Subaru Forester VS Nissan Patrol
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
- Enormous cabin and cargo area
- Effortless to drive
- Plush interior
- Disconnected feeling at higher speeds
- Thirsty and no diesel variant
- Tech is starting to date
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Nissan Y62 Series 5 Patrol is the iconic go-anywhere rival to the equally legendary and off-road-tough Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. Like the ‘Cruiser the current Patrol is aging, having been around for a decade now. So, did the late-2019 update to the Patrol wind back the clock with new styling, tech and safety?
What’s it like to live with on-the-road when it’s not adventuring through the desert? And is that petrol V8 thirsty?
I found the answers to all these questions and more when the top-of-the-range Patrol, the Ti-L, came to stay for a week.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
The Patrol Ti-L is a go-anywhere beast but as my test showed anywhere can also mean the upmarket end of town on city streets where its on-road manners are refined, composed and comfortable, with looks that border on prestige. The Patrol might be getting on, and the interior design is starting to age, but this is still a superb vehicle for the money.
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
Large. Enormous. Big. Some of the words I’ve used so far to describe the Patrol, but they aren’t going to help you when it comes to knowing if it will fit in your garage or the shopping centre car park.
So, here are the Y62 Series 5 Patrol’s dimensions. The Ti-L measures 5175mm long, 1955mm tall and 1995mm wide. It’s the height which was the primary concern for me because I live in the city and many multi-level carparks have maximum clearances of 1.9m.
The Patrol’s styling doesn’t exactly try to hide its size. The thing looks like it’s been chiseled out of sandstone, with a face that looks like a wall, a high and broad bonnet, and a flat roofline leading to a sheer drop at the tailgate like the Nullarbor meeting the ocean.
In late 2019 the Patrol received styling tweaks with the bonnet, front wheel arches, and grille given a redesign along with both bumpers. Nissan says the Ti is the sporty looking one while the Ti-L we’re reviewing here has a more premium look.
I’d agree with that; premium but with a bit of Robo Cop thrown in. It’s definitely confronting and modern looking, but with a high-end air.
The prestige feel continues inside but it’s less futuristic with all that wood, and the tech is beginning to date. Still, this is a plush cabin, with a good fit and finish to it.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
The Patrol is a seven-seat, large SUV and in the words of our five-year-old son, “This is a good car because it’s big, but also it’s too big.”
He said that as he made a second attempt to scale the entrance into the second row, and that time didn’t fall out. It’s a long way up and while the doorways are tall and wide, it’s not just my kid who’s going to need the side steps to climb in, everyone will. I did, and I’m 191cm (6'3") tall.
The Patrol’s cabin is enormous. I mean Land of the Giants enormous. So, for somebody with my 2.0-metre wingspan it felt great to have so much shoulder, elbow, and headroom up front.
Leg and headroom in the second row is also excellent. There was about a 100mm gap between my knees and the seat back.
The third row is tight, and the second row doesn’t slide forward to offer more room. Still, I could sit back there for a short trip, but those two seats are really for kids. Do the airbags cover the third row? I’ll get to that in the safety section below.
Lets’ talk about cabin storage and then the boot.
Under the centre armrest between the driver and front passenger is a fridge large enough to cool six 600ml water bottles or my wife’s large handbag, and the clever lid means it can be opened from the front or the back.
Door pockets are seriously big, there are two cupholders up front, another two in the second row and the third has four.
When all three rows of seats are in use the boot space left is still impressive at 468 litres, and with the third row folded flat there’s 1413 litres of space, and that opens up to 2623 litres if you fold the second row down, too. Huge.
The boot load lip is pretty high compared to less hardcore SUVs such as a Mazda CX-9. So, if you’re just using the Patrol daily and never head off-road you may quickly get over hoisting your shopping bags into the boot like you’re competing in a hammer throw event.
For devices you’ll find five USB ports (three are in the second row, the rest up front), four 12V outlets (two up front, one in the second row, and a third in the boot), and there’s a HDMI port in the second row, too.
Price and features
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
The Y62 Series 5 Patrol line-up consists of two grades: the $76,990 Ti and the top-of-the-range $92,790 Ti-L we’re reviewing here.
The Ti and Ti-L were upgraded at the end of 2019 with new safety tech and some styling tweaks, which I’ll take you through in the sections below.
But for now, let me tell you about the Ti-L’s features.
Coming standard on the Ti-L is leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats which are also power adjustable, a 6.0-litre cooler box, sat nav, proximity unlocking, power tailgate, sun roof, LED headlights with washers, LED fog lights, puddle lights, and a digital rear-view mirror.
