Ben Collins puts the Subaru Forester through its paces

Suburu Forester Watch | Suburu Forester
02:21

Stunt driver Ben Collins leapt at the chance to get behind the wheel of the Subaru Forester and the former Stig was quickly bowled over by its supremely competent performance.

The first thing I need to tell you about the Subaru Forester is that it is truly phenomenal off-road. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Subaru’s heritage in building rugged four-wheel drives.

Even so, I was surprised at just how competent the Forester proved to be when we tested it in the murky depths of a Welsh slate mine.

We picked this environment to make a film about the Forester because we thought it would provide a suitably challenging set of conditions.

The Forester gobbled them up with ease, causing me to wonder if anything can stop this vehicle’s progress over rough terrain.

Wheel back just a few moments and I’ll tell you the story of our shoot. A longstanding admirer of the Forester, I leapt at the chance to film it in action with a crew from The Daily Telegraph.

It’s always great to get out in beautiful surroundings and put a brilliant car through its paces.

But I had a deeper reason for signing up to this gig. I pride myself on testing cars to their very limits, and wanted to see just how far the Forester’s terrain-taming capabilities could be pushed. I had a feeling it would take a lot to beat it.

I was surprised at just how competent the Forester proved to be when we tested it in the murky depths of a Welsh slate mine

I wasn’t wrong. Thanks to X-Mode with Hill Descent Control, Subaru’s innovative off-road setting that works in conjunction with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and automatically distributes power between the four wheels to maximise traction, the car surmounts even the most trying conditions.

When engaged, it controls the engine, transmission, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, brakes and other components to maintain a constant, slow speed when going up or down steep slopes.

What is especially irritating for a professional driver like me is that I can’t take much of the credit for the Forester’s impressive display off-road.

X-MODE with Hill Descent Control does the thinking for you, so the only responsibility you have is to steer the car in an appropriate direction.

As it happens, picking your route is easy, thanks to the Forester’s commanding stance. It has 220mm of ground clearance, and has been designed with minimal overhangs that could snag on ruts, tree stumps and rocky outcrops. So it takes an awful lot to impede the Forester’s impressive march.

That march falls into X-Mode with Hill Descent Control and the engine and brakes work in harmony to arrest the force of gravity and spirit you steadily to the bottom.

It’s well screwed together, with a comfortable and practical interior that is ideally suited to family life

It’s a great tool, and ensures safe progress in an environment where it is all-too easy to lose control.

Another important dimension of the Forester’s impressive poise is its Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which combines brilliantly with the 2.0D Boxer Engine to deliver an impressive 46.3mpg on the combined cycle.

Subaru’s CVT vehicles don’t have gears but instead have a greater (or even infinite) span of gear ratios that keep the engine at its optimal rev range ‒ meaning there is no break in power delivery when tackling undulations.

The transmission also delivers a smooth on-road performance, which brings me to another of the Forester’s charms.

Despite having the appearance and capabilities of a full-size SUV, the car is extremely adept when you get it on the asphalt.

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive plays its part here, of course, ensuring optimum control even on slippery road surfaces.

But the Forester’s abilities are about more than that: it’s well screwed together, with a comfortable and practical interior that is ideally suited to family life.

Driving it in Wales, I could easily see why the Forester is such a popular choice among rural dwellers and adventure seekers, especially those who regularly tow horseboxes, trailers and caravans. Whatever version you choose, it is powerful, roomy and robust.

The Subaru Forester offers everything you could want for a rugged outdoors lifestyle, particularly in an age of extreme weather conditions.

I can say with confidence that this car is supremely competent, no matter what you throw in its direction. It is hard not to be bowled over by that.