In all the 21 years and four generations that Subaru has been making the Forester, there has never been a hybrid powerplant and the company has only offered customers petrol or diesel versions of its Boxer engine. With the fifth generation, the Forester gets a hybrid variant – the Forester e-Boxer – although hybrid powertrains are not new to the brand as it has been selling a hybrid variant of the XV since 2013.

Presumably, the latest hybrid powertrain benefits from experience gained over the past 5 years and provides better performance. In that time too, battery technology has advanced greatly, with higher density lithium-ion battery packs able to store more electricity for a longer range.

The e-Boxer engine, as the name suggests, has an electric motor paired with a Boxer engine, in this case the FB20 2-litre direct injection version. The petrol engine produces 143 ps/188 Nm while the electric motor can generate up to 13.4 ps/65 Nm. However, the total system output does not equal the combination of both outputs although the presence of the electric motor does add extra zip anyway, especially moving off and in the lower speed range.

The hybrid powertrain’s main advantage is improving fuel efficiency as the electric motor works with the engine but does not need petrol for the extra power contribution. Claimed fuel consumption is 18.6 kms/litre which is about 40% better than the previous Forester with just a petrol engine.

As in most hybrids, a display shows the driver the periods when the engine and motor are in operation as well as the energy flows, whether to the 4 wheels via the Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive or recharging the battery pack. The display is one of the screens on 8-inch Multi-Function Display panel.

As a variant of the latest 5th generation Forester which is progressively going on sale in various markets, the Forester e-Boxer sits on the Subaru Global Platform. This platform has been designed with flexibility, particularly with regard to powertrains, so Subaru can offer the same model with conventional petrol or diesel engines as well as hybrid/plug-in hybrid and electric powertrains.

Being able to plan for the use of other types of powertrains has enabled the engineers to optimise internal space. For example, in the e-Boxer, the cargo floor is only a fraction higher than the petrol variant and there’s over 500 litres of space available in spite of having to incorporate the battery pack.

Many safety features and systems are provided and the one which is unique is Subaru’s proprietary EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. EyeSight is an advanced driver assist technology that includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lead Vehicle Start Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Lane Sway Warning, offering drivers better safety and peace of mind when on the roads.

The e-Boxer also has a Special X-MODE function, allowing drivers an added layer of safety when manoeuvring on uneven surfaces and challenging terrain. With the push of a button, the Special X-MODE system activates and operates in up to 5 different way to prevent or minimise slipping tyres and maximise grip and stability. The e-Boxer has minimum ground clearance of 220 mm which will be appreciate over very rough and broken tracks as well as flooded roads.

The new generation of the Forester will be available in Malaysia before mid-2019 and will be assembled locally. While it will almost certainly come with the Eyesight technology (as Subaru is satisfied that it will work fine in local conditions), the hybrid powertrain is less certain. Hybrid technology still adds an extra cost and though there are EEV incentives offered for locally-assembled models under the prevailing National Automotive Policy, it’s hard to say if these can offset the extra cost to enable Motor Image to price the new model competitively.

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