The Subaru Forester is not the type of SUV that shouts for attention. Its looks are subtle, while the engine is smooth but not sassy.
Having driven one during the holidays I have discovered a lot about this Japanese brand.
First appearing in South Africa in 1997, the Forester today represents about 50 percent of Subaru's global sales.
My test car was the 2008 face-lifted 2,5 XS. Despite all the changes, it remains the family car with all the qualities that address lifestyle and economic constraints.
It was amazing how people would still see the beauty of the car without it flaunting itself.
I was at a party when people recognised the car as extraordinarily beautiful. The Forester stood out in its own way.
The Forester has the charm and aggression to stand out.
The 2,5-litre engine produces 126 kW at 6000 rpm and 229 Nm at 4400 rpm.
The Subaru trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system gives the vehicle its fabled town-and-country all-rounder status: its road-hugging versatility, the gift of confident performance on crowded urban highways, sure-footedness on rural gravel roads and mountain goat capability that challenges the 4x4 "big guns" off-road.
The other hidden constant is another key element in the Subaru ID: Boxer engines with their horizontally opposed layout. The 2,5-litre powerplants are available in naturally aspirated and turbo-charged versions.
The Forester is armed with many safety features. Among them are Dynamic Chassis Control Concept (DC3) and combines constant Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC). Permanent all-wheel-drive is a feature of all derivatives, with manual transmission versions using a viscous limited slip mechanism integral to the centre differential to vary the torque distribution front to rear. The default split is 50:50 but torque can be sent to either axle, depending on conditions.
Two-pedal versions of the Forester use the Active Torque Split system, with a 60:40 default setting. Once again, torque can be sent front or rear depending on driving conditions.
VDC uses various sensors to monitor the vehicle's cornering behaviour and compares speed, steering angle, throttle position and lateral and longitudinal G force to an ideal set of parameters. Based on the results, VDC will use selective brake and power intervention to try and bring the vehicle back on to an intended cornering trajectory and yaw attitude.
My son did not complain about space to play when we travelled long distances. And my holidays were a marvel in the Forester.