The Subaru Forester is a great hit with the girls, but the new model, while oh-so-sleek, has lost some of its puritanical, functional charm
Sunday 03 August 2008
Yet again this week I found myself suspecting I might have lesbian tendencies, though this time it had nothing to do with the tingling feeling I sometimes get when I see Jodie Foster in her pants.
I had been driving around in the new Subaru Forester and happened to tell a lesbian friend of mine (I mention this casually as if to imply I have many lesbian friends and am thus more broad-minded than the average motoring journalist, though sadly I have only the one and she hasn't had sex since 2003, and that was with a man). "You know that's a total dyke's car, don't you?" she laughed. "What do you mean?" I said. "Subarus are for everyone, they are famously classless. Toffs love them, farmers love them, I love them." "Maybe," she said. "But just Google 'lesbian Subaru' and you'll see what I mean."
Turns out she's right, particularly in the States where there are special clubs for Sapphic Subaristes – they call themselves Lesbaristes. They are particularly keen on the Forester, it seems. Martina Navratilova once even fronted an ad campaign for them, which resulted in a sales increase of 50 per cent.
Clearly Martina has terrific taste in cars. The old Forester was brilliant: reliable (regularly featuring in the top-10 customer satisfaction surveys), practical (it had a washing-up bowl in the boot), and, with the punchy flat four engine, every bit as fast as the Impreza on which it was based. You could practically hose down the interior, and they designed the door handles with extra deep recesses so you could open them while wearing chunky mittens, a brilliant detail that.
But the new one is rather different. Unlike previous Foresters, it doesn't look like it was built out of Duplo bricks. It is sleek and vaguely space ship-ey. It also sits much higher, virtually as high as a full-blown SUV, which can't help but affect cornering. Subarus should be slightly non-conformist, eccentric even, but I fear I detect the smoothing, homo-genising hand of Toyota, which is gradually increasing its stake in the company.
The Forester is still a great car, and much nicer inside than the old one, but it has lost some of the puritanical functionality that I suspect – without wishing to stereotype anyone – was what appealed to its improbable female niche, and me.
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