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japanese crossovers

2019 Subaru Forester Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If Subaru were a surfer dude, it would be riding the crest of a very big wave, and its 2019 Forester will help keep it there.

The redesigned compact crossover sport utility vehicle, now in its fourth generation, arrives with more streamlined and sophisticated styling, as well as a host of new features.

Subaru2019Forester-9Built on a new global platform that also underpins the Ascent, Impreza and Crosstrek, the Forester delivers improved access for passengers and cargo, a new engine and transmission combination with automatic idle stop-start for improved fuel economy, additional safety measures and standard all-wheel drive.

Except for the company’s rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, developed with Toyota, all Subaru cars and crossover SUVs put the power to the ground with all four wheels. The Forester doesn’t have the off-road credentials of muscular Jeeps and Land Rovers. But it can handle foul weather conditions and moderately challenging terrain, especially on versions with X-Mode, which includes hill descent control.

There are five trim levels, starting with the $25,270 Base, followed by the $27,070 Premium, new $29,770 Sport, $31,770 Limited and $35,270 Touring. Prices include the $975 destination charge.

Subaru2019Forester-75All Foresters come with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes pre-collision throttle management and braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with lane departure and sway warning.

The tested Sport model came with a $2,045 option package that included blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, and a power rear tailgate with pushbutton closing and adjustable open height.

The package also covered Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with an eight-inch touch screen, premium Harman Kardon audio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio. It brought the Sport’s bottom-line price to $31,815.

Power surges from a newly-engineered 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque with city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 26/33/29 mpg.

Subaru2019Forester-26It is mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). CVTs ordinarily ordinarily multiply torque seamlessly without shift points. However, on the Forester Sport, the CVT incorporates a computer-generated seven-speed manual shift mode with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Under hard acceleration in automatic mode, it also mimics a conventional automatic’s upshifts.

The Forester is equipped with a system called SI-Drive that allows the driver to select throttle characteristics for fuel economy (“intelligent”) or maximum performance (“sport”), called “sport sharp” on the Sport trim.

The horizontally-opposed engine, also called a boxer or flat engine, has cylinders that lie supine, feet to feet, on both sides of the crankshaft instead of standing upright or leaning as with an inline or V configuration. Its low profile results in a lower center of gravity, which contributes to more secure road-holding and handling.

Subaru2019Forester-81As a vehicle that is oriented toward small families and adventuresome singles, the new Forester is designed to be both practical and comfortable. The rear doors are wider than before and swing open to nearly 90 degrees for adults to easily step in. Also, the cargo area, with 33 cubic feet of space, has an opening more than 43 inches wide and 32 inches high for ease of loading large objects. Fold the rear seatbacks flat and the space expands to 71 cubic feet.

Though not a racer, the Forester Sport’s suspension tuning and  performance-oriented wheels and tires, aided by brake-engaged torque vectoring, enhance handling on curving roads. At highway speeds, it tracks true and is quiet except for some intrusion of engine noise under hard acceleration.

The ride is compliant on all but the roughest roads and the Sport comes with supportive front seats upholstered in sturdy and comfortable cloth.

Subaru2019Forester-80One shortcoming: If the driver inadvertently shuts down the engine with the transmission in “drive,” the Forester will roll away. If that happens on many other vehicles, the transmission automatically shifts to “park.” The rollway scenario has been receiving increasing attention as a safety hazard.

Even at that, the Forester is a highly desirable vehicle and a staunch competitor in the compact crossover class. Since its introduction in 1997, it has totaled sales of 1.8 million, with many owners keeping them beyond expected trade-in times.

As a company, Subaru has been uncommonly successful, one of a few manufacturers that thrived despite the recession of a decade ago. In the last nearly seven years, it has had 81 consecutive months of year over year sales growth.

