2014 Subaru Forester Review
Read MSN Autos' review of the 2014 Subaru Forester.
- 24/32/27 mpg and AWD
- X-Mode enhances off-road prowess
- Interior bigger, better, more intuitive
- 2.5i trims need more power
- Loud at full throttle
- No sliding rear seats
The Forester started as a muscle-bound station wagon in 1997 and has evolved in prominence within the Subaru model line; it now accounts for 23 percent of U.S. sales. To keep the sales momentum going, Subaru's designers have made the most of the fourth-generation redesign of the Forester by enhancing fuel economy and body styling, as well as powertrain, safety and tech systems. The final result is a balanced vehicle that offers more comfort, versatility and rough-and-ready ruggedness than its predecessor and much of its competition.
There are now two versions of the Forester: the naturally aspirated 2.5i and the turbocharged 2.0XT. Subaru has moved the turbo variant from an engine upgrade option to more of a standalone model by giving it a substantially different front fascia with aggressive gills at the outer bumper area and exclusive grillework.
The 2.5i is available in Base, Premium, Limited and loaded-for-bear Touring trims. The sporty 2.0XT is only offered in Premium and Touring.
The base Forester 2.5i has a 6-speed manual transmission. Some key standard features include Incline Start Assist, outside temperature display, security system with engine immobilizer, carpeted floormats, 4.3-inch multifunction display with readouts for outside temperature and fuel economy, and all the improvement and innovation of an all-new model.
Stepping up to the Premium trim adds an upgraded audio system, 17-inch alloy wheels, 10-way power driver's seat, rear-vision camera, upgraded 6.1-inch multifunction display, reclining rear seatback, dark-tint privacy rear glass and more.
With the 6-speed manual transmission, the 2.5i Premium comes standard with an All-Weather package, which includes heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer. With the continuously variable transmission, the 2.5i Premium comes standard with a panoramic power moonroof; the All-Weather package is an option.
The 2.5i Limited makes the CVT standard and also includes the All-Weather package, perforated leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, fog lights, automatic climate control system, an upgraded instrument cluster with LCD display and a power rear gate.
The Touring is at the top of the food chain for both the 2.5i and 2.0XT versions. In addition to including all the Limited content, the Touring makes the touch-screen navigation system standard and also adds a high-end Harman Kardon 440-watt audio system with eight speakers, Aha smartphone integration, electroluminescent instrument cluster with LCD display, a one-touch folding rear seatback and more.
The tale of the tape shows the Forester has grown on the outside by 1.4 inches in length, an inch in wheelbase and 0.6 inch in width. But savvy engineering inside the Forester results in a much larger, more optimized and more refined interior than its outward measurements would suggest. The dash has been moved forward 4.7 inches to carve out more usable room in the cabin.
The A- and B-pillars and have been trimmed down and the vehicle's beltline lowered to improve outward visibility and create a more open feel. The front seatbacks have been clamshell contoured and the center console shortened by nearly four inches to open up more legroom for backseat passengers. As for cargo, the Forester sports a cavernous max cargo capacity of 74.7 cubic inches, up 9 percent from the previous model's 68.3 cubic inches. It's a capable gear transporter.
Under the hood
Before going under the hood, let's start there: The new Forester's bonnet is made of lightweight aluminum to enhance fuel economy. Other fuel-efficiency design elements include electric power steering that frees up power and burns less fuel, a body shape honed to provide 10.7 percent less drag and an improved, low-friction CVT gearbox. The result is an all-wheel-drive SUV with none of the fuel-efficiency compromises of other all- or 4-wheel-drive crossovers. The 2.5i with CVT delivers 24 mpg city, an impressive 32 mpg highway and a combined 27 mpg from its 2.5-liter 170-horsepwer boxer engine. Among all-wheel-drive nonhybrids in the Forester's segment, only the Mazda CX-5 compares.
Subaru has added a new level of traction for up-level versions, dubbed X-Mode. The system augments the Forester's symmetrical all-wheel drive to optimize control of the engine, transmission shifting and the distribution of power throughout the drivetrain along with controlling the brakes, vehicle dynamics control and other systems to improve performance on harsh, slippery surfaces and steep inclines.
The 2.0XT model pumps 250 horsepower from its two liters of turbocharged boxer fury. For 2014 the XT engine is a turbocharged variant of the FA-Series powerplant found in the new BRZ sports car. The all-new high-compression engine is 26 horsepower stouter than the previous turbo Forester while returning better fuel economy at 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway/25 mpg combined and a 6.2-second zero-to-60-mph time.
The turbo Forester has a system to enhance its on-road agility. Subaru Intelligent Drive is designed to get more performance when road conditions are most advantageous, providing a simulated 6-speed transmission in Sport mode or a simulated 8-speed gearbox in Sharp Sport mode, so drivers can unleash the turbo thrust on their own terms via paddle shifters. The Intelligent setting provides more commuter-friendly throttle response and shifting.
On the road
The turbo Forester engine is so transformational in its impact on the driving experience it's easy to see why Subaru is pitching the 2.0XT as a separate model and not a mere engine upgrade. The introduction in Tucson, Arizona, included track time. We only had two hot laps behind the wheel of a 2.0XT but that was all we needed to appreciate the visceral nature of the 2.0XT's powerband and sport-tuned suspension. The tires squealed their disapproval as we arced from apex cone to apex cone, but the Forester remained smooth and stable, enduring more flat-out acceleration, nose-dive braking and stomach-churning G-forces than it will likely ever see in the real world.