The Ti-L also has a DVD entertainment system with an 8.0-inch screen up front and two more seat-back 8.0-inch screens in the second row, and a 13-speaker Bose stereo.
The only optional equipment fitted to my test car was a dealer-installed tow bar kit ($1374) and electric brake controllers ($618). The 'Moonstone White' premium paint it wore is also optional and costs $595.
Is the Patrol Ti-L good value? Yes, but it’s beginning to feel a little dated – a lot like its rival the Toyota LandCruiser LC200 GXL which lists for $89,222.
Something you may not have considered is the Ford Everest, which is extremely capable off-road, comfortable to drive and a whole lot more affordable at $72,590 for the seven-seat Titanium grade.
Engine & trans
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
The good news is the Patrol isn’t powered by a hamster on a wheel. Nope, the engine perfectly matches the macho look and feel because it’s a 5.6-litre petrol V8 making 298kW/560Nm.
So, if you’re worried that in these days of fuel consciousness the Patrol would have something less beefy, fear not.
The not so good news is that you can only have a petrol V8 and there’s no diesel alternative. That’s not great news for fuel economy as you’ll read below.
If you’re not fussed by how much fuel you’ll use, then in return you’ll have a petrol V8 which is lot quieter than a diesel while the seven-speed automatic transmission is smooth making for a refined and effortlessly powerful driving experience (read more about that below too).
The Patrol is four-wheel drive with 4H and 4L gears, plus an Auto (AWD) setting.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
Nissan says that after a combination of open and urban roads the Patrol Ti-L will have used 14.4L/100km. In my fuel testing I started with a full tank (140 litres) and then after 103.3km of city streets, suburban roads and motorways I needed 19.57L to fill it back to capacity which comes to 18.9L/100km.
That may sound like a lot, but until I hit the motorways the trip computer was saying the average fuel consumption was 30.1L/100km after about 50km of only inner-city suburb driving.
The Patrol needs a minimum of 95 RON premium petrol, too.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
For this review the Y62 Series 5 Patrol Ti-L stayed firmly on suburban roads and city streets and wasn’t taken off-road. If you’re keen to find out how the Patrol fares over tough terrain then read Adventurer Editor Marcus ‘Crafty’ Craft’s off-road review here.
Suffice to say, it’s extremely capable off the road. Essential figures for the Ti-L include a ground clearance of 273mm, an approach angle of 28.0 degrees (34.4 degrees in the Ti) and a departure angle of 26.3 degrees.
And if you’re planning to tow, then read Crafty’s tow test here where he compared the Ti-L with the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL from what it’s like to drive with a van on the back to the fuel economy.
What you need to know here is the Patrol has a maximum-braked towing capacity 3.5-tonnes, a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of 7000kg and a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3500kg.
So, as much as the Patrol is as happy as a pig in mud when it’s in mud, this large SUV will no doubt spend a lot of time on the bitumen as well, where the it's also an accomplished beast.
Ride and handling are shockingly good for something nudging three tonnes. There’s independent rear suspension and 'Hydraulic Body Motion Control' which keeps the Patrol flatter in the corners.
Dampers have been retuned for better on-road comfort and while the ride may be firmer than many large, floaty-feeling SUVs, it’s still enjoyably comfortable.
A turning circle of 12.5m and fairly slow geared steering saw me feeling a bit like a hand-shuffling bus driver doing three point turns in my street. No biggie, though the steering is pinky finger light and makes for easy work.
Around town at lower speeds the steering is accurate and great for piloting through traffic, but on motorways and fast country roads I felt a little disconnected from the front wheels at times, so more feeling in the steering would be an improvement.
Parking obviously was harder in the city where finding a seven-metre space is near impossible, but thanks to the great visibility, both in terms of the ride height and the enormous windows and wing mirrors, maneuvering into tight spaces and navigating city streets was easy.
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
The Y62 Nissan Patrol first came out in 2010 and despite many safety upgrades over the years since it hasn’t yet been given an ANCAP rating.
The 2019 upgrade saw more advanced tech added and the Ti-L safety features include AEB, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance, and blind spot warning which will intervene to steer you back into your lane if needed.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor mounts in the second row. Only the right-hand seat in the third row can have a child seat installed and it’s a top tether anchor point.
Nissan says curtain airbags cover all three rows in the Patrol.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).
The Y62 Series 5 Patrol is covered by Nissan’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every six months or 10,000km and the first six services are set at $376 for the first service, $577 for the second, $392 for the third, $860 for the fourth and $407 for the fifth and $624 for the sixth.