It only seems like we reviewed the 2018 WRX yesterday and all of a sudden the 2019 version is back in our garage, while once again our tester is equipped with its standard six-speed manual gearbox and…

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Subaru’s updated 2019 WRX doesn’t change anything in the way of styling from last year, unless by styling we’re talking about the graphics within its new infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It only seems like we reviewed the 2018 WRX yesterday and all of a sudden the 2019 version is back in our garage, while once again our tester is equipped with its standard six-speed manual gearbox and gussied up in near top-line Sport-tech RS trim. Subaru even doused its sheetmetal in the same World Rally Blue Pearl paint, a personal favourite for its vibrant hue as well as its historic motorsport pedigree.

Why a near identical WRX within a year? Because Subaru has changed up what is becoming one of the most important features in any new vehicle, its infotainment system. Most notable are completely new graphics that we think are much more attractive. They’re highlighted by colourful smartphone/tablet-style candy drop digital buttons on a night sky-like blue 3D background, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone integration are now part of both base and top-tier systems. Our tester features the latter, the touchscreen still measuring 7.0 inches diagonally for a half-inch gain over the base display, and once again getting touch-sensitive quick access buttons down each side, which include Home, Map and Apps to the left and Info just above two sets of track seeking arrows on the right. Of course, we’ll go into more detail as part of the forthcoming road test review, but suffice to say it also includes near-field communication (NFC) for faster phone connectivity, a Micro SD card slot, HD radio, new glossy black topped audio knobs, navigation, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Last year’s styling updates made a great looking sport compact even more enticing. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rest of this WRX Sport-tech RS and its non-STI compatriots remain unchanged, which means it still features last year’s styling updates, chassis tweaks, and various refinements, not to mention its new safety features and single modified drivetrain component. What are we talking about?

Last year Subaru reworked the front grille and bumper design, as well as the interior door trim, while the driver received a revised electroluminescent primary gauge cluster with a high-resolution colour TFT centre display. The 5.9-inch colour multi-information dash-top display got a graphics redo too, and it’s stunning. Additionally, rear passengers received a fold-down centre armrest with integrated cupholders, while all occupants benefited from reduced interior noise, a retuned suspension, and a stronger battery.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
This is one mean looking air induction system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Styling specifics included a totally refreshed grille featuring new blackened borders and a black mesh insert, as well as a racing-spec-style multi-component lower front fascia with a matte black centre vent, not to mention larger reshaped matte black fog lamp bezels, while the entire package now rolls on an assortment of new dark alloy wheels depending on trim.

Base and Sport models were fitted with gunmetal grey-painted 15-spoke 17-inch alloys on 235/45 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT rubber, while as-tested Sport-tech trim received a larger set of twinned five-spoke 18-inch cast aluminum wheels on the same Dunlops measuring 245/40 front and rear, all of which carries over to 2019.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Sport-tech trim gets these 18-inch dark gunmetal rims on 45/40 R18 97W Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT rubber. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise the massive hood scoop, coke-bottle fenders with integrated engine vents bearing chromed “WRX” appliques, subtle rear deck lip spoiler, and race-inspired matte black rear diffuser with quad chromed tailpipes were pulled forward into 2018 intact, and remain the same this year.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The low-profile spoiler is standard with Sport and Sport-tech trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Also carryover, the non-STI WRX variants once again get Subaru’s 2.0-litre direct-injection twin-scroll turbocharged boxer four, making a considerable 268-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Of course the brand’s legendary Symmetrical-AWD comes standard, while connecting engine to driveline is a standard six-speed manual or optional Sport Lineartronic continuously variable transmission with steering wheel paddles, plus quick-shifting six- and eight-speed manual modes and Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE). Some will find it hard to accept the words WRX and CVT being used in the same sentence let alone within the same car, but after testing it in 2017 we were impressed. More important to WRX purists, the manual gearbox received a new shift lever along with improved shifter and clutch feel last year, so we’ll once again report on this in the upcoming review.

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Previous WRX STI interiors were all business, but Sport-tech trim adds a level of luxury never available before the 2018 refresh. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The WRX is quite efficient despite its potent performance with a claimed rating of 12.6 L/100km in the city, 9.6 on the highway and 11.2 combined when mated to its standard manual gearbox, or 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined with the CVT, these numbers unchanged from last year.

