Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Crossovers? I'm sticking to my trusty all-terrain steed

Joe Barry

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester

For the majority of farmers, choosing the right car can be challenging as it is difficult to justify owning a comfortable and reliable family car and also a jeep-type vehicle for towing.

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These days an increasing number of people purchase what's called a crossover that will hopefully do both jobs. Unfortunately, many such vehicles couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding and struggle when it comes to off road driving.

There are numerous options but it has always been hard to find sound, sensible reviews of cars that are suitable for those of us who live and work in rural areas and frequently need to travel on rough terrain.

More practical advice would help when choosing a new model rather than articles about the latest super wagon that can cost up to €100k. Sporting magazines occasionally do reviews of hugely expensive Sports Utility Vehicles for the hunting and shooting fraternity.

Most of these cater for wealthy city people who like to show off and maybe enjoy the odd day on a driven pheasant shoot or towing a child's pony to a show. There are tales of some who spray mud on their spotless SUVs to try and give the impression that they occasionally use them for other than shopping and dropping the kids to school.

The rest of us however, want a solid, affordable and reliable workhorse that can tow a trailer -load of lambs to the factory, cross a mucky field and also carry us comfortably and economically on long journeys.

I have little knowledge of what is under the bonnet of any car or 4WD these days but then all mechanics need laptops with specialised programmes to service them so I won't bother with technical data. If you are a petrol head and want to know, then Google it.

This article is for people who like a car to do "what it says on the tin" day in and day out and keep doing so for decades. For those reasons my car of choice is a Subaru Forester because the marque is famously reliable, has great ground clearance for driving down forest roadways, can tow trailers on wet ground better than most so-called 4WDs and yet are a joy to sit in when navigating through cities or on a long journey and have all the safety features one could ask for.

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Subaru is manufactured and assembled in Japan by Fuji Heavy Industries - the name alone is enough to give confidence and also the fact that Toyota, which make the great Land Cruiser, owns a small chunk of the business.

Fuji produces no nonsense, tough cars that win endurance rallies throughout the world and are hugely popular in places like Australia and the US where their reliability is appreciated.

There is a worldwide Subaru owners' club and it is one of those niche brands with a hard core of dedicated fans who would never drive anything else. It's also the top selling brand in Switzerland, again for the obvious reason that, due to its amazing all-wheel drive system, it is unbeatable when driving on ice and snow. Last winter mine took me effortlessly across ground that most farm vehicles would struggle on.

Regarding its appearance, the Forester is quiet and almost understated yet oozes quality without needing acres of chrome to grab your attention. Maybe I am going over the top here but I just love this machine and I am not alone.

Even Jeremy Clarkson when still presenting Top Gear raved about its reliability and longevity and how discerning drivers bought Foresters, not just for themselves but to eventually pass on to their children. Can one say more?

Having suffered for years with a bad back, I need a high driving position and my Forester allows me to enter and exit without almost bending double, a common fault of many other so called luxury saloons.

Five people can travel in comfort yet the rear seats fall forward at the pull of a lever to allow room for bundles of trees or any other bulky items. My dogs especially appreciate the large rear door and ease of entry.

But I wish Subaru would give us back a proper spare tyre and not that silly narrow thing that most modern cars have nowadays for the sake of extra storage space.

It's a small complaint though and I hope I can write again in maybe 20 years and report on how my Forester and I are getting on.

Going boldly where tanks dare not

A hunting friend told me what happened to him last year, following torrential rain, when he had two runners at the local point to point.

At the end of the day while waiting to leave, he sat in his Subaru Forester watching a tractor pulling various SUVs and trailers out of the car park which was by then a quagmire. He then towed his own trailer with both horses on board to the road without any assistance.

He said the all-wheel drive system kept transferring power from one wheel to another. Another friend has driven the same Forester for 17 years and swears by them as the ultimate reliable vehicle. He also annoyingly keeps boasting to the rest of us how his depreciation cost is negligible.

Subaru Foresters are not exactly cheap starting at around €37k but then this is less than half the price of many other luxury SUVs and there is also good value to be found in the second hand market.

Leo Neary from Lusk in Co Dublin who sold me mine said that some of his customers are potato growers who often drive on ground that would scare a tank. Not a bad recommendation.

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