Every time a carmaker comes up with another convoluted crossover concept proclaiming it to be the biggest thing in cars since the Model T, I roll my eyes and drift away into one of my pleasant little day dreams. It’s been done already, lads. About a decade ago. By Subaru. They call it the Forester. Look, here’s the latest version. No, it's not the prettiest car on the road these days but then Subaru has been floundering in the design wilderness of late. At least out test car was painted in an attractive colour and accessorised to perfection with a tan interior and tasty 18-inch wheels. Mechancially there's nothing much new to report for 2007 either - our XT model has same turbo-charged 2.5-litre engine, same impressive pep and the same considerable thirst as before. Stand on the gas and not only does the Forester's engine rasp with that distinctive Subaru boxer thrum, the front also lifts in the air like an old-school muscle car. It's actually quite surprising how much the Forester moves around on its springs, not only just fore and aft but also laterally. It's also a disarming how quickly it runs out of front wheel grip and how loose the Forest feels when you throw it around but once you get used to it you find that it's quite a rapid and exploitable machine and a surprisingly naughty if you know how to provoke it the right way.
Both the acceleration and economy of our test car suffered on account of being saddled with the company's archaic four-speed automatic transmission, but at least it shifted relatively smoothly and was quick to kick down. There is a manual override but it's really not worth the effort given the transmission's shift patterns are pretty well sorted to being with. A manual gearbox would be better, perhaps, but a gearstick would somehow have looked a bit out of place in the Forester's curiously upscale yet old fashioned cabin.
All in all, we quite like the Forester but we do wish Subaru would capatise on its head-start in the crossover market by keeping it fresh and original, rather than tweaking it for the sake of change. The upcoming boxer diesel is the kind of stuff we like to see, not glum facelifts, ancient transmissions and drab dashboards. Step away from the easel, Subaru, and get back to the cutting-edge engineering you do best.
Engine: 2.5-litre, flat-4 'boxer' turbo, 230 hp, 320 Nm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Acceleration: 0–100 km/h: 7.6 seconds
Top speed: 214 km/h
Economy: 10.5 L/100 km
CO2: 250 g/km
Boot Capacity: 387 litres
Weight: 1510 kg
Base Price: €46,695
as tested: €47,320
Verdict: The sound and oomph encourages you to push but the Forester's just not a performance car. Competent and pleasant but getting on a bit.