We Flew To Singapore To Test Drive Subaru's New Hybrid SUV: The Forester e-Boxer!

An electric SUV unlike other.

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We Flew To Singapore To Test Drive Subaru's New Hybrid SUV: The Forester e-Boxer!
With pollution on the rise and global warming threatening to turn us into barbecue chicken, there's really no better time to go green.

From eliminating the use of plastic straws and banning of syrofoam and polystyrene products, governments worldwide are doing all they can to preserve Mother Nature. 

Over the years, several big car companies have also been doing their part by introducing electric vehicles to the masses.

Last Thursday (10 January), Subaru became the latest carmaker to jump on the bandwagon (ba dum tss!) by unveiling their brand-new Forester at the 2019 Singapore Motorshow.

The Subaru Forester e-Boxer is a hybrid model based on the fifth generation of the brand's popular SUV line.

So, what's the difference? Unlike the regular Subaru Forester, the e-Boxer features a proprietary dual-engine mechanism. 

In layman's term, it means that the e-Boxer boasts two engines: a lithium ion battery pack that activates when you're cruising at low speed, and a regular 2.0-litre FB20 petrol engine that kicks in when you have that need for speed.

According to Subaru, the electric motor and the petrol engine will work together for better fuel efficiency, with the e-Boxer's state-of-the-art system cleverly determining when's the best time to use which engine.

For example, when you're stuck in a jam, the system will utilise the electric motor to help you save fuel. When you pick up speed, the system will then switch to its petrol engine to give you the power you need on the highway.

The system will also automatically charge the battery pack, either through the engine or through regenerative braking.

Other than the electric motor, the e-Boxer boasts the same impressive features as its regular older brother: the full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system with X-Mode and SI Drive modes, the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology safety system and the Driver Monitoring System, to name a few.

Here's a handy link if you want to know more about the features we mentioned above.

Looks-wise, the e-Boxer looks exactly the same as the regular Subaru Forester, except for the 'e-Boxer' emblems you can find at the back of the car and on the engine cover.

Inside the car, there's now an upper dashboard display with a dedicated screen for you to view the status of the electric battery and the hybrid system.

Playing with the e-Boxer

A day before the unveiling, Subaru Malaysia brought us to the Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore to test drive the new Subaru Forester e-Boxer.

In fact, we, along with some other media friends from Malaysia, were the first few people to be given the chance to put the e-Boxer through its paces.

For the test drive, Subaru turned the giant carpark outside the Changi Exhibition Center -- which is located beside the Straits of Johor, by the way -- into a test track.

The Dynamic Track, they called it, was divided into two sections: a make-shift 'challenge' open course and a 200-meter EyeSight demonstration track.

After a brief security briefing, we were given a demonstration of the power of the e-Boxer's all-wheel drive system. A Subaru instructor drove the e-Boxer onto a roller ramp, which was designed to simulate the loss of traction.

The purpose of this demonstration, the instructor told us, was to demonstrate how the e-Boxer tackles a terrain with minimum traction. We left the demonstration pretty impressed because the e-Boxer passed the test with flying colours:

We were then led to the open course where we finally got the chance to put the e-Boxer to the test through a series of challenges constructed by the Subaru team. 

Subaru divided the course into five different section: the Acceleration straight, the Slalom section, the Skid section, the Wet Surface turns and the Speed Bump course. Each section was created to challenge the e-Boxer and test its handling, acceleration, braking and rigidity.

As comparison, Subaru also gave us the opportunity to test drive a couple of their competitors' vehicles -- the Honda Vezel (HR-V) hybrid and the Toyota C-HR hybrid -- at the same test track.

After putting the three cars to the test, here's our observation:


The e-Boxer was a little bit slower off the line compared to the Vezel and the C-HR (understandably, because the other two cars are smaller and ligther than the e-Boxer). However, we noticed that the e-Boxer's engine was quieter when we accelerated off the line and by the time we reached the braking point heading into the slalom section, we almost reached the same straight-line speed as the Vezel and the C-HR. 

Do keep in mind that the e-Boxer is heavier and bigger in size compared to the other two vehicles, so that's a win for the e-Boxer.

Cornering and skid test

This test was where the e-Boxer stood out from its competition. Thanks to its Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, tackling the slalom section was a breeze. Compared to the other two cars, we felt more comfortable and safe going a little bit faster while swerving left and right at the slalom section because of its handling.

Despite its size, the e-Boxer felt really stable tackling turns at high speed. We never felt like we were losing control of the vehicle and we never felt we needed to 'fight' with the steering wheel for control.

Also, when it came to the wet surface turns (the Subaru engineers even installed metal plates on those turns to "make it more slippery", our instructor told us), the e-Boxer did a great job correcting itself when we felt like the car was starting to slide.

Even in a controlled environment, you'd agree that your heart will skip a beat any time you feel like you're losing control of a car, but we didn't feel that at all with the e-Boxer.

We took the Vezel and the C-HR out for a spin before the e-Boxer, we were expecting to lose a little bit of control accelerating off the wet metal plates because, well, the Vezel and the C-HR kinda did.

For its size, the e-Boxer was surprisingly really stable coming off the metal plates. When we hit the accelerator coming off the wet metal-plated corner, all we felt was a subtle pull on the steering and before we could even react by instinctively slamming on the brakes, the e-Boxer had corrected itself and we're free to accelerate and tackle the next corner.

When it's all said and done, we left Singapore thoroughly impressed with the Subaru Forester e-Boxer.

If you're on the market for a safe, family-friendly mid-size SUV that cares for the environment and helps you save money on fuel, the e-Boxer is one you need to keep an eye out for.

But here's the bad news though: currently, there's no concrete plans to bring the e-Boxer into Malaysia, but the regular Subaru Forester is exepected to be introduced mid-2019. You can check out Subaru Malaysia's website for more information.

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