When it comes to buying a new car, consumers currently face something of a dilemma. Changes in legislation and the corresponding movement in the automotive market means that for many, a car that emits less CO2 and uses less fuel is more desirable than ever. But, for some of us, a fully electric vehicle – with its currently limited range and the need to plan ahead for charging opportunities – is too much of a leap from our current petrol or diesel motors.
Now, Subaru has created its first hybrid drivetrain – which looks to the future with its balance of traditional and modern technologies. Indeed, the all-new Forester e-BOXER seems to offer the best of both worlds. On top, it’s the ever-dependable Forester that we’ve all come to love over the years, yet underneath there have been a few welcome changes. Under the bonnet you’ll find the famous Subaru petrol boxer engine – meaning you can drive it just like a normal Subaru – allied to an electric motor that gives you the best aspects of EV technology, without the worry of running out of charge.
The combined petrol engine and electric motor work seamlessly together. When pulling away or driving at slow speeds in traffic, the battery-powered electric motor alone drives the car in EV Mode. When you accelerate or drive under increased load (such as climbing a hill), the petrol engine and electric motor work together to provide instant, responsive power. The electric motor power assistance – Motor Assist – is completely automatic. When braking or decelerating, the e-BOXER uses regenerative braking to capture energy from the car’s movement to recharge the battery.
Having driven a few hybrids in my time, I was keen to see whether the all-new Forester offered the same seamless transition between EV and internal combustion modes. Having driven this one for a week, I can say that it’s practically undetectable. If you’re stuck in traffic, or pulling away, or even when you back off the throttle on a downhill section, the EV system gently takes over without you realising, using the power of the onboard battery. It’s also something of a literal cheap thrill to realise the fact that, when you’re moving on the motor – you’re not using any fuel!
Then, when you need to go a little quicker, or move onto higher load situations and speeds, the engine gently sparks into life to give you the power and confidence that you need. In reality, the handover between these two powertrains is never apparent. The Forester e-BOXER’s onboard computers simply work out what’s needed where and distributes the power accordingly. A neat little screen shows you how power is apportioned to which part of the car, and it’s rather fun to see the battery feeding the motors, before a split-second invisible change sees the engine or regenerative braking adding more charge to top it back up.
Despite clearly having an impressive level of tech beneath the skin, none of these eco-friendly upgrades ever really invade the enjoyment of your drive in the Forester e-BOXER. What’s wonderful about this most ‘real-world’ hybrid set-up is that all you have to do is fuel-up as you’ve always done and enjoy driving your Subaru… you’ll just be getting a more rewarding and efficient drive as you do so.
And that’s the clever part of the e-BOXER proposition. Everything us Subaru fans want our cars to be able to do, whether it‘s navigating through muddy fields or cruising smoothly down the motorway, is still there. Business is still very much as usual on that front, with the all-new Forester the same super-safe, dependable and capable car it’s always been – only with a raft of exciting new upgrades and functionality for you to enjoy. Drive like you’ve always driven, letting the open road take you wherever you want to go – only with the quiet hum of the electric motors reminding you from time to time of the difference.
At a time when we’re all looking to make a small change in how and what we drive, the Forester e-BOXER is the perfect intermediate step before the world goes fully EV and motoring changes forever. Take one for a drive and see what you think. If this is what the future of motoring looks like, you can count me in!