Long known as a roomy, sure-footed but slightly dowdy compact crossover, the Forester has been redesigned for the latest model year. It's more stylish and commodious than before, and also much improved in an area that's increasingly important to a majority of buyers: fuel efficiency.
Whereas the outgoing model featured soft lines and an upright greenhouse, the new Forester boasts a sportier and more angular appearance thanks to details such a swept-back windshield and narrowed, almost angry-looking headlights. Gone is the hood scoop that was a hallmark of turbocharged Subarus for decades, replaced with an aggressively flared front fascia in forced-induction models.
Though its exterior dimensions increased only incrementally, the redesigned crossover's interior space is up noticeably thanks to a few clever packaging techniques. For example, the rear seats are only one inch further back from the front seats than before, but Subaru was able to create an additional three inches of rear legroom by raising the rear seat slightly.
Additionally, Subaru was able to take advantage of the new Forester's greater overall height by packaging more of the all-wheel-drive system under the interior floor, resulting in less driveline intrusion and more passenger foot space. Cargo room, already a strong suit of the last model, is also up - fold down the rear seats, and the Forester offers an impressive 74.6 cubic inches of space, a gain of six cubes.
Up front, the Forester's interior is marked by a dashboard that's quite similar to that of Subaru's Impreza model. It's more restrained than the swoopy, flowing unit found in the old Forester, and material quality is now up to class-competitive levels thanks to better-grained plastics and more soft-touch materials. Climate and entertainment controls remain well-placed and user-friendly.
Navigation-equipped Forester models benefit from Subaru's new Starlink infotainment system, which feature smartphone app integration through the display screen in the center stack. At launch, Starlink will only support the Aha app, which provides access to tens of thousands of stations of Web-based content like Slacker, MOG and Rhapsody. However, more apps and services are on the way.
More Efficiency, Improved All-Wheel-Drive System
For the redesign, Subaru made sure to focus on increasing fuel economy, which was perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the old Forester. New transmissions play a big part in the new Forester's more efficient ways: the manual transmission now has six gears instead of five, and the truly ancient four-speed automatic has been replaced by Subaru's new "Lineartronic" continuously variable transmission.
While the standard engine, a 2.5-liter flat-four with 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, carries over unchanged, it does return improved mileage. With the stick, efficiency is rated at 22/29 mpg city/highway, while opting for the CVT increases those figures to 24/32 mpg.
Those looking for more power can opt for a new 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four. Based off the mill found in the BRZ sports car, the engine produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of twist and is capable of propelling the crossover from zero-to-60 mph in just 6.2 seconds. Only the CVT bolts up to the turbo motor, although it offers paddle shifters and two sport modes that simulate shifting through the gears of conventional six- or eight-speed automatic transmissions.
The 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 23/28 mpg.
Depending on which gearbox is equipped, the Forester uses one of two different all-wheel-drive systems. Models equipped with the manual transmission utilize a viscous-coupling locking center differential that distributes power 50:50, transferring more power to the wheels with the best traction should slippage occur.
In all Forester models with the CVT, the Active Torque Split version of Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive uses an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch to actively manage power distribution based on acceleration, deceleration and available traction. This system automatically transfers more power to the wheels with the best grip should slippage occur. Control logic enhances stability by monitoring individual wheel speeds and reacting more quickly to wheel slippage.
The Active Torque Split system also gains a new X-Mode for the latest model year, which provides increased traction in slippery conditions. Hill descent control is also newly added.
In combination with an SUV-like 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Forester's AWD systems help it a more sure-footed feel on gravel roads and in other mild off-roading situations, although the crossover is no Wrangler.
Standard and Optional Features
The Forester is offered in 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring trim levels.
The 2.5i comes standard with the 2.5-liter motor, the six-speed manual gearbox, A/C, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system with USB and AUX inputs, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with audio streaming, a multi-function display and 17-inch five-spoke wheels.
The 2.5i Premium adds a backup camera, a panoramic moonroof, a power-adjustable driver's seat, an upgraded 4.3-inch multi-function display, two extra speakers for the sound system, HD radio, roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The 2.5i Limited brings the CVT, leather upholstery, heated from seats, a power rear liftgate, automatic climate control, fog lights, a rear spoiler and a chromed exhaust pipe.
The 2.5i Touring includes a voice-activated navigation system, a 440-watt, 8-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, power folding rear seats, dual zone automatic climate control.
The 2.0XT Premium and Touring trims include the 2.0-liter turbo motor, the CVT, 18-inch wheels, a sport design front fascia and dual chromed exhaust pipes. Otherwise, they have the same features as the 2.5i Premium and Touring trims.
Taking advantage of existing camera-based technologies, Subaru has grouped an entire suite of driver assist systems under the EyeSight moniker for the latest Forester. For an in-depth explanation of EyeSight, visit our Spotlight On: Subaru EyeSight article.
The optional EyeSight package includes pre-collision braking assistance, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning and adaptive cruise control.
EyeSight uses two charge-coupled device cameras Subaru says it developed in house to closely monitor vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lanes and other potential obstacles. Unlike cameras offered on some other vehicles, Subaru placed its EyeSight system above the Forester's windshield near the rearview mirror.
At low speeds below 19 mph, EyeSight can bring a so-equipped Forester to a complete stop if it detects an impending collision with a pedestrian, bicyclist, vehicle or other obstacle. Above 19 mph, the system can apply the vehicle's brakes to reduce the severity of an impending impact.
In addition to that active safety technology, the EyeSight package's adaptive cruise control helps drivers maintain a set distance from other vehicles on a highway. Its lane departure and sway warning systems alert drivers if they unintentionally start to wander within their lane or make their way into another lane.
Standard safety features on the Forester include dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The Subaru Forester blends the lines between a crossover, SUV and wagon simultaneously. As a result, it finds competition in vehicles ranging from the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V to the Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan.