October 31, 2016 @ 07:40 PM

Assembled in Malaysia, the Sequel

Subaru is hoping to recreate the sales performance of the XV by starting assembly of the Forester in Segambut!

Written by Jerrica Leong 
Photos by Jerrica Leong and Motor Image Malaysia

We only had one hour, one short hour in which to view the car, learn about it, admire the concept, snap a hundred photos and make a quick tour around the Impact Challenger hall which is the second biggest exhibition hall in Asia and the world’s largest column free exhibition hall mind you. No wait, scratch the one hour, with the launch we had to attend, that leaves us with only 15 minutes to do all that before we will be ushered (or more accurately rushed) off to the next item in the program.

I am at the Bangkok International Motor Show to witness the ASEAN debut of the new Subaru Forester. It’s not an all new generation but what makes this Forester special is that the SUV will be assembled in Malaysia. Subaru has high hopes that bringing production to the Tan Chong Motor Assemblies in Segambut will double the sales figure for the company.

And being a CKD model meant that the Forester will get plenty of price advantages allowing the Forester to come with a very attractive price tag. Estimated selling price at the time of writing is RM144,160 for the base Forester 2.0i while the mid-range Forester 2.0i-P will be sold at RM153,700. The turbocharged Forester XT on the other hand will be fully imported and will have an asking price of RM210,940, such is the price for more power.

Not much has changed when it comes to the looks, but this new Forester has sharper edges then the out-going model and has less resemblance to its best-selling XV sibling. A new grille decorates the Forester’s front while the headlights for the 2.0i-P and the top range XT have been swapped out in favour of Steering Responsive Headlights that will shine their light to the direction the Forester’s steering is pointed to. 

The interior has the biggest amount of improvements added, Subaru has added a new LCD Cluster and a premium head unit into the centre console, the old steering wheel has been replaced with a more stylish and sporty one, both the steering and the seats are wrapped in quality leather. Let’s just say that the Forester’s interior now feels more luxurious and looks more comfortable. Get your hands on the turbocharged XT and you even get stylish chrome paddles!

Safety has also been improved as the car is now built around a Ring Shaped Reinforcement Frame to protect everything inside, be it alive or inanimate, in the event of an accident. The reinforcement frame has been designed to have the famed boxer engine to fold into the frame to avoid all contact with the passengers inside. The frame also features heavily reinforced B-pillars that are made up of eight layers of high-strength, high-tension steel, so if the Forester ever encounters a rollover, the frame will hold the car’s entire 1360kg weight.

Other safety upgrades includes the introduction of the X-Mode on-board computer system to the new Forester. The X-Mode system will monitor the whole range of driver assistance programs like Hill Descent Control, Enhanced All-Wheel Drive (AWD) System and Enhanced Vehicle Dynamics Control. 

Of course for an off-roading SUV, the Forester will come with the standard Hill Start Assist and Brake Override system that will reduce the likelihood of unintended acceleration, also when the driver steps on both the throttle and brakes at the same time the system will cut the engine power and allow the brake to override the need to accelerate.

15 minutes up, and I was rushed off to the next program which includes a quick driving experience session with the star of the day. Yes, Subaru has prepared a special course at the large space that was set up for test driving all the cars on show in the Bangkok Motor Show. Special because instead of a concrete road like the other cars, the Forester has a dirt track all of its own. But before they hand us the keys to the 2.0i-P test units, we were treated to resident Subaru stunt-person, Russ Swift’s, spectacular show.

With a drone war happening between three camera drones above our heads, Russ Swift proceeded to shower those of us who were adventurous enough to venture into the hot Bangkok sun to get closer with tyre debris and dust as he performed his usual parking stunts that he has broken record after record and multiple doughnuts with his trusty companion, the Subaru WRX STi. 

But the main highlight of the show was the Forester’s debut performance on two wheels. When I say two wheels, I mean with the car tilting at 70 degrees on its side and I got it from the man himself that the feat was not easy to accomplish at all because the X-Mode is just too intelligent! It had taken Mr Swift three attempt before he managed to complete the feat.

And I witnessed myself (when I manage to tear my eyes off the cheeky banner tied on the underside of the car that is) the front wheel of the Forester spinning more than the other three wheels as the X-mode calculated that there is a loss of traction on one side of the car and proceeded to apply power to the front wheel to try to get the car out of an “imagined” sticky situation.

With the show over, it was time for me to jump in the hot-seat of the Forester, and the first thing I noticed is how powerful the 2.0i-P is. The FB20 Boxer Engine that pumps 148bhp of power and 196Nm of torque ate up the metres of the longish straight in no time at all! So if the 2.0-litre engine had induced so much stomach dropping action how will the Forester 2.0XT, that boasts 238bhp of power and 350Nm of torque, feel?

But I digress, the dirt road came to an end and I had to execute a sharp left turn. I would have lost the rear end and have the side of the SUV careening into the cones if the Vehicle Dynamic Control and S-AWD system had not kicked in and worked to apply more power into the wheels on the right side and less to the left two wheels of the car.

I got to experience more of the VDC and S-AWD system’s action when I executed a complete 360 degree turn further into the track. I hesitated when the instructor cheerfully informed me to apply more power as I entered the turn but I did as I was told, fully expecting the steering to kick back into position I stiffened my arms and gripped the wheel tighter, all prepared for the fight to hold the steering in place but that was a fight that never came. 

Instead I steered the car easily into the turn, and halfway in I even applied just a little more power causing the X-mode to send more power into the rear right to prevent the car from sliding off. The light steering might not be favourable to those who are in for a sportier drive but it sure does induce confidence into me when I was rampaging around on the dirt.

As for the ride, Subaru claims to have enhanced the comfort and handling performance, so with a stiffer cross member, enhanced coil and damper, the Forester is very comfortable considering we were driving on gravelly roads. I could barely feel the bumps and it was still comfortable when the car was thrown around sideways on the sandy track. 

But alas, that is it for my time behind the wheel of the Forester but it was enough to glimpse the talent the car has to offer us. Whether it be on the tarmac or off onto the dirt track, the Forester is equally talented but that doesn’t come as a surprise at all since this is what Subaru promises with their off-roaders and executes masterfully.
The new Forester will be making its local debut on 14th April 2016, the specifications of the locally made Forester will be similar as the Foresters that we’ve sampled in Bangkok. We can’t wait to give it the full CAR Malaysia treatment!

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