Subaru Forester VS Volvo XC60
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
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|
If this was 10 years ago I’d be making jokes about Volvo drivers, IKEA and ABBA, but those those stereotypes are all irrelevant now. Safety is not nerdy, and Sweden really is more than flat-packed furniture and catchy pop music. Yep, a lot has happened in the 10 years since the Volvo XC60 first arrived, and now a decade on the second generation of the mid-sized SUV is with us.
Could the XC60 quietly be the best mid-sized prestige SUV on the road in terms of value, design, comfort, safety and driving? Let me help you with that question – read on.
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design T8 2018 review
Read More: Volvo XC60 Momentum 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 2018 review
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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 XC60 is an outstanding mid-sized all-wheel drive SUV. A great selection of engines and a plug-in hybrid means buyers can better suit their purchase to lifestyle. Super safe, stylish and effortless to drive. The best value is to be had lower in range with the sweet spot being the Inscription grade.
Would you choose the XC60 over a BMW X3 or Benz GLC? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
Remember when Volvos were boxy? Well they’re back baby, but in a better way that the 240 GLE from 1992. No, this is sexy.
There’s that long, sculpted bonnet with the cab set back and the heavily raked windscreen makes for a pleasing profile. The concave door panels and the mirrored wings in the rocker panels below add more toughness to this elegant beast.
There’s also that stately grille wearing its famous Volvo ‘sash’, those Thor’s hammer LED headlights and the very Volvo vertical taillights. This is a prestige SUV but not one of the BMW, Benz and Audi usual suspects.
The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.
How do you tell the difference between the grades visually? Well that’s a tricky one. From the outside you can spot at R-Design T8 by its sunroof while the Momentum D4 and T5 both have 19-inch wheels which look a tad too small for those wheel guards.
Inside all XC60s are exquisite, bordering on modern art with that minimalist dash decluttered of its buttons thanks to most of the functions being moved to that stunning 9.0-inch vertical touch screen.
There are nine colours to choose from including Fusion Red, Passion Red, Bursting Blue Metallic, Onyx Black Metallic, Osmium Grey Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, Electric Silver Metallic and Ice White.
The accessories list for the XC60 is huge there’s everything from towbar hitches and floor mats to roof boxes, kayak cradles, and tablet holders for rear seat entertainment - but not bullbars.
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.
How many seats does an XC60 have? The answer is five and no there isn’t a seven-seater version. I have a small family with just the three of us, but if you have a lot more take a look at the bigger XC90.
The XC60’s cabin is spacious, but not XC90 spacious – this is, remember, a mid-sized SUV. Still there’s plenty of legroom in the back seats for me even at 191cm to sit behind my driving position and good headroom even with the panoramic sunroof in the T8.
Let’s talk about the boot space. A luggage capacity of 505 litres isn’t huge not compared to rivals such as Audi’s Q5, BMW’s X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which all have 550 litres of cargo space. But XC60s with the optional air suspension like the T8 I drove can lower themselves to make loading the boot easier.
Cabin storage is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size.
You won’t find a sunglass holder in here though – but does anybody actually use those anyway?
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 XC60 comes in three trim levels: there’s the entry-grade Momentum, the Inscription is the mid-point and the R-Design lords over all of them. So how much does an XC60 cost? Let’s look at a price list.
The most affordable XC60 in the range is the D4 diesel variant in Momentum grade which lists for $59,990 (RRP) while its T5 petrol sibling is $62,990.
Stepping up to the Inscription there’s the D4 version for $66,990 and the T5 petrol for $69,990.
You can have an R-Design with the more powerful D5 diesel for $73,990, the gruntier petrol T6 for $76,990 and the petrol-electric hybrid for $92,990 sits at the top of the XC60 range.
As for driveaway prices for the XC60, put the pressure on the dealer and you’ll be surprised what they can do.
The XC60 is great value … depending on which grade you go for, because even the lower priced ones come with an extensive list of standard features.
All XC60s comes standard with a 9.0-inch vertical touch screen with Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch driver display, WiFi hot spot, Bluetooth, sat nav (gps navigation), 360-degree parking camera, auto parking system, front and rear parking sensors, a 10-speaker premium sound system with digital radio (DAB), leather upholstery, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key (keyless entry), roof rails, LED headlights and a power tailgate.
That 9.0-inch screen is for more than just for multimedia and infotainment – many of the car’s functions, gadgets and the owner’s manual are controlled through the display.
The R-Design D5 and T6 come with 21-inch alloy wheels and R-Design treatment to the steering wheel, grille, pedals and leather seats.
And the R-Design T8 comes with a panoramic sunroof, crystal gear shifting knob, and only dual-zone climate control.
So the R-Design T8 is not great value, but the Momentum T5 and D4 really do represent good features for the money.
All XC60s come with LED headlights and the Thor’s hammer daytime running lights – no xenon headlights here, thankfully.
If you want heated seats it’ll cost you $500 for the front ones and $350 for the back row, while a heated steering wheel is $350. Ventilated seats are a $2950 option, but you’ll get leather perforated upholstery with them. Tinted glass is a $650 option and the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo costs $4500. Oh and a CD player is a $160 option, but you can’t have it on the R-Design T8.
