them in most categories. It seats 4 adults comfortably. Boot space is OK too.

Fuel consumption is very good for an SUV with all the benefits of a high performance 2.0 litre petrol engine. On a trip from Lambert’s Bay to Somerset West I got 7.6 litres per 100km driving at or around 120km/h where appropriate. On my normal route to and from Cape Town on the N2 and parking on the 8th floor of a parking garage I averaged 8.6 litres/100km, but 7.4 on the N2 leg of the journey. So expect to get well under 9L/100km under most circumstances.

The XV has Xenon headlights, almost turning night into day.

Subaru quote 110kW and 196Nm at 4200rpm from the 2.0 litre boxer engine. At 120km/h you are doing about 2200rpm.

I was a little nervous about the 6 speed CVT system. After a day I forgot about it. It not only works like a dream you only hear it when starting or if you listen very carefully while accelerating hard. You cannot hear it when cruising.

When overtaking in a hurry you just press the left hand (-) paddle and it downshifts immediately. It will return to auto mode after a short while.

Interior

This is the best cabin yet by Subaru. It is on a par with all its German and other competition and more practical than most. The seats are very comfortable and adjustable. The driving position is just so. Fit and finish seems impeccable. The instrumentation and controls are as they should be.

Materials and colours have been carefully chosen making for a very harmonious and pleasant interior. Lots of nooks and crannies to hold things. Just behind the gear lever is a slot for change and your cellphone. It’s a brilliant touch.

The VX has all the kit. Cruise control, climate control, sun roof, audio and cruise buttons on the leather clad steering wheel, good audio system and a host of storage holders.

The cargo area at the back is 310 litres, which expands to 771 litres when the rear seat is folded flat.

Driving impressions

It is a Subaru. The XV is a driver’s car. Do not expect a WRX though. Expect brilliant handling and excellent road holding, especially on gravel. This car is built for gravel roads. The active All Wheel Drive certainly helps. Skid control can be switched off.

On tar there is very little body roll and handling is car like. Brakes are excellent. It goes where you point it. It also goes. Acceleration is good (10.7 to 100), especially for overtaking and top speed is around 185km/h. The car feels wieldy and agile.

The XV takes jeep tracks in its stride. It just laps up the dirt, possibly because it has a ground clearance of 220mm and a very good suspension setup. So not an all out offroader, but you can go pretty far off the beaten track.

Weak points

I had to look long and hard to find a few niggles.

The spare wheel is a temporary type emergency wheel slightly smaller than the normal wheels. I no like!

The optional GPS ( using TomTom software) is a little difficult to get to know. The odd town’s spelling is not the normal South African spelling e.g. Veldrif is Velddrift.

I was not able to find the night setting, so it was too bright at night.

The medium wave tuner picks radio stations like 567 up, but poorly, due to only being able to tune to 560 or 570, as result it is always slightly off station.

Boot space is just acceptable. Four people and their weekend luggage will be a tight squeeze.

Summary

I loved the car. If you were wondering, it is still a Scooby. Possibly the best all round SUV except for the Freelander, but way more economical. Clearly the best SUV under R350 000. The XV will also be a good family car. Economy is good, handling and road holding is superb and space is not bad.

Costs

R329 000  for the manual 6MT and R339 000 for the CVT model, which I would recommend. SatNav and leather seats are optional extras.

The VX comes with a 3 year 100 000km warranty and 3 year/ 75 000 km maintenance plan.