2014 Subaru Forester Video Review

When shopping for a small SUV, it can be easy to forget about the Subaru Forester.  With its more car-like appearance, it can trick you into underestimating its capabilities.  But this all-new 2014 model has added goodness which should grab attention.

They may be small but they’ve got a mojo that make other automakers envious.  With 5 consecutive years of sales increases and showing no signs of stopping, Subaru’s cult following has apparently been sharing their love of the AWD brand with friends.  And this 2014 Forester represents another important redesign for Subaru as they show the world that you can have your 4-wheel traction and MPGs, too.  This 2.5i Touring model, the top non-turbocharged trim, comes standard with Subaru’s new Lineartronic continuously variable transmission and as such garners an EPA rated 24mpg city/32mpg highway – better than all of its competitors, with or without 4-wheel drive and that’s darn impressive.  Replacing the 4-speed auto with the CVT is no doubt the linchpin here.  And guess what?  You’re not going to hate it.  There are a lot of annoying CVTs out there but this isn’t one of them, as Subaru has designed this pulley-based transmission to be quiet with automatic-like feel minus the shift points.  I’ve driven it in other Subaru models before but it seems most at home here.  As the Justy introduced CVTs to American drivers back in the day, the Forester exemplifies how far they’ve come.  You’ve got to go easy with your right foot however, as an imprudent amount of pressure on the gas pedal sends the Forester launching.  But you quickly adjust and find wonderfully smooth, quiet and torquey acceleration from the 170-horsepower 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Boxer engine…a complete carryover from the previous gen Forester.  New electric power assisted steering also contributes to fuel efficiency while providing the perfect conduit between car and driver.  I admit, I was mightily impressed with the Forester’s overall drivability including a soft but not sloppy suspension and its ability to stay planted to tarmac and dirt alike thanks to Subaru’s new Active all-wheel drive system that provides a high level of stability and control.  There’s also the new X-Mode you can toggle on at low speeds that provides a pseudo 4-low locking range with hill descent control for more assured off-road traction.  And with nearly 9” of ground clearance, the Forester gives you that confidence to go there and feels strong doing it.

Inside, people space, cargo volume and rear seat leg room are all up despite the small increase in exterior dimensions.  Mine has this all-weather cargo mat and remote switches to drop the rear seats.  The big option package on my tester bundles keyless access and start, HID headlamps and Subaru’s innovative EyeSight system which I first experienced last year on the Outback.  It uses a stereo camera instead of radar to provide adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pre collision braking and even a nifty feature to alert you when the vehicle in front of you has moved.  Its integration and performance are excellent and it can be deactivated, if desired.

But not everything is ice cream and balloons.  The new Harman/kardon infotainment unit with navi and its utter lack of buttons is the worst…and looks like an afterthought.  And don’t even bother trying voice commands…they’re never understood.  New Subaru’s always feel about 5 years old inside.  And could someone please help Subaru design a car that isn’t ugly?  Making matters worse is this senior Marine Blue Pearl paint Subaru likes to parade around.

Pricing starts at $22,820 for a base Forester 2.5i while my Touring model stickers for $33,220.  From a company that can seemingly do no wrong comes a notably improved Forester, but one that looks as homely as ever.

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