The $2490 air suspension is also an option, but a very comfortable one as I found on the T8 I road tested.
A quick model comparison shows the XC60 is priced well – the Mercedes-Benz GLC ranges from $67,500-$99,900 (more for the AMG), the Audi Q5 ranges from $65,900 to $86,611 and the BMW X3 starts at $62,900 and top out at $87,700.
A lack of full-sized spare tyre is disappointing. Sure a space saver spare (which comes with all XC60s apart from the R-Design T8) is okay in the city and so is the puncture repair kit on the T8, but in Australia it can be a long way between towns.
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 XC60 range has four engines and one petrol-electric unit, but you can’t get them in any grade you like.
The Momentum and Inscription come with the diesel D4 and its petrol sibling the T5. Both are lower-powered versions of the D5 diesel and T6 petrol variants found in the R-Design grade.
The D4 has a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making 140kW and 400Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.4 seconds.
The D5 is powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel making 173kW and 480Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.2sec.
The T5 is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol variant which makes 187kW and 350Nm, and has a 0-100km/h time of 6.8sec.
The T6 is also a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol variant but a higher horsepower version with a supercharger that helps it make 235kW and 400Nm, and it has a 0-100km/h time of 5.9sec. That’s an impressive performance figure.
And finally the T8 – this is the big daddy and uses the same 235kW and 400Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbo-plus-supercharged petrol that’s in the T6 in combination with a 65kW/240Nm electric motor. The T8 is a plug-in petrol electric hybrid.
The XC60 comes as all-wheel drive only, there’s no front-wheel drive (4x2) version. That said this isn’t four-wheel drive and you wouldn’t take it places you’d go in a hardcore 4x4.
I didn’t experience any automatic transmission problems or any other issues but keep an eye out for our XC60 problems page for any faults, complaints, maintenance or reliability issues that crop up.
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.
After a combination of urban and open roads, Volvo claims the diesel D4 will achieve 5.4L/100km and the more powerful diesel D5 should need 5.6L/100km. Meanwhile, the petrol T5 should use 7.8L/100km and its big brother the T6’s official mileage is 8.0L/100km.
The eco-warrior of the range is the petrol electric T8 with its impressive claim of 2.1L/100km. This isn’t an EV, you’ll need to fill it up with petrol as well.
If somebody tries to sell you a new LPG XC60, be suspicious ... very suspicious.
When I road tested the R-Design D5 my fuel economy was 9.4L/100km, and this is where it gets embarrassing: my mileage in the R-Design T8 was 14.0L/100km. That’s because I never re-charged using the cable, instead I let the regenerative braking add charge to the batteries. This meant I forced the SUV to mainly use the petrol engine and carry myself along with 200kg of batteries and electric motor around. This - and me taking full advantage of the great acceleration at every traffic light - would have something to do with my high fuel usage.
Yes, if you go for the R-Design T8 make sure you charge it regularly and drive conservatively otherwise you too will use lots more fuel than Volvo’s serving suggestion.
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.
I’ve road tested the R-Design D5 and the R-Design T8 and so can only vouch for the driving experiences of them.
First, the D5 – there’s much to like, such as all that 480Nm of torque barrelling in low down in the rev range at 1725rpm, the responsive brakes, the tranquil cabin, and good fuel economy.
The downside to the D5 is a noisy diesel engine, particularly under heavy load. The diesel isn’t best suited to sporty driving either – I found myself busy paddle shifting constantly to keep the revs in the torque band which ends at 2250rpm. The twin-turbo set-up in the D5 is designed to spool up one to ‘pre-charge’ to reduce lag before the second kicks in – the result is an almost instantaneous power delivery.
Now, the R-Design T8.
This is an impressive beast. The combination of that powerful supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder and the electric motor provides grin-making acceleration. The optional air suspension in our test car turned the ride cushion-soft but kept the car composed.
Just to sit in, the D5 and T8 both feel special and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that prestigious impression from the light and accurate steering to the great pedal feel and the responsiveness of the powertrains.
A well-insulated cabin cuts out most of the diesel clatter in the D5, not to mention the T8's road noise - it is common for tyre roar to be noticeable in hybrid and electric cars, which don’t have a noisy engine to cover it up.
The adaptive cruise control with steering assistance worked eerily well for me, it’s almost - but not quite -self-driving autopilot. That head-up display is one of the clearest and least intrusive I’ve seen.
Good visibility and a turning circle of 11.4m also help make the XC60 effortless to drive.
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.
Have you seen the Volvo XC60 TV ad? It’s full on, but I didn’t cry – there was just a high pollen count that day and… anyway it drives home how safety is Volvo’s ‘schtick’.
The five-star ANCAP score it was awarded in 2017 doesn’t reveal just how impressive the safety systems are on the XC60. This new-generation SUV is fitted with AEB (City Safety) which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars, there’s steering support, blind-spot warning, front and rear cross-traffic alert - and that’s on all XC60s. Adaptive cruise control is added to the Inscription grade and above.
You’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for child and baby car seats across the rear row, too.
Where is the Volvo XC60 built? Volvo is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, but Australian XC60s are made in Torslanda, Sweden.
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 XC60s has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Volvo offers two service programs: the basic SmartCare and the more comprehensive SmartCare Plus. The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).