|Saturday, April 5, 2003||
auto aficionado in India has his cup overflowing. At last count, there
were 44 cars available in the country. If we take all the variants into
consideration, we have a choice of over 160 options.
The latest offering is a delightful cocktail from General Motors India (GMI). Itís Chevrolet Forester. Actually itís a Subaru. General Motors, the worldís largest auto manufacturer and the worldís largest corporation, has its fingers in many pies. It is an alliance partner with Subaru, Suzuki and Isuzu, all specialists in four wheel drive. GMís umbrella is massive. So it can resort to Ďbadgingí. Which simply means that though the car is made in Japan by Subaru, it will sell in India as Chevrolet. The badges have been changed. Instead of reading Subaru, it will read Chevrolet. Which is why Forester has to say "I am Chevrolet!".
The vehicle is not
really a sedan because itís a four wheel drive SUV, and itís not
really a four wheel drive SUV because itís a sedan! Beautiful! It
combines the best of both!
The all-wheel drive, AWD as it is called, is a unique feature. It makes the four wheel drive vehicle obsolete, says the manufacturer. "The Foresters unique symmetrical all-wheel drive goes far beyond (the four wheel drive). It not only directs power to all four wheels at all times but also automatically matches the torque to the grip of every individual wheel, maintaining an amazing traction and road grip. This results in outstanding balance. This gives you perfect vehicle control under any driving condition".
For me, the greatest advantage was getting in and out of the car. Itís a SUV-sedan as far as height is concerned, with 190 mm ground clearance. Once inside, itís a sedan with a high stance. This gives you good visibility and instils a sense of confidence in the driver. However, the high stance in no way affects the road grip and cornering, which is cat-like. This is due to the AWD and the engine.
The engine? Itís nothing like an engine in any other car. Most engines, if not all, stand upright. Some are inclined, but basically upright. The Subaru engine is flat, horizontal. The cylinders, instead of being placed in a vertical direction, are horizontally positioned and are, consequently, flat. Thus the heaviest single component of the vehicle is placed lower than in other cars. The first effect it has is that it lowers the centre of gravity of the Forester. This makes for better road holding.
With the cylinders opposed to each other the crankshaft is in the centre. The pistons move horizontally like the punch of a boxer. It is for this reason that the horizontally opposed engine is referred to as a "boxer engine". This was originally a German invention, but Subaru has perfected it. The BMW motorcycle and the Porche sports cars use this engine layout.
The 2-litre engine puts out 120 h.p. at 5,600 r.p.m. Even though itís a 16-valve engine, it employs only a single cam. Of course, it is an MPFI engine. This helps the 1,375-kg car zoom from 0 to 100 km/ph in 10 seconds. On a twisting single lane country road, the Forester shows remarkable adhesion to the road, like a sedan. To engage a "low" gear, all you have to do is press the clutch and pull up the little lever on the centre console below the hand brake. Itís an off-roader. In addition to the AWD and hi-low gear ratio, the Forester has a viscous type limited slip rear wheel differential. This all helps in the overall road-holding performance. It is also equipped with a Ďhill holderí function. This means that the vehicle wonít roll back when you are crawling uphill. The power assisted rack and pinion makes for precise handling and sure-footedness.
The car has ABS brakes, air bags for the driver and co-driver, who also have arm rests. The other facilities include side impact protection, three-point ELR seat belts, power windows, central locking, keyless entry, 6-CD changer in dash and auto-off headlights.
There are any number of convenient cubbyholes in the centre console, in the roof, above the rear view mirror. These come in handy for spectacles and other tid-bits. The sun visor has vanity mirrors for both the driver and the co-drivers. The driver also has a built-in pocket in the visor for holding pens, pencils, visiting cards and receipts. It helps you get organised and stay organised! There are pockets in the doors. A/C, heater, rear window de-mister are all standard.
Another factor heavily in favour of the Forester is the fact that it is built on the platform of the Subaru Impreza. The Impreza has numerous victories to its credit in the Asia Pacific Rally Championships.
Itís really a very unique machine. The Forester carries a special introductory price of Rs 15.59 lakh.