Subaru2019Forester-29Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Subaru Forester Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder; 182 hp, 176 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic with seven-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 108/33 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,531 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/33/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,770.
  • Price as tested: $31,815.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Subaru2019Forester-4Photos (c) Subaru

2018 Subaru Crosstrek Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With a reservoir of affection from loyal fans, the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek boosts the Japanese company’s relentless climb up the staircase to automotive nirvana.

Few vehicle manufacturers have been as successful as Subaru since industry sales tanked in the 2007-2009 recession. When other nameplates sagged and struggled, Subaru surged. Starting in 2008, its sales increased every year until they reached 615,132 in 2016.

In 2012, Subaru introduced the Crosstrek XV, a small crossover sport utility vehicle based on the same platform as the Impreza sedan and hatchback. It, too, has succeeded with sales up every year since, reaching 99,677 in 2016.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-Front_in_motionSubaru insiders credit a chunk of the success to an epiphany that many owners loved their cars for their durability and reliability, and expected them to last a long time. The company morphed those sentiments into advertising that equated ownership with love.

Crossovers like the Crosstrek are generally described as SUV-like vehicles built with unit bodies like cars, where traditional SUVs are built like trucks with body-on-frame construction. Usually, crossovers have front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive but all Subaru cars and crossovers, with the exception of the rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, come standard with all-wheel drive.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd_Red-FrontAs newer compact and subcompact crossovers threaten to engulf the marketplace, the 2018 Crosstrek (the SV designation has been dropped) is positioned to expand its reach as well.

In concept and size, the new generation Crosstrek is the same as the original, which made its debut as a 2013 model. But the 2018 is built on an all-new platform that will be used for Subaru vehicles world-wide and, according to company officials, it is 95% new with 80% new parts and a 70% more rigid structure.

A test drive fortified the claim. Though the original Crosstrek was a modestly capable vehicle, it did not have an overall aura of substance. In contrast, the new car has a rigid, solid feel. The steering, suspension system and tires contribute to confident handling and stable straight-line tracking. The Crosstrek also employs torque vectoring, which adjusts wheel speed in cornering.

18MY_Crosstrek_Lmtd-interior5The weak point is the power train, which despite a new 152-hp 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine, does not differ much from the 148-hp engine in the original Crosstrek.

With a horizontally opposed engine, also referred to as a boxer or flat engine, the cylinders lie supine on both sides of the crankshaft instead of leaning or standing upright as on V or in-line engines. The squat design results in a lower center of gravity for better control.

The Crosstrek’s relaxed power is not as noticeable with the continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) as with the 6-speed manual gearbox.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-interior_2toneOn modest uphill highway stretches with the manual transmission, the driver often finds that downshifts to as low as third gear are required as the engine struggles to supply enough power. It’s as if the drivetrain were designed to maximize fuel economy over performance.

The power shortage is not nearly as noticeable with the CVT, which uses belts and pulleys to seamlessly adjust engine revolutions as needed. There are two CVT versions. On lower trim levels, the CVT adjusts to enhance acceleration and off-road performance. On the Limited model tested here, the CVT came with a computerized 7-speed manual-shift mode controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.

Although the Crosstrek is not designed as an all-out boondocks buddy, it does have enough ground clearance and capability to handle some off-road territory, as well as delivering confident performance in snow and other foul weather conditions.

18MY_Crosstrek_Lmtd-2tone_rear_seatWith the manual gearbox, the all-wheel drive system distributes power 50-50 to the front and rear wheels. If slippage occurs, it automatically transfers the power to the wheels with the most traction.

On CVT equipped models, the system automatically adjusts the torque distribution based on available traction, acceleration and deceleration. There’s also a hill-descent control to maintain traction at low speeds downhill.

18MY_Crosstrek-engineThe 2018 Crosstrek arrives with three trim levels: Base, at $22,710 including the destination charge; Premium, at $23,510; and Limited, at $27,210. Both the base and Premium versions come with the new 6-speed manual gearbox (up from a 5-speed before). The CVT is a $1,000 option, but is standard on the Limited.

