So good its only real competition may just be another Subaru.
By Cam Benty
If you’re familiar with Subaru products you know them as smart, family cars that have an amazing following by anyone who had owned one. For those who have test driven them over the years, they know Subarus to be a jewel of a vehicle with great durability, fuel efficiency, utility and simplicity.
Such is the case with the 2019 Subaru Forester we recently had the pleasure to test drive. No, it does not have the excitement factor we experienced with the recent ZL1 Camaro test nor the off road-ability of the GMC Denali that we loved so much. But for sheer everyday driving functionality, carrying lots more than simply groceries, wet weather stability and overall durability, we can’t think of anything better for the money – or a whole lot more money. Frankly some of the charm of the Forester is the fact that it is so reasonably priced that it leaves us wondering why there aren’t a lot more of them on the road.
We have the answer to that as well.
Back in the 1960’s, carmakers used to redesign their cars every model year dressing them with new sheetmetal to motivate consumers to buy the newest model. But under the skin, chassis upgrades were rare, manufacturer’s often going ten years of more between major changes. Those exterior upgrades were simply a way to help market the cars to the public, manufacturers adding a fin here or an engine power upgrade that generated additional advertising buzz. With cars costing a lot more to build today than in the past, car companies realized that true refinement rather than cosmetic alterations were really what the buyer wanted – so all those needless changes stopped.
The 2019 Subaru marks the fifth generation of this impressive nameplate that began in 1997. These first Foresters sold well to those who chased it down but with all the noise from Toyota, Honda and Nissan, many buyers missed out. With each succeeding year, the Forester drew a following. But those that stumbled across the Forester were usually torn between this car and the Outback that carried many of the same features, but not its cargo-carrying abilities.
The newest Subaru is the best Forester ever. Our car featured the new Symmetrical 4-wheel-drive (4WD), this functionality is a huge attraction to buyers who like a little camping (Subaru buyers are kinda woodsy) while keeping the price in line ($24.252 for a base 2019 model). We can tell you that the 4WD feature is very cool even if you don’t go off road. We encountered a lot of rain during out test week and the Forester came through swimmingly. But the improvements in power, suspension and safety make the newest Forester something special. Our Touring edition’s price tag was over $35,000.
Currently, the Forester can be had in five different levels from the Base Forester right on up to the Touring model. All of these models use the same engine, a 2.5-liter, flat, four cylinder, non-turbo, direct fuel injection engine rated at 182-horsepower/176 lb. ft. of torque and backed with a Continually Variable Transmission (CVT). The Forester weighs in at just over 3500 lbs and we achieved 32-35 MPG in our week-long test.
The Forester offers a variety of suspension/chassis levels starting with the base level that uses Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) electronically controlled clutches to control torque split. The Premium model steps up to an enhanced “X-Mode” featuring a Single Mode System that optimizes engine output and transmission ratio. This system monitors and then sends input to the VDC system to reduce wheel spin along with the impressive Hill Descent Control (HDC) to deliver an added level of safety for the occupants on down hill runs. The three remaining levels – Sport, Limited and Touring – take the X-Mode function to the next level with specialized, user requested elements that are designed to enhance traction for varying depths of snow and mud.
New for 2019 is the Subaru Eyesight Driver Assistance Technology that comes standard on Touring-level Foresters. This system detects when the driver is drowsy or distracted sending an alert through the instrument panel letting the driver (and occupants) know that the vehicle ‘s driver is not paying attention. Another cool feature is the new Subaru DriverFocus system that is the next wave of memory seat operations. When the driver enters the car, they can set the seat, mirrors and even the climate control setting to their needs with the touch of one button. Five different drivers are allowed to lock in their preferences.
Our driving experience with the Forester covered about 500 miles and we can report that it excelled in every department. The cargo area in the back is higher and larger overall that its sister vehicle, the Outback, but carries over many of the same vehicle attributes. Interior ergonomics and overall comfort with the Forester were wonderful, seats are supportive and the entertainment system (we loved the Updated StarLink system) is simple and intuitive. We did get the usual engine/transmission wind up sounds that are typical of constantly variable transmission when climbing hills but they were not overly objectionable and power uphill from the 2.5Liter engine was just fine. The new X-Mode suspension system provided increased ground clearance and the symmetrical 4WD system worked well in our limited off-asphalt driving.
That brings up a key point I alluded to earlier. The Forester and the Outback do share a lot of content (engine, drivetrain, etc.). While the exterior is very different, only the price and cargo area really separate them in our mind. These will be the questions for you when you go to the dealership – what do you need from a vehicle is a good start when reviewing both cars. We’re betting you come out with a Subaru regardless – of one kind or another. . .