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Subaru has officially joined the busy hybrid and EV space with its all-new technology Forester and XV hybrid e-Boxer All-Wheel Drive (AWD) variants.

The manufacturer has been running a variety of launch sessions out at Victoria’s State Motorcycle Complex in Broadford this week and AfMA was delighted to be part of the 40+ contingent gathered on Thursday.

Like any good ol’ fashioned car day, the focus was on getting attendees in the vehicles, testing first hand how the cars perform on-road, off-road and in a variety of safety tests. One obvious takeaway of the XV Hybrid model was just how well it was able to move between EV and petrol mode, something that often plagued earlier hybrid models.

The handling around the track in both vehicles felt relatively smooth while the off-road capabilities of the vehicles impressed – especially when utilising the X-Mode to negate tricky hill conditions. But more on that later.

Subaru has already clocked up 600 sales with fleet customers, with ongoing high interest set to peak once the new models officially go on sale in March. Both the Forrester and XV Hybrid feature identical petrol-electric engines – the XV Hybrid offers 14% improvement in fuel efficiency over equivalent petrol variants in the urban cycle while Forester offers 19% improvement (when tested in accordance with ADR81/02).

“While we initially see both our e-Boxer mild hybrid system models as niche options in our range, we’ve already got significant interest from fleet customers and also Subaru fans who have long indicated pent-up demand for new technology engine options,” Subaru Australia Managing Director, Colin Christie, said.

“We’re confident that the wonderful retained value and whole-of-life cost benefits enjoyed by other new Subarus will also carry over to our hybrids.”

Both hybrid models feature e-Boxer power – a 2.0 litre horizontally-opposed Boxer engine linked via Motor Assist to a high voltage lithium-ion battery, offering fuel economy benefits, particularly in congested city driving. The e-Boxer logic adjusts the power split between petrol and electric to match driving conditions.

Depending upon driving style, the e-Boxer hybrid system can offer improved fuel consumption particularly in urban, stop-go traffic – while also eliminating the unnatural braking feel common to electric-only vehicles.

In Forester Hybrid S, driver-selectable SI-Drive – Subaru’s powertrain performance management system – allows the driver to tailor throttle characteristics by choosing between “Intelligent” and “Sport” modes, for flexible, convenient and enjoyable driving.

Subaru’s X-Mode also makes it easier for drivers to safely navigate bad roads, slippery surfaces and steep hills, with just one switch. Of particular use – the Hill Descent Control function helps maintain a constant speed when the vehicle is travelling downhill.

On the whole the Forrester and XV Hybrid might not be an entirely natural fit for all fleets, but for those wanting to get a first taste of EVs without worrying about range anxiety and having to invest in pricey charging infrastructure – Subaru might just be the answer.

With Australia still showing no real genuine commitment to EVs when compared to global standards, perhaps hybrids could present more value as a mid-term solution than once previously thought.

All Subaru hybrids purchased by private buyers for private use offer a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, plus an eight-year 160,000 km lithium-ion battery warranty.