Many manufacturers will argue that new cars these days don’t need a break in, yet more often than not, it’s not about shaking down any loose bits but more for the drive itself. Those who have been driving cars for some time might remember some of the old favored break-in destinations. There’s Baguio up North and Tagaytay down South. For SUV’s, there was always a trip to a beach in Batangas where the family or a friend’s rest house always seemed to be at the end of a long dirt road.
Easily the surest test of an off-roader’s prowess has always been the 400-kilometer drive to Sagada. The sure distance alone easily qualified it for a break-in drive. Then there’s the rough roads leading to the town. I’ve heard stories of brand new International Harvester Scouts looking five years older upon return. So when Motor Image Pilipinas invited members of the media to drive their latest Subaru Forester up there, it was a test I wouldn’t want to miss.
The aptly named Forester Drive would take up a lengthy four days and tour the new crossovers through some of the country’s most challenging forests: the banana forest-lined hills of Sapang Uwak, the towering canopies of Subic and the pine forests of Baguio and Sagada. Our little convoy would be composed of turbo-fed 2.0 liter XT’s and naturally aspirated 2.0i’s, all equipped with all-wheel drive. Both variants come with continuously variable transmissions that make for quicker response as well as improved fuel efficiency.
The new Foresters themselves boast of an all-new body, redesigned with better safety and visibility in mind. The new HID headlamps include LED park lights. Inside, the interiors are fairly straightforward and fuss-free, hardly intimidating at all considering all the techie features included inside.
Aside from integrating the SI Drive system seen on other Subaru models, the Foresters also feature a new X-Mode which serves as a simplified catch-all mode for more serious off-roading conditions.
There’s certainly more reason to opt for the top-of-the-line XT. It has a more powerful engine, more aggressive front bumper, larger black and silver wheels, a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, paddle shifters, automatic climate control and a Harman Kardon sound system. Nonetheless, the drive’s rotation system ensured we’d all get a chance to drive both the 2.0i and XT.
From the Subaru dealership in Greenhills, the six car convoy made its way to Sapang Uwak in Pampanga. Accessed through the Porac exit in SCTEx, this trail took us through a small town and a lengthy dirt road that straddles the ridges of the Pinatubo mountain range.
Engaging the Forester’s X-mode allowed us to take on the steep inclines and descents with little worry. The integrated hill start assist function even allowed us to stop at an incline and start up again without sliding backward or spinning the tires. Hill-descent in turn took control of the braking down steep slopes without any pedal input from the driver. Once at the top, a short hike to a viewdeck granted a clear view of the Clark Freeport, Miyamit Falls and parts of the Pinatubo crater.
The convoy then headed back through the trail and onto SCTEx for a night at Subic’s Camayan Cove resort. The next day was the long drive up to Baguio. Both variants’ onboard iPod connectivity allowed all passengers to enjoy some tunes and quickly pass the long hours of the drive. We bunked there for the night before heading out early the next day for Sagada.
It proved to be a fateful decision with the 200-kilometer drive from Baguio to Sagada being composed of mostly of winding mountain roads. It was easy to maintain a brisk pace with much of the roads already paved. The always-on all-wheel drive also provided some added assurance, ensuring each and every tire had reassuring grip even over steeply banked tight turns.
Up there, it hardly seemed to matter whether you were in a 2.0i or XT turbo as there were barely and straight stretches of road to flex some muscle. The CVT’s on both vehicles responded easily to varying pressures on the throttle. Tweaking the SI Drive to S or S# mode quickened the response time even more.
It was only the last couple of kilometers to Sagada that had yet to be paved. Nevertheless, the rougher roads were nothing the Foresters with X-Mode couldn’t handle.
The next day entailed catching the sunrise at a nearby peak, high above the clouds. Having had the most picturesque morning coffee ever, the group then packed their bags and headed back to Manila.
All told, the Forester Drive was easily the most challenging break-in I’ve ever participated in. The torturous trip encompassed all manner of roads from highways, to dirt roads, winding mountain roads and the crowded city streets of Baguio. The factory fresh cars clocked up an impressive 1,200 kilometers by the trip’s end, all done with just two full tanks. Naturally, the XT consumed a tad more fuel with an average of around 8.5 km/L against the 2.0i’s 9.5 km/L. Both are a big improvement from the predecessors’ 6 and 7 km/L respectively.