Subaru has had a good thing going with the Forester since it was introduced in the United States in 1998.
Back then it was a pioneering vehicle, a car-based, small SUV with all-wheel-drive that gave consumers a smaller option at a time when the truck-based Ford Explorer was taking the SUV market mainstream.
Those early Foresters featured a tall stance, AWD, and an “SUV tough, car easy” sales slogan. They also were in the forefront of the compact SUV movement that today has grown into one of the industry’s most important segments.
“Those early Foresters were overengineered and over-built,” says Subaru’s Dominick Infante. “That’s why you still see so many of them on the road.”
Subaru’s car line manager, Todd Hill, and two of its communications executives, Infante and Jessica Tullman, were in the Boston area this month to showcase Forester in both its normally aspirated 2.5i and 2.0XT (turbo) forms.
These are good times for Subaru. The company continues sales momentum across the board as it completes the rollout of the fourth generation Forester.
“We’re coming off our best month ever in March,” says Infante, “but Forester sales never dropped off the way they usually do during the phasing-out of the previous generation.”
For the ﬁrst three months of the year, Subaru has sold 16,874 Foresters, 25.3 percent of the company’s 80,568 sales in that period.
“We’re continuing the momentum we built over the last ﬁve years, going against the trend and growing our sales during the recession,” says Infante.
While Subaru always has done well in the Northeast, Northwest, and Colorado, its share of the overall US market almost has doubled from 1.2 percent to 2.3 percent.
“Right now our biggest problem is plant capacity,” he says.
The company’s dealers also feel a bit of a pinch because there are only a small number of used Subarus on the market. “People tend to hand down used Subarus within the family,” says Infante. “We ﬁnd that happens with 71 percent of our cars.”
“We kept our core values in this redesign,” says Hill. “Styling presence, drivability, fuel economy, and a turbo performance option, all were part of the process.”
But the two Forester characteristics that may turn out to be the most signiﬁcant are fuel economy and improved cabin space, especially when it comes to rear seat legroom.
The Forester is a ﬁve-passenger vehicle, and all ﬁve spots got attention in the new version.
Up front, Subaru moved the A pillar (windshield side frame) forward 8 inches and the instrument panel forward 4.7 inches. In addition, the seating hip point is 1.2 inches higher and there’s 1.2 inches of additional shoulder room over the outgoing version. “It adds up to a much roomier feel,” says Hill. “In addition, the door sill is 1.5 inches lower, making it easier to get in and out while the ground clearance remains at 8.7 inches.”
Rear seat passengers get 3.7 additional inches of legroom plus more foot room under the front seats. For the center passenger in back, the console between the front seats was shortened by 3.9 inches and the drive shaft tunnel is 2.6 inches lower. Additionally the backs of the front seats are scalloped, and the rear door sill is wider and has a nonskid surface.
The standard 2.5-liter engine is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or CVT. The vehicle is rated at 27 miles per gallon combined and 32 on the highway, comparable to competitors’ front-wheel-drive models. The fuel economy boost gives the new Forester a 500-mile cruising range.
In turbo dress, the Forester offers 250 horsepower and a CVT that can operate as both a six-speed and eight-speed with paddle shifters, depending on Si-Drive settings.
Who is No. 1?
Ford and Toyota are in the midst of interesting counterclaims over which has the world’s top-selling vehicle. The automotive research ﬁrm Polk surprised people earlier this month when it announced that the Ford Focus had overtaken the Toyota Corolla as the world’s top-seller.
It turns out the deﬁnition of nameplate is at the crux of the controversy. Polk credits Focus with 1,020,410 new vehicle registrations in 2012. Polk lists Corolla as No. 2 with 872,774. However, Toyota ofﬁcials claim they sold 1,160,764 Corollas in all its variants. Of course, in the United States, the Ford F-150 remained America’s bestselling vehicle for the 31st consecutive year.
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