Julian Norton, co-star of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, recently picked up his new Forester e-BOXER – so we spoke to him about his experiences so far…
As a busy vet in a rural community, Julian uses his car on a daily basis – and he’s constantly challenging it to cope with often-quickly-changing local road and weather conditions, at all times of the year.
Whether he’s cruising along a dual carriageway between jobs, navigating the twists and turns of steep Yorkshire hills on an urgent call-out, or steering his vehicle gently down the slippery slope of a grassy field to get as close as possible to a patient, Julian knows he can rely on his Subaru.
Having a car that’s built to be ‘Better Where It Matters’ is essential for an in-demand vet with a practice that serves clients in a catchment area that takes in a lot of remote countryside terrain.
Julian recently swapped his trusty Subaru Outback (“I loved that car!”) for a new Forester e-BOXER – and he has no regrets whatsoever.
Does he miss his Outback? “Well, I hadn’t really thought about that, to be honest – the Forester is really lovely to drive, and I always get lots of admiring glances when I pull up in it. A couple of typically gruff farmers have even exchanged a few appreciative words with me about my new car on my arrival, before pointing me in the direction of the animal they actually called me out to help!”
An impressive driving experience
It’s shaping up to be another busy and varied day for Julian. He’s just dropped his two teenagers off at school for sports training sessions and is now heading to Nidderdale to operate on some llamas.
As he makes his way along a main road before branching off onto the narrow, snaking lanes that lead to his destination, he’s talking on his phone – hands-free, of course – about his initial impressions of the Forester he’s been driving for the past couple of months.
The Forester e-BOXER is a big change from his previous Outback, so how has Julian found the transition to Subaru’s first self-charging hybrid SUV?
“It’s a fantastic vehicle!” he reports, with obvious delight in his voice. “Somehow, it feels even more spacious inside than the Outback, but I don’t know how that’s possible. It’s very comfy, more upright and there’s great visibility in all directions – I can even see over some hedges and into fields, which is lovely. I particularly love the driving position. It feels a bit like a cockpit to me; snug but not constrained. Everything is in exactly the right place for me, so I’m fully in control and it feels like a very natural driving position.”
He continues his interior survey: “The back seats are very spacious and comfortable. The boys both had approving grins back there earlier, I noticed. The boot is plenty big enough too. I did an operation on a cow yesterday that required some extra equipment and I had no problem fitting that in as I left the practice.”
Julian is impressed by the overall look of his Subaru Forester too. “The contours and cut-outs look great. I’ve had plenty of comments about the sexiness of the look of this car, if that’s the right word. To me, it feels like the definition and muscles that you can see in the body of finely tuned athlete – and that always puts a smile on my face.”
“It never used to be that way,” he adds. “It used to be that a Subaru was a pure workhorse – designed simply to allow you to easily throw a couple of Labradors and a pair of wellies into the boot!”
Our cars still do all of this, of course, but now with the added benefit of eye-catching design that means Subaru is now turning more heads than ever!
Safe and controlled, in all conditions
What about the handling and how the Forester drives? “Oh, it takes everything in its stride, no bother. As a vet, I travel on all sorts of roads and tracks, and across open fields. I’m on a dual carriageway at the moment, and the lane change assist functionality is superb.
“Wherever I’m driving, I feel safe and in control at all times. I reckon it would actually be very difficult to have an accident in this car. The Driver Monitoring System warns you if your eyes aren’t on the road. If I have a momentary lapse – to admire the view over Brimham rocks, for example, or like the other day, when I cast an eye over a field of sheep where I’d lambed several of the ewes three months earlier (the lambs looked to be thriving) – a beep and a flash on the instrument panel swiftly reminds me to keep my eyes on the road.
“Where I’m heading now, up to Nidderdale, it’s often wet, with lots of winding, twisty, often single track lanes. And there are very steep hills, some with a 1-in-4 gradient. But this car is totally capable – a typical Subaru. It handled really well during the bad weather at the end of August and, with Subaru’s reputation, I’ve no doubt it’ll perform equally reliably in the winter weather to come. With the AWD system, I feel confident and in complete control.
“The other day, I drove into the middle of a field to be right beside my patient, a rather poorly cow. I like to do that when I can, because it’s great for delivering prompt patient care, but also a good test for the vehicle! In this Forester, I had no worries whatsoever about ground clearance or slipping around – and sometimes, wet grass is just as slippery as ice or snow.”
Smart looks – and ‘stealth mode’
Julian describes his Forester as a great all-purpose vehicle – one that can tackle the farm tracks, mud and tricky terrain of his veterinary visits but also not look out of place at the school gates next to shiny ‘Chelsea tractors’.
He also appreciates the benefits of battery-based power and the added torque that the self-charging hybrid system delivers (it comes in very handy on some of those steep climbs).
“I’ve been impressed by the fuel economy of this Forester,” he adds. “And I love the technical image of the innards of the car on the dashboard, which highlights whether power is being derived from the engine or the battery, and whether or not the battery is being charged as you drive. It’s fascinating to see!”
Julian admits he’s also rather fond of his ability to slide quietly up to his house when he heads home, appearing silently in front of anyone who happens to be out in the garden. “I call it ‘stealth mode’! When the car is just using battery power, it’s so quiet. I often surprise the dog as I arrive home – she hears the pebbles shifting on the drive, but with no corresponding engine noise!”
Making everyday life a little easier
The Forester e-BOXER fits as well into Julian’s family life as it does his working requirements. “We’re an active family – lots of mountain biking, road biking, kayaking and paddleboarding. So we definitely need a capacious vehicle to cope with all the outdoor kit.”
He adds: “Everything about this Forester feels like it’s designed to make life a little easier. Even the multiple charging points are great, so you can charge several things at once while you’re driving. Trust me when I say that’s great if you have teenagers! Although I admit I’m often charging both my watch and my phone at the same time in the car.”
To sum up, Julian suggests that his new Forester manages to “roll practical, sexy and luxury into one very smart package”. And sometimes, it’s the little things that can make a big difference...
“I particularly love the heated steering wheel in this car,” he confesses. “It’s just great. And I’m sure it will come into its own in the winter. When you’re called out in the middle of the night and you’re feeling chilly and a bit fragile, little things like that really count – even for a tough Yorkshire vet like me!”
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