A new bolder, stronger look, thoroughly revised engines, interior and suspension plus class-leading power and performance will further enhance the Subaru Forester’s appeal as the best-driving crossover sports utility vehicle on the market.

Already widely praised for its unrivalled combination of performance car handling, estate car practicality and SUV all-terrain ability, the ’06 Model Year Forester enters dealers’ showrooms in August priced from a highly competitive £17,595 on-the-road for the Forester 2.0 X. Meanwhile, the turbocharged 2.5 XT is now available from only £21,995 OTR, replacing the 2.0 XT.

Originally launched in 2002, the extensive facelift includes new front wings, bonnet, bumper, grille and headlamps giving far greater road-presence and visual dynamics.

Larger wheels plus design changes at the rear are all aimed at making the new Forester look taller, more imposing and closer to a conventional SUV.

However the low-centre-of-gravity horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ engine and full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive drivetrain ensure far higher degrees of active safety and driver involvement. Extensive chassis revisions reduce pitch and roll and further improve roadholding and steering precision.

The upgraded, high-quality interior boasts several new ‘surprise and delight’ features such as a multi-function centre console/armrest/table/cupholder plus a new loadbay-restraining system and water-repellent seat trim.

Meanwhile, a new four-cam naturally-aspirated 2.0 litre ‘Boxer’ engine is not only the most powerful in its class producing 158 PS – a staggering 33 PS more than before – but raises the top speed by 10 mph to 122 mph and slashes the 0-60 mph time from 11.1 seconds to 9.4 seconds.

This substantially beats all 2.0 litre petrol SUV rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 yet the new Forester offers similar fuel economy and exhaust emissions with, for example, 37.7 mpg on the Extra Urban Cycle.

First introduced for the ’05 Model Year, the 2.5 litre turbo (XT) gains an extra 19 PS, raising power to 230 PS and reducing the 0-60 mph time to 5.7 seconds for the manual.

An advanced, new automatic transmission is available for the first time for the Forester 2.5 XT featuring ‘sportshift’ manual selection and linked to ‘Subaru Vehicle Dynamics Control’ which boosts handling, roadholding and accident avoidance.

Again, performance is class-leading with both manual and automatic Forester 2.5 XTs beating the BMW X3 2.5 manual and 3.0 automatic.

For example, the Forester 2.5 XT automatic is 3 mph faster than the BMW X3 3.0 and almost 1 second quicker to 60 mph at 7.3 seconds. Forester fuel economy is 26.9 mpg compared to 23.3 mpg for the BMW on the Combined Cycle.

A revised, simplified model range sees the previous 2.0 XT (turbo) dropped but replaced by a better value 2.5 XT similar in price to the obsolete 2.0 XT. Those wishing features such as leather trim and cruise control can choose the new 2.5 XTE.

The entry-level 2.0X continues with virtually identical equipment to the ’05 MY car, while the best-selling ‘All Weather-Pack’ is replaced by the 2.0 XE which adds – among other items – leather trim, heated front seats and cruise-control.

New features include larger 16 ins diameter wheels for the naturally-aspirated models and 17 ins wheels for the turbos which also gain HID xenon headlamps with self-levelling. Beige or black leather seat trim is a new no-cost option on the 2.0 XE and 2.5 XTE.

All models boast pop-up headlamp washers while all but the entry-level 2.0 X have audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. The Forester’s trademark large electric sliding and tilting sunroof continues on all but the 2.0 X and 2.5 XT.