The Subaru Forester is the vehicle for buyers who want the advantages of an SUV without the macho styling that goes along with them. It features a high seating position, spacious interior and all-wheel drive.
Maybe the best way to describe the Forester is to call it a tall wagon, with straightforward styling. It is a classic example of form following function. There are no uncalled-for creases in the body panels. No gaping mouth grille. No gray cladding around the wheel wells. What it does have is lots of glass for good all-around visibility; tastefully contoured bodywork and a good amount of ground clearance.
Inside, the cabin is airy, thanks to all the glass, and it has enough room for five passengers. Those up front sit high and have a commanding view of the road. Those in the rear sit upright too, and enjoy plenty of head- and legroom. Behind them, the cargo space is ample at 34 cubic feet, which expands to 75 cubes with the rear seatback folded down.
The Forester is easy to navigate. Controls on the center dash of my Limited test car were straightforward to operate. Knobs and dials adjusted the radio and air-conditioning. Other functions, like navigation were activated via a touch-screen. (Note: the top-of the-line Touring model is almost exclusively touch-screen, and more difficult to master.) An eye-level display at the top of the dash provides useful data, like the time and gas mileage.
Under the hood, Subaru offers buyers a choice of two engines, the tried-and-true 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, and a 2.0-liter turbo. The 2.5 generates 170 hp., and the turbo churns out a hefty 250. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on lower range models, but a continuously variable (automatic) transmission (CVT) is a more likely choice. My test car came with the 2.5-liter motor and CVT. It was quick off the line, and delivered adequate power over all. The CVT was nicer than most because it had gear-like steps programmed in, which provided the feel of a traditional automatic. I averaged 25.8 mpg with it. As before, Foresters come with standard all-wheel drive.
Foresters equipped with the base engine are offered in four levels of trim, 2.5i, Premium, Limited and Touring. The 2.5i is the entry-level model, with power locks/windows/ mirrors, four-speaker audio and cruise control. The Premium adds amenities like, a power driver’s seat, a panoramic sunroof and a rearview camera. The Limited provides more luxury, with leather upholstery, heated seats and a power liftgate. The Touring heaps on further upgrades, such as premium audio, navigation and the EyeSight safety system. The 2.0-liter turbos come only with either the Premium or Touring trim.
Buyers of the Limited model, like my test car, can order Option Package 23 for $2,995, which includes Eyesight (pre-collision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure monitoring and intervention), Starlink navigation, and a Harman-Kardon speaker system.
On the road, the Forester delivers a nice combination of competent handling and a comfortable ride. The steering feels light, and it is also quick, which makes it easy to maneuver in parking lots. The excellent all-wheel-drive system is augmented by Subaru’s X-Mode that controls wheel-spin for better traction at low speeds on slippery surfaces. However, even on dry pavement, the AWD provides a sense of sure-footedness when negotiating twists and turns. Moreover, the ride quality is on a par with the best in its class. It smooths out bumps on back roads, and is commendably quiet on freeways.
Foresters start at $23,710 for the 2.5i with manual transmission, and range up to $37,005 for the 2.0 XT Touring. My 2.5i Limited test car, with optional EyeSight, Starlink 7.0, Harman-Kardon audio and various minor options had a suggested retail price of $34,429.