Subaru Forester

High-performance estates are making a comeback, but how many does one car firm need? Subaru has built hot load-lugging versions of its Impreza for years, and also offers the Legacy Spec B. Now, there's another unstoppable estate to add to its line-up: the new turbocharged Forester.

The flagship Forester is a truly unique car. With off-road ability, lots of practicality and gutsy pace, the 2.5-litre turbo model has bags of appeal. Customers should avoid the automatic and go for the sportier manual, but all variants are costly.

High-performance estates are making a comeback, but how many does one car firm need? Subaru has built hot load-lugging versions of its Impreza for years, and also offers the Legacy Spec B. Now, there's another unstoppable estate to add to its line-up: the new turbocharged Forester.

While it falls short of the racy set-up of the Japan-only Forester STi - driven by Auto Express in Issue 865 - the new flagship benefits from all the revisions made to the latest SUV-inspired model, which has just gone on sale in the UK.

The new range-topper is powered by a flat four-cylinder 2.5-litre turbo unit giving a healthy 227bhp - that's 19bhp more than the outgoing machine. Use all the available performance and the manual version storms from 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds - which is only 0.1 seconds slower than an Impreza WRX.

However, Subaru is also offering a new automatic option, called Sportshift. Fitted to our test car, the clunky four-speed transmission hampers the pace, raising the sprint time to 7.3 seconds.

In real world conditions, the Forester is still impressively quick, while revised suspension and steering make for an entertaining drive. It's not agile, but it's still good fun. At £23,345, the 2.5 XT auto costs £1,350 more than the superior manual, with the luxurious flagship XTE priced at a lofty £26,145. That makes the well equipped Subaru look cheap next to a BMW X3, but it still seems a lot to pay for a dutiful load-lugger - even one as fast as this.

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