SUBARU Australia is encouraged by a strong customer response to the arrival of its first-ever hybrid powertrains, with the two-pronged petrol-electric Forester medium SUV range touching down locally priced from $39,990 plus on-road costs.
With the green Forester twins joined by a single XV hybrid small SUV (from $35,580), the new fuel-saving options have attracted a significant level of interest from the Japanese brand’s Australian customer base.
According to Subaru, nearly 5000 expressions of interest have been placed by customers since the reveal of the hybrids in December, while the wait list for both model lines has now stretched out to April.
The company says supply for the electrified models will be restricted to around 150 to 200 units per month, with a skew towards Forester which has two variants as opposed to one – the mid-spec L and the more premium S. The latter raises the asking price by $6000, to $45,990 plus on-roads.
Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie said the decision to go with a two-variant Forester hybrid range was to ensure the new technology was accessible to as broad a range of customers as possible.
“I think having the two trim variants which are both highly equipped and specced, it’s important to give people (choice),” he said.
“What we didn’t want to do was tell people you can only access a hybrid if you want the top-of-the-line variant.
“And even with XV we’ve only got one variant but it’s in the middle of our model walk, because we wanted to make sure it’s accessible for people.”
Of course, the headline act for the Forester hybrid is its powertrain, namely a 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder ‘boxer’ petrol engine good for 110kW at 6000rpm and 196Nm at 4000rpm, teamed to a self-charging synchronous electric motor producing 12kW/66Nm.
Official combined fuel consumption is pegged at 6.7 litres per 100km, up from 7.4L/100km in the 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre petrol version.
Subaru says the hybrid leads to a nine per cent improvement in fuel consumption on the combined cycle, while driving in urban environments results in a claimed 19 per cent improvement.
The self-charging hybrid system independently switches between three driving modes – EV, hybrid and petrol.
Pure EV is used at low speeds of up to 40km/h, while at medium speeds the petrol and electric power work together.
The boxer engine takes over sole duties when travelling at high speeds, however in certain situations above 40km/h the electric motor can be used when coasting or decelerating.
Subaru has maintained its trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive system and endeavoured to optimise front and rear weight distribution with the hybrid hardware.
All electric motor components including the drive motor inverter and DC/DC converter are stored in a high-strength frame with the motor located near the car’s centre of gravity and the battery and other components above the rear axle.
The boxer petrol engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission, with power being sent to all four wheels as with the rest of Subaru’s model line-up (with the exception of the BRZ).
Subaru says the addition of the hybrid motor enhances its X-Mode off-road drive system, which provides extra torque at low speeds.
Along with the standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, Forester hybrids come with an eight-year/160,000km lithium-ion battery warranty.
Standard equipment on the Forester L, which is priced $3050 north of the equivalent petrol grade, includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED foglights and tail-lights, chrome doorhandles, heated/folding electric door mirrors, rear spoiler, wheelarch and side cladding and a black rear garnish.
Inside, Forester L scores a 6.5-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB+ digital radio, six-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, heated front seats with black cloth trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel/gear shifter, privacy glass, smart key and three 12V power jacks.
The inclusion of the battery pack has meant the spare tyre has been removed, leaving only a tyre repair kit.
On the safety front, the Forester L hybrid includes Subaru’s EyeSight suite of active safety technologies, including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, pedestrian alert, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring and ‘vision assist’.
The $45,990 Forester S hybrid, which now becomes the most expensive variant in the range, has 18-inch alloys, a powered tailgate, chrome window moulding, 8.0-inch infotainment display with sat-nav, two-stage X-Mode dial, eight-way power driver and front passenger seats, alloy sports pedals, leather trim, Harman Kardon sound system, electric folding rear seats, electric sunroof and two extra USB ports up front.
The Forester hybrid will compete with the Toyota RAV4 which also offers self-charging hybrid variants that range from $35,490 to $44,990.
In 2019, Subaru sold 15,096 examples of the Forester following the introduction of the all-new model in September 2018, up 21.4 per cent on the 12,432 managed over the previous 12 months.
2020 Subaru Forester pricing*
|2.5i Premium (a)||$39,940|
|L Hybrid (a)||$39,990|
|S Hybrid (a)||$45,990|
*Excludes on-road costs