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23 Jan 2020

What We Dislike
Not particularly quick

Subaru's e-Boxer technology brings improved fuel economy and added refinement to an already stellar Forester package.

The all new fifth generation Subaru Forester was launched in 2019, and it has proved to be a major hit. With high levels of comfort and enhanced safety features, combined with the ample utility and practicality customers now demands from SUVs, the Forester is undoubtedly a popular choice among buyers. We even recognised it as our 2019 SUV of the Year.

So, how do you enhance that winning formula? Well, how about making it a hybrid? 

A hybrid? 

The e-Boxer mild hybrid system delivers added refinement and urgency at low speeds
This e-Boxer is Subaru's take on a hybrid powertrain. Well, to be specific, this is a mild hybrid system (meaning that you cannot manually engage full EV mode, and you can't charge it at a power point).

It combines a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated (NA) engine, producing a tad less power at 148bhp and 196Nm of torque, with a 12kW electric motor capable of outputting 66Nm of torque.

In practice, the powertrain in the Forester e-Boxer doesn't feel much more powerful than the NA 2.0-litre engine model, because it actually isn't. Again, as this is a mild hybrid system, the electric motor is used more for filling in gaps in torque (especially at low speeds), as well as to power the on-board electronics.  

The mild hybrid system allowed us to clock 11.9km/L over three days of driving
However, it does manage to improve the overall refinement and responsiveness of the engine, especially at the low end. From a standstill, the e-Boxer feels a tad more urgent and responsive when you get on the throttle, and there's less of a feeling of inertia compared to the NA model.

So, this e-Boxer is more about getting greater fuel economy out of the car than it is about boosting performance. We managed to achieve 11.9km/L, which is pretty good considering Subarus are generally known for having rather dismal fuel economy. 

What about the rest of the car? 

The new generation infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay connectivity
The rest of the car is still a highly comfortable and refined package. Changes from the MY19 model include a new black tailgate garnish and an additional safety feature called rear seat reminder. Our test car also came equipped with a prototype of the next generation infortainment system that features improved connectivity functions including Apple CarPlay, and this new system will be rolled out to customer deliveries in the coming months.

Importantly, the Forester e-Boxer still comes equipped with an extensive range of Subaru EyeSight safety features. The Adaptive Cruise Control is particularly useful - the system even brings the car to a complete stop during heavy traffic, while the acceleration aggressiveness can be toggled bewteen four settings. Also new to the MY20 Forester is the Reverse Automatic Braking, which automatically engages the brakes if the car detects an object at the rear. 

So, should I buy one? 

The Forester e-Boxer brings greater refinement and efficiency to an already practical, comfortable and appealing package
With the e-Boxer, there are mild compromises over the standard car. The boot is 11 litres smaller (no one is going to be able to tell the difference), it's got a lower top speed at just 188km/h, it's heavier by 134kg, and it has a smaller fuel tank. Those differences aren't significant, though. They don't compromise the Forester in any major way, and there's the obvious upside of better fuel economy.

The other key differentiating factor is price, of course. The e-Boxer is priced at $124,800, which is not that much more than the higher-specced standard model (priced at $119,800).

So, if you're already in the market for a new Forester (or arguably any other SUVs in this price range), the extra $5,000 is certainly worth the money. It's hard to see why you wouldn't buy one.

Want a better feel for the power available from the e-Boxer? Or a closer look at the infotainment system? Check out our video review here!

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