Straight-line performance is identical to the 2018 model too, with the manual still capable of 5.4 seconds from standstill to 100km/h, and the automatic good for 5.9 seconds, whereas the CVT actually beats the manual’s 232-km/h top speed by 8 km/h for a nice round total of 240.

2019 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Subaru updated the WRX’ 5.9-inch dash-top multi-info display last year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Something WRX fans of all stripes will appreciate is no changes in pricing from 2018 to 2019, meaning the base WRX continues forward with an MSRP of just $29,995, while Sport trim is priced at $33,195 and the Sport-tech at $36,495, the latter available with the as-tested manual-only RS package that was new last year and once again pulled into 2019 for an extra $2,300. Alternatively, last year’s new $1,300 EyeSight upgrade remains solely available with the CVT, while that autobox adds $1,300 no matter which trim you choose it in. More powerful STI models excluded, the WRX Sport-tech with EyeSight is the most expensive WRX combination at $39,095 plus freight and fees, whereas my Sport-tech RS tester started at $38,795.

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Subaru has invested a lot into the WRX’ new infotainment touchscreen. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Something WRX fans of all stripes will appreciate is no changes in pricing from 2018 to 2019, meaning the base WRX continues forward with an MSRP of just $29,995, while Sport trim is priced at $33,195 and the Sport-tech at $36,495, the latter available with the as-tested manual-only RS package that was new last year and once again pulled into 2019 for an extra $2,300. Alternatively, last year’s new $1,300 EyeSight upgrade remains solely available with the CVT, while that autobox adds $1,300 no matter which trim you choose it in. More powerful STI models excluded, the WRX Sport-tech with EyeSight was the most expensive WRX combination last year at $39,095 plus freight and fees, whereas my Sport-tech RS tester started at $38,795. 

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Automatic climate control is alway appreciated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Second-most expensive? Yes, for 2019 Subaru has combined some of the STI’s styling features with regular WRX running gear in a new $40,995 雷雨 Raiu Edition that only comes in an exclusive Cool Grey Khaki colour. Its just noted STI-style exterior detailing includes a sharper front lip spoiler, extended side skirts and a large wing spoiler, plus 19-inch alloys framing the STI’s yellow-painted Brembo six-pot front and two-pot rear brake calipers over ventilated and cross-drilled rotors. Additional 雷雨 Raiu Edition features include the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist, a powered moonroof, a 10-way powered driver’s seat including powered lumbar support, and red seatbelts throughout.

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Subaru refined the WRX’ six-speed manual last year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Incidentally, we sourced all trim, package and option pricing at CarCostCanada, where you’ll also find information about available rebates and otherwise hard to find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.

Last year I posed the WRX Sport-tech with EyeSight as the safest compact in its class, and I still feel the same thanks to its superb handling that allows for near unparalleled accident avoidance no matter the road or trail surface condition, this of course aided by its aforementioned all-wheel drivetrain with active torque vectoring, while it also gets multi-mode vehicle dynamics control, plus a full slate of standard active and passive safety features. For Subie fans that are more safety- and convenience-oriented than purely out for performance, the just noted EyeSight package adds automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lead vehicle start alert, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, reverse automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, and lane keeping assist. So equipped the WRX earns a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating.

2019 S2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS ubaru WRX STI Sport-tech
These luxuriously upholstered Recaro sport seats feature leather and microsuede. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for the WRX Sport-tech RS on this page, uprated Jurid brake pads clamp down on a standard set of 316 mm front and 286 mm rear rotors via red brake calipers, while the interior gets luxurious black and red partial-leather/ultrasuede upholstery, the driver’s perch downgraded from 10-way power to just eight adjustments due to much more inherently supportive Recaro sport seats.

Additionally, my tester’s Sport-tech trim added proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, the larger 7.0-inch touchscreen filled with updated system graphics noted earlier, Subaru’s StarLink app, additional apps such as Yelp, Best Parking, Glympse, plus SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market info, as well as a 320-watt nine-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system with two USB ports.

2019 Subaru WRX Sport-tech RS
Seating for three in the back seats has always made the WRX a particularly practical sports car. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Features pulled up from Sport trim include wiper-integrated automatic LED headlights with new steering-responsive cornering, LED fog lamps, LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror caps, welcome lighting, a rear deck lid spoiler, a 10-way powered driver’s seat, a powered glass sunroof, and the aforementioned SRVD blindspot safety upgrade.