In SI Drive mode the CVT provided video-game functionality; pounding the paddles induced quick shifts from the CVT. We like the simulated 6-speed in SI Drive Sport as it moves the tach needle nicely within the engine's sweet spot. In fact, we wonder why a simulated 8-speed is needed. Perhaps it has to do with fuel efficiency in the top gears?
Bottom line, the on-road performance and off-road durability of the 2.0XT provide an intoxicating drive, and its kick-in-the-pants acceleration seems to belie its commuter-friendly fuel efficiency.
While the turbo is a blast, the naturally aspirated engine will be the most popular among consumers. It does an admirable job providing motivation, and Subaru says its 9.3-second zero-to-60 mph time is better than the old model and much of its competition. While dropping the hammer in a CVT-equipped 2.5i creates an orchestra of engine sounds, we do appreciate the effort. Response is crisp from under the right foot and under the tires as the suspension in the 2.5i provided a great balance between handling the wash-boarded dirt roads on our drive and the smooth highway sections. Inside, the openness of the cockpit is welcome, the seats and driving position supportive, and the quality of material and design above par.
Right for you?
No matter how you want to get your groove on, the Forester has a trim that keeps your life in rhythm. If you want a utilitarian, entry -level fuel miser, go with the base 2.5i at $21,995, or dial up your appropriate level of luxury and technology amenities with the Premium ($24,995), Limited ($27,995) or Touring ($29,995) trims. If you want to have a hoot on your commute it would be hard to beat the turbo models, which start at $27,995 for the Premium, while the line-topping 2.0XT Touring checks in at $32,995.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
Evan Griffey served as an editor of Turbo & High Tech Performance, a pioneering publication about sport-compact tuning. Today Griffey freelances for Import Tuner, Sport Compact Car, Car Audio and Siphon.
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I have owned almost every type of vehicle made but my favorites have always been an '87 Blazer and the "love of my life" 'Jeep Wrangler. In 2007 my aging father was having quite a time getting into my high 4wheel drives so I decided that a Subaru Forester was the best bet (I live in an area where it snows and the all-wheel drive seemed the best way to go).
Let me tell you - this vehicle has turned out to be more than I could have ever hoped for. Not only for handling, gas mileage, and convenience for the occasional hauling, but it's a safe, FUN car to drive. My dad passed away 2 years ago and everyone that knows me has been waiting for me to trade the Subaru for a new Jeep. NO WAY.
I love the love that goes into a Subaru!!!!!!!
Traded in my Forester 07 yesterday for 2014 basic Subaru Forester. Not sure if I did the right thing just yet, I do offroad travel in the mountains, camping, fast freeway and city driving. Took the new Subaru up into the mountains today for first run. I got stuck in freeway traffic at 5 mph for almost 15 miles in the mountains after running the new Subaru 75mph on more open city freeway areas. It is a ood comfortable ride at high speeds, but bemoaned the darn rear stadium seating restricting visibility. If you loved your old Subaru because of great rear vision for city and freeway driving, you also may want to take the rear seat headrests off like I did this afternoon when I got home.
The new 14 handles nicely but take sharp mountain turns a little slower, a few inches higher clearance off the road makes a big difference in sharp highway turns and switchbacks.. Engine is really quiet at high speeds but a whine in 10 mph stop and go traffic. I found 14 did a good job offroad. We haven't had a whole lot of snow or rain for weeks here in our frontrange mountains, but it did a good job on old logging roads. Not as good as old Willy's '46 jeep, or other old jeeps and 4x4s I have had. I could grind out easily in foot deep mud for long stretches. Not sure I would try it with this 14 Automatic.. But overall I felt comfortable with the terrain and back roads I tried today. I did not throw chain, shovel, saw or axes in the back as I normally would for tough back road travel. I did feel better about having higher road clearance in back country. Good job Subaru.
The interior is a waste of time. I didn't use half the junk on the 07 Subaru and if I had time to program all the stuff in on the new one, I would have time for another job. I found the back storage wheel well to be cheap styrofoam and it broke when I tried to pull it out to check the spare tire and supplies before I started out for short drive today. The front cabin area went cheap. They put the window controls in an awkward position you have to crawl your arm under the drivers armrest to reach them. The side rear view mirror control is a little cheap toggle about 1/2 inch diameter and if you have large or arthritic hands, good luck with that mini. I found the complete red dash panel lights to be totally frightening when I drove it home 75 mph on freeway last night from the dealer, thinking something was warning me of something gone wrong. The new middle raised time and temperature station on top of dash is a driving hazard as far as I am concerned. I am a 360 degree clear view person and this time and temp station is just more junk to obstruct your front vision. If you like gadgets and digital stuff and pushing skinny little buttons, you may like this. I kept having to strain to see the little bitty fuel gauge. If you wear polarized sunglasses. you have to take off your glasses to see the dash panel read outs in bright sunlight. Very dangerous.
The gearshift on automatic is just P,R, D and L, I kind of miss the other 2,3 gears for down shifting on our 7% mountain graded highways, but new 14 held pretty good with auto downshifting. Old habits for our mountain driving are hard to overcome.
No measure of fuel economy yet as I only have few 200 miles on it, but one of those mpg digital on time and temperature station displays indicated fuel economy as high as 34 mpg at 75-80mph freeway and lowest of 27 mpg at stop and go blocked up freeway nonsense. If that digital stuff is accurate it will be great gas mileage over all.
I think the great block engine works, unibody construction, balance, road clearance and stability far make up for the cheap stuff in cabin area and on the dash. I am pleased. Still miss my 07 but hope to grow to love 14.
This 76 year old gramma is liking this new !4 so far. I always get the basic model as it is a mini truck for country folk and takes a beating.