The 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER hybrid!
The 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER hybrid!

Caroline drives the 2020 Subaru Forester e-BOXER.

Subaru has long been a 4×4 specialist and purveyor of BOXER engine technology that saw the brand become 1990’s heroes of rallying with the infamous Impreza Turbo. The glory days of Subaru in motorsport are long gone now. But the brand has been quietly producing some more sedate, serious crossovers and SUVs since then. The Subaru Forester is probably the one with the greatest following in Ireland, with a reputation for being safe, capable and reliable.

Now Subaru is introducing hybrid powertrains into their Forester and XV range for the first time. The fifth generation Subaru Forester will be sold exclusively as a hybrid (‘e-BOXER’). It’s priced from €45,545 in Ireland for the entry XE model, rising to €49,245 for the XE Premium.

What’s new for the Subaru Forester?

The new Forester e-BOXER sits on the new Subaru Global Platform and combines an electric motor with two of Subaru’s core technologies, the horizontally-opposed 2.0-litre BOXER petrol engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. Styling has evolved rather than taken any dramatic twist. The Forester is quite plain in appearance with a robust look more in tune with the brand’s 4×4 roots.

The interior of the 2020 Subaru Forester
The interior of the 2020 Subaru Forester

Inside there is a new interior with a more modernised dashboard design. The built and quality is excellent throughout. There is an 8″ touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, which means you can bypass the native system’s quite old-fashioned graphics. A second screen above, inset in the dashboard, displays more information to the driver on ventilation, the hybrid system and efficiency.

The XE model is equipped with LED headlights, keyless entry, and electrically adjustable driver’s seat. While the XE Premium model includes 18” alloys, sunroof, leather seats, satellite navigation, power tailgate, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel.

Forester features some very advanced safety technology as standard including Rear Vehicle Detection, Reverse Automatic Braking, and Driver Monitoring System. For example, the Driver Monitoring System uses a camera and facial recognition technology to monitor the driver’s gaze and gives audible and visual warning to the driver to pay attention to the road! Subaru’s emphasis on safety has seen the Forester recently named best in class for safety performance by Euro NCAP.

The new Forester is very accomplished off-road
The new Forester is very accomplished off-road

How practical is the Forester e-BOXER?

The new model is 20 mm wider and 30 mm longer than the car it replaces, improving passenger comfort. There is more elbow room and a longer wheelbase means more legroom for rear seat passengers. The rear bench is wide and comfortable. Its slightly raised position means there is a great view out for all passengers. The boot opens to reveal 520 litres with a plastic floor that’s easy to clean – ideal for outdoor adventures! An electric tailgate for extra convenience is standard on XE Premium.

The Forester has four wheel drive as standard with two off-road driving modes accessible from a dial on the centre console. ‘Snow/Dirt’ for use on slippery road surfaces such as snow or gravel and ‘Deep Snow/Mud’ for surfaces where the tyres can become buried, such as deep snow and dry dirt. There’s 220 mm of ground clearance and the Forester e-BOXER’s towing capacity is 1,870 kg.

Rear seating in the Subaru Forester
Rear seating in the Subaru Forester

Driving the new Forester e-BOXER

This 2.0-litre petrol engine features mild hybrid technology for the first time. Support from an electric motor has been tasked with the job of improving the Forester’s fuel efficiency. The Forester’s performance figures are not particularly outstanding with 150 hp and 196 Nm of torque. But on the road this doesn’t translate to any great disadvantage. In fact the nature of the CVT gearbox means that gentle progress on the accelerator is rewarded more than any grand showings of aggressive accelerator use.

There are three driving modes with varying levels of support from the battery. At very low speeds, the Forester can be powered by the electric motor alone for example in stop-and-go traffic, where Subaru say a 10% improvement in fuel economy can be seen compared to the outgoing 2.0-litre variant. At medium speeds, the motor and engine work together to improve power and performance. At higher speeds, Forester e-BOXER is driven solely by the petrol engine.

The new hybrid technology is arranged in a symmetrical layout. The electric motor assist and battery pack aligned longitudinally with the heavy motor placed near the vehicle’s centre of gravity. The battery and other components are positioned above the rear axle.

The new Forester e-BOXER available from €45,545
The new Forester e-BOXER available from €45,545

Subaru is well-known for its off-road ability but probably less associated with ride quality. So I was really surprised to discover that the new Subaru Forester e-BOXER rides exceptionally well. I did lots of motorway and rural road driving and the Forester was very comfortable in these situations. It handles the road confidently, feeling flat and balanced through corners. While the engine responded willingly.

The Forester favours a less frantic driving style to manage revs from the CVT and promote better fuel efficiency. Over a week of driving my average fuel consumption was 8.2 l/100km. This was disappointing considering the promise of a more efficient Forester. The Forester has a tendency to hold onto revs, which doesn’t do itself any favours when it comes to using less fuel.

To summarise the Forester

The careful arrangement of the paraphernalia for the hybrid system and balancing of the weight distribution means that you have a very natural feeling car. It rides and handles exceptionally well.

Forester’s strong 4×4 roots give the driver real confidence off-road. While this is by no means a cheap vehicle, Subaru has thrown enough gear and leather at the Forester to pitch it as a more premium SUV.

But it’s not a car for show-offs because style is not really part of the Forester’s vocabulary. There is a lot of anonymity in this design. Depending on your point of view that’s a good or bad thing.

The new Forester e-BOXER is an interesting evolution for the Subaru brand. The brand’s perpetuation of the BOXER engine technology translates to one of the most unique behaving cars on the road. Subaru has given the Forester a gentle nudge in the right direction as the global car industry responds to ever tightening emission controls.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Subaru Forester 2.0i e-BOXER XE Premium Lineartronic
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol engine + 2 electric motors
150 hp
Torque: 196 Nm
11.8 seconds
Top speed: 117 km/h
Fuel consumption (WLTP): 
Motor tax: 
€390 per year