Lastly, features pulled up to Sport-tech trim from the base model include a quad-tipped high-performance exhaust system, integrated roof rack brackets, a windshield wiper de-icer, a leather-wrapped and red-stitched multifunction flat-bottom sport steering wheel, single-zone automatic climate control, heatable front seats, StarLink smartphone integration (including Aha radio), a backup camera, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, aux and USB ports, voice activation, and more.

We’ll be deep diving into the upgraded 7.0-inch infotainment system in our upcoming review, as this is the big change for 2019, while of course you’ll get all of the seat-of-the-pants action too. Until then, enjoy our full photo set above…

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy…

2019 Subaru Forester Sport

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Subaru has redesigned its popular Forester for 2019, and this new Sport model is the one most likely to capture eyeballs. (Photos: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Full disclosure: orange is one of my favourite colours. I painted my bathroom and even my bedroom in a beautiful, rich, bold orange hue. I own multiple orange T-shirts, sweaters, and an orange down puffy jacket. I love carrots, pumpkins, persimmons and mangos, and enjoy mandarins, tangerines and other types of oranges even if their highly acidic nature tends to disagree with me. Nevertheless, this 2019 Forester Sport takes orange a bit too far. 

The thick orange striping along the otherwise matte black lower exterior panels doesn’t cause me issue, but the orange painted shifter surround and dash vents are a constant assault on the senses, although I like the orange contrasting thread just fine. In my books the overzealous use of orange slots into the “too much of a good thing” category, and is similar to my criticisms of all the red gone wrong with the latest Honda Civic Type R. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The Forester Sport gets orange trim, a glossy black strip of bodywork between the taillights, and gloss black alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

I’ve got the new fifth-generation 2019 Subaru Forester in the garage this week, and while Sport trim wouldn’t be my first choice due to orange overload, it’s a major improvement over the crossover SUV it replaces in most every other way. 

Starting at $27,995 for 2019, which is $2,000 more than last year’s base Forester, this latest model comes standard with a set of stylishly safer LED headlamps, an advanced technology that previously required a move up to Limited trim in order to partake, and one that’s still optional with most of its rivals including the totally redesigned 2019 RAV4 and recently redesigned Honda CR-V—the Mazda CX-5 already comes standard with LED headlights and refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee now does as well. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A glossy black grille adds a sportier look to Forester Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The new LED headlamps get automatic on/off too, so you won’t always have to remember to turn them on and off manually, this standard feature part of last year’s Convenience upgrade, while new standard automatic climate control gets pulled up from 2018’s Touring trim. 

I like the new electromechanical parking brake that replaces the old handbrake, freeing up space between the front seats and modernizing the driving experience, while auto vehicle hold now replaces the old hill holder system that previously only came with the manual transmission, which is now discontinued. In its place, Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is now standard across the line, which means that Subaru’s impressive X-Mode off-road system with Hill Descent Control, and SI-Drive drive mode selector are now standard too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
LED headlamps, LED fog lights in glossy black bezels, black alloys, and more orange trim complete the Forester Sport appearance package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Together with the CVT and Subaru’s much praised Symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system that remains standard, all 2019 Foresters get a new direct-injection enhanced 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, which is 12-horsepower and 2-lb-ft more than last year’s identically sized base engine. 

The upgraded drivetrain now includes an auto start/stop system that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, which helps to reduce emissions while improving fuel economy, but it isn’t without fault (more on this in my upcoming review). Just the same the new Forester manages a 0.2 L/100km savings in combined city/highway driving despite the increase in performance, from 9.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 8.4 combined to 9.0, 7.2 and 8.2 respectively. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Even the standard roof rails get orange posts, while that powered glass sunroof is extra large. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

My big disappointment for 2019 isn’t with this very strong base powertrain, but rather is due to the discontinuation of Subaru’s wonderful 2.0-litre turbocharged engine upgrade that previously put out 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and still managed a relatively thrifty 10.2 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.5 combined. True, few vehicles in this class offer such a formidable optional engine, but it was nevertheless an important differentiator in a market segment that’s highly competitive. 