Premium and Limited models can be equipped with Subaru’s optional EyeSight driver assist technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, pre-collision braking, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-Rear_in_motionSpecifications

  • Model: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter 4-cylinder, 152 hp, 145 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with 7-speed manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/21 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,230 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 27/33/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,210.
  • Price as tested: $30,655.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

18_Xtrek_Lmtd-wheelPhotos (c) Subaru.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Not only does the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport give its maker a promising addition to an extensive lineup of cars, trucks, crossovers and an SUV, it has the potential to boost the Rogue to the top of the sales heap.

All-new (to the U.S.), the crossover Sport is smaller than its compact sibling. Its length is a foot shorter, height six inches shorter and the interior volume is smaller by about nine cubic feet — almost all of it from the cargo area. It also is lighter by couple of hundred pounds and has a less powerful engine.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

The Rogue Sport has been sold as the Qashqai around the world since 2006. The name comes from an area in Iran and one source says it translates as “a horse with a white forehead.” Nissan Americanized it to bolster the Rogue lineup.

There’s the opportunity. Because it uses the same Rogue name, the Sport’s sales likely will be combined with the larger model. It would be as if the subcompact crossover Honda HR-V’s sales were lumped in with the best-selling compact CR-V.

In 2016, Honda CR-V sales totaled 357,335, compared to the Rogue’s 329,904. However, the Rogue, which is Nissan’s best seller, has been nipping away at the CR-V and passed it in the first quarter of 2017 with 101,421 sales compared to 94,057 for the CR-V.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

A quarter, of course, does not necessarily portend what will happen over an entire calendar year. But the addition of the Rogue Sport to the Rogue’s sales statistics enhances its prospects to overtake the leader.

It is possible that the Rogue and Rogue Sport numbers will be reported separately. But an analogous precedent could be the Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, whose sales are combined. The former is a large, three-row crossover and the latter is a midsize, two-row crossover.

However it is viewed, the new Rogue Sport is an intriguing vehicle. Its tidier dimensions and lighter weight make for nimble handling in urban traffic and clogged freeways. The 141-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, sending its power through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), provides decent acceleration off the line and good passing power thanks to Nissan’s D-Step tuning of the CVT, which mimics the kick-down passing gear of a standard automatic.

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The Rogue Sport delivers spacious comfort up front with seats that offer support for long-distance driving. In back, the outboard seats have enough head and knee room for average-sized humans, though the center-rear position—as in most vehicles these days—is substantially less comfortable with foot room limited by a floor hump.

Out back, there’s a cargo area of 23 cubic feet, about double what you’d find in a compact sedan. Fold the rear seatbacks and the cargo area expands to 61 cubic feet.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

Like the Rogue itself, the Rogue Sport comes with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available as a $1,350 option on all three trim levels: S, which starts at $22,380; SV at $23,980, and SL at $27,030. Tested for this review was an all-wheel drive SL with two options packages that brought its suggested delivered price to $31,365.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT are standard on all models, as is a basic suite of safety equipment; a fully independent suspension system, and electric power steering with a sport setting. When the sport setting is engaged, it increases the steering effort, so slightly that it’s almost unnoticeable.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

With its options packages, the top-line SL came with adaptive cruise control, rear camera with around-view monitor, lane departure monitoring and prevention, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

SL equipment also included leather-appointed front seats, the Nissan Connect system with navigation, Sirius XM satellite radio and other services, a 7-inch color touch-screen display, remote engine starting, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, motorized glass sunroof, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, heated outside mirrors, and leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

An innovative “Divide-N-Hide” rear cargo area uses a system where panels can be positioned upright to convert the area into compartments for securing grocery bags and other items.

With the addition of the Rogue Sport, Nissan fields a double-barreled approach to the burgeoning small and compact crossover SUV market segment. A Nissan engineer confided that if it was just her, she’d go for the Sport. But she has two kids and will stick with the regular Rogue.

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, 141 hp, 147 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 91/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,415 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/30/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,380.
  • Price as tested: $31,365.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

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Photos (c) Nissan.

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