The Subaru Forester was introduced in the 1990s as a crossover wagon, and it became popular with buyers in snowy climates who valued practicality and safety with the automaker's standard four-wheel-drive. For 2014, Subaru has redesigned the Forester, which has resulted in a vehicle that's incrementally larger and looks more like an SUV.
Appearance: Peter can't help but feel that the Forester has lost some of its quirky "Subaru-ness" by shedding the station-wagon design. Our turbo model featured an aggressive-looking front fascia with mesh grille and chrome trim. (The look is much better than that of the plainer nonturbo Foresters.) Maybe because of the rake of its windshield, this fourth-generation Forester doesn't look as tall as its predecessor. We both liked our tester's Marine Blue Pearl paint, which was complemented by upswept headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Performance: The quiet, Lineatronic CVT is probably one of the best we've driven. Even under hard acceleration, there's no "whirring" sound that sometimes comes with these types of transmissions. The 2.0XT models come with manual shift modes and have paddles. The Si-Drive performance control system has "intelligent" "sport" and "sport sharp" modes. The 2.0-liter turbocharged Boxer 4-cylinder engine puts out 250 horsepower and never feels sluggish. The Forester has a car-like ride, which makes sense because it's based on Subaru's Impreza platform. Of course, it has Subaru's standard AWD, which we like for our tropical Florida weather. Our tester had the EyeSight driver assist with precollision braking, precollision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, and adaptive cruise control. Peter drove the Forester to Orlando and found the precollision and adaptive cruise control system to be one of the best he has used, slowing the vehicle's speed a beat before the driver's normal reaction to the car ahead of him. This new Forester also seems to be engineered more for off-road situations, with an XMode to help with hills and in slippery conditions. Lyra had no problems driving in the sandy and rough terrain along the Gandy shoreline.
Interior: We've found supportive and cushiony seats to be a strength for Subaru and were disappointed to find it lacking in the Forester's slightly firm buckets. But there is plenty of legroom front and back; the redesigned Forester grew in the cabin more than it did in its exterior. The family-friendly doors all open wide. The cabin is simple, yet handsome, and well laid out with one glaring exception: The poorly designed 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation screen. Its buttons are too small, too close together and the layout is confusing. To our disappointment, our tester's power lift gate didn't work.
Our 3 favorites
Safety: Loved how responsive the adaptive cruise and collision systems were in highway driving.
Wheels: The Y-spoke design has a custom look.
Ground clearance: It's 8.7 inches.
CVT: First time a CVT is on my list. Quiet with solid acceleration.
Cargo: Easily put the seats down for up to 68.5 cubic feet of space.
EyeSight: Good to see driver assist features available in "regular" cars.
The bottom line: The new Forester is now a handsome small SUV that doesn't scream "Subaru" at first glance. But if your driving needs include a vehicle that's not afraid to leave the pavement, then the Forester demands attention.