News of the week:
· Volvo celebrates 50 years of manufacturing cars at its Torslanda plant.
· Volvo’s Torslanda factory has produced more than 6.8 million cars that have rolled out across the world. Models such as the Amazon, P1800 and 240 have become a part of Sweden’s cultural heritage, and models such as the Volvo XC90 and Volvo S60 are set to do the same in future.
· The second model to be produced from the start in the new Volvo factory was the Volvo P1800, the beautiful sports car launched in 1961. With the aid of Roger Moore as Simon Templar in the British TV series The Saint, the P1800 acquired a halo that still shines 50 years later. Today, the P1800 is the most sought-after of Volvo’s classic models.
· The autumn of 1966 saw the launch of the first entirely new model since the opening of the Torslanda factory: the Volvo 140.
· This established in earnest Volvo’s worldwide reputation as a leader in the field of safety, with new features such as a dual circuit braking system, disc brakes on all four wheels, a split steering column and a body with energy-absorbing zones front and rear.
· After 50 years, our workforce of more than 3,000 employees is now preparing for the next generation of Volvo models, based on Volvo’s all-new SPA architecture. First to be launched, later this year, will be the all-new Volvo XC90.
Road test: Subaru Forester 2.0X
A manufacturer’s job is to sell you their car, to do anything within their power to quote facts and figures, performance times and fuel consumption, all in an effort to swoon you into joining the corporation for which they are employed.
But as much as this is the case, it’s truly rare when such claims can be met in an everyday world, by everyday drivers, without the slightest bit of hassle. I encountered such a situation on my recent test of the Subaru Forester 2.0X, the entry level model of the Forester range.
As an entry level model, the spec. level is rather bare, boasting only a few key features such as manual climate control, airbags, Bluetooth, cruise control, and steering wheel mounted controls – but interestingly enough, a reverse camera comes standard, always great to have on an SUV of this size. Size however is not much of an issue, as the Forester affords not only a great driving position, but all round visibility second to none.
Interior design was top notch, with easy to use controls, storage spaces, and dash design, completed in soft touch finishes making the base spec. feel homely. Clever design and placement of A, B, and C pillars made driving visibility a dream, with a clear view of the front of the sculpted bonnet to make parking that little bit easier.
“Easy” was the key word to my whole experience with the Forester – everything was just simple, everything was just pleasurable. Although the interior was slightly bare, it was incredibly comfortable to be in – homely rather than showy; this is just what you want in an SUV, much like a house that’s great to live in as opposed to those mansions you always see on TV that would be cold and lifeless to reside in.
The ease was made easier thanks to masses of room on offer, in particular for rear passengers and in the boot. During my test period I was even tasked to collect cement from the local builders’ depot, and the bags were packed in the back with space to spare, and without a single iota of dust on the rear bumper, thanks to the height of the back end being low enough to load comfortably. If the boot alone weren’t enough space, the 60:40-split rear seats could fold down to increase luggage capacity to a rather spacious 1564-litres.
But how did it fare with the added weight? After all, Johannesburg altitudes and a normally aspirated 2.0-litre motor would surely have been a bad mix, right? 110kW and 198Nm may sound familiar in output terms, after all the engine in the Forester 2.0X uses the same engine as the Subaru XV we tested earlier on in the year.
But, and this is the key difference, where the XV felt down on power with the CVT transmission, the 6-speed manual gearbox equipped on the Forester is worlds better, offering great low down torque and even better midrange power, even with heavy loads of cement in the back.
The gear changes were quick and precise, although offering a very mechanical feel and not feeling as solid as I would have liked, especially in relation to the rest of the car which all felt very well put together and strong enough to withstand the sands of time as if they were nothing but a gentle breeze.
Power transfer through changes was exceptional though, giving a commanding feel over the vehicle, lending to the ease at which I was able to drive the Forester with. Cruising was made a pleasure with the longer 6th ratio of the ‘box and cruise control, making sure my regular Pretoria-Jo’burg trips were accomplished in a most relaxed manner. Traffic on the highway wasn’t even an issue for my usual fits of anger towards rather obtuse drivers who don’t know what an indicator is – the Forester inspired calmness and serenity.
This theme was a recurring one around town too, pottering about in the big car and feeling like I was riding on pockets of air. Undulations in the road below were translated to me via the steering wheel, but the suspension underfoot absorbed imperfections in a manner I had not expected, especially not at this spec. level or price range.
This soft suspension made for an easy ride, but did somewhat compromise handling, increasing body roll around long, continuous bends. The symmetrical all-wheel drive was re-assuring though, conveying a sure-footed feel despite the side-ways “floatiness” I sometimes incurred.
Comfortable, relaxed, and easy to drive – but the Forester landed one final killer blow for me, one that cemented its place as an SUV I thoroughly enjoyed – frugality. Claimed consumption figures on a combined cycle are 7.2-litres per 100km according to Subaru, and in all my time in this industry I’ve rarely achieved figures within 1-litre North of claimed figures, yet somehow, the Forester managed to return 7.2-litres per 100km on the dot, without fail, come traffic or open road, and without any special driving requirements.
Plus, lest we forget, it achieved this despite the additional weight and fuel requirements brought about by the Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, standard on all Subarus but the BRZ. The tale of the figures was nothing short of spectacular in my books, leading lighter, 2-wheel drive competitors whilst offering better drive quality, and easier liveability too.
The Subaru Forester 2.0X comes in at the bottom of the range with a price of R329 000, and very little spec. But the bare essentials are all that you need. I expected to be bored, confined to hundreds of kilometres without gadgetry to play with, but every trip was an easy one, every drive to work was completed with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
The Forester 2.0X is a supremely fun car to live with, while remaining spacious, extremely practical, and easy on the wallet. What more could one ask for in the modern day and age? The Forester truly is an SUV with the drivability of a car, and the capability of a much larger, more expensive SUV – and that’s before you even leave the tarmac. But that’s a story for another day, and another Forester, stay tuned for that one coming soon.
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