Mabuyane Kekana

Mabuyane Kekana

New car launches generally take place at venues on our coastline - but a launch of a kind recently took place at my house.

Subaru South Africa has dared to be different with the launch of the new Subaru Forester. It decided to deliver the cars to the motoring media to launch their product on an individual basis.

Mine was delivered last week and the red carpet was rolled out for the "handover". An extravagant gesture indeed!

During the launch, which took place over the whole weekend in the company of friends and family, we all agreed on one thing: the Forester is ideal for a family's needs.

Unlike its siblings - such as the Impreza range and Tribeca - the Forester is quite a distinct breed emerging from the Subaru stable.

She is neither noisy nor intimidating and is in a class of her own.

Subaru SA managing director Teresita van Gaalen says the main purpose of the Forester is to provide "a leisurely touch".

So, taking her advice, I took it for a spin and thoroughly enjoyed the outing, experiencing no problems at all.

The Forester shares its basic platform architecture with the Impreza and this translates into a significantly enhanced level of both refinement and passive safety.

Both ride comfortably and their luggage volume benefits from a compact multi-link double wishbone rear suspension design.

But the new Forester is a clean-sheet design and shares little, other than the chassis philosophy, with its impressive predecessor.

The Forester range starts with the Forester 2,5X 5-speed manual priced at R269000, while the grand flagship 2,5 XT Premium SportShift is priced at R387000.

It is generally acknowledged that all-wheel drive is the ideal way to make the best use of all of an engine's torque - by enabling smaller amounts to be delivered to each wheel - for maximum traction.

All Foresters now boast VDC - Vehicle Dynamics Control - a stability system that uses brake and power intervention to control the vehicle's cornering behaviour.

The system can be switched off with a dashboard button, though it retains an element of brake-assisted traction control - especially desirable in off-road driving conditions.

New for the 2009 Forester is the addition of Brake Assist (BA) to an upgraded all-disc braking system that already includes anti-lock (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) systems.

The new double wishbone rear suspension plays an important part in the all-round competence of the Forester, contributing to better ride comfort, enhanced insulation from road inputs, increased suspension travel and enhanced interior space.

The compact suspension design is key to the Forester's wide and flat luggage compartment.

All versions feature electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning, auxiliary input socket, a trio of 12 Volt outlets, height-reach adjustable steering column, and steering wheel controls for cruise control and sound system.

The XS and XT models add features such as full climate control, 6-CD changer and self-levelling rear suspension.