As far as 2019 trims go, the base model is once again simply called 2.5i in reference to its engine displacement, and along with everything already mentioned includes standard power-adjustable heated side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, steering wheel controls, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, StarLink smartphone integration with Aha radio, HD and satellite radio, two USB ports/iPod interfaces, an aux input, heatable front seats, roof rails, the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, etcetera. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
More glossy black trim and an orange “SPORT” badge add pizazz to the rear quarters. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The standard infotainment touchscreen is now 0.3 inches larger in diameter at 6.5 inches, and also features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity that wasn’t even optional before. 

Standard features get even more generous in second-rung Convenience trim, which for $30,295 includes everything from the base model plus fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler, 17-inch alloys replacing the standard 17-inch steel wheels with covers, a windshield wiper de-icer, silver finish interior trim, chrome interior door handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, a colour TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a 6.3-inch colour multi-function display atop the dash that’s controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear, two more stereo speakers for a total of six, dual-zone automatic climate control (the base model is single-zone), sunvisor extensions, illuminated vanity mirrors, premium cloth upholstery, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar support, a flip-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, and more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
If orange is your thing, the Sport is your Forester. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

For a reasonable $1,500 you can add Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems that includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, while the upgrade also includes reverse automatic braking, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and a retractable cargo cover. 

EyeSight comes standard with all other trim levels, including the $32,995 Touring model that gets everything already mentioned as well as automatic high beam assist, a large power-sliding glass sunroof with a sunshade, and a powered tailgate with memory function. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Nothing new here, but the large multi-information display sitting between two analogue dials looks good and provides clear and easy to read info. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Above this, the Sport model being tested this week, plus Limited and Premier trims get a new two-mode X-Mode off-road system that’s capable of even greater go-anywhere prowess thanks to separate settings for snow and dirt, as well as deep snow and mud, while larger 316 mm front rotors add better braking power over the standard 294 mm discs. 

Additionally, the top three trims include steering responsive headlights and Subaru’s Side/Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system as standard equipment, improving safety, plus a leather shift knob and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen adds an inch to the diameter of last year’s top-line infotainment interface, while once again including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto where there wasn’t such advanced smartphone connectivity last year. These upper trims also include dual rear USB ports for a new total of four, plus A/C ducts on the backside of the centre console, and reclining rear seats. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The centre stack gets a large multi-info display up top and an excellent infotainment touchscreen below. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

As mentioned, the new $34,995 Sport that I’m tested is the visual standout of the 2019 Forester lineup, whether that’s a good a positive or negative in your view. Along with all the orange it gets a unique gloss black grille, special front corner grilles, a larger rear spoiler, a blackened out trim strip that runs across the rear liftgate before striking through the taillights, and a unique rear under-guard. The Sport also features exclusive dark metallic 18-inch alloys, while LED daytime running lights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps and LED turn signals integrated within the mirror caps add to its upmarket appeal. 

An exclusive Sport feature includes an SI-Drive Sport system that provides more immediate throttle response, which I’ll report on in my future review. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Dual-zone automatic climate control is included with Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, the Forester Sport replaces the availability of Crimson Red Pearl, Horizon Blue Pearl, Jasper Green Metallic, and Sepia Bronze Metallic exterior colours with an exclusive Dark Blue Pearl paint finish, which wasn’t included with my Crystal White Pearl painted test model. 

I should probably talk about $37,695 Limited trim in this garage story too, being that I’ve already covered the others. This might be my Forester of choice if the extra $2,700 weren’t an issue, mainly because it loses the Sport’s over-the-top orange-ness, and while I would prefer to keep the latter model’s performance upgrades that are also nixed when choosing Limited trim, they’re not as important in an SUV like this as they’d be in a WRX, per se. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
That’s a lot of orange, but the quality is good and layout well organized. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The Limited keeps most of the Sport’s convenience and luxury upgrades mind you, while adding unique 18-inch 10-spoke bright-finish machined alloy wheels, a premium grille, chrome detailing around the fog lamp bezels and side windows, auto-dimming side mirrors with approach lighting and reverse tilt (the latter item a Subaru first), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, chrome trimmed primary gauges, a heatable steering wheel rim, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market information, an eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon audio system with an eight-channel amplifier, leather upholstery in black or platinum, silver contrast stitching throughout, driver’s seat memory, heatable rear outboard seats, and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
X-Mode AWD comes standard across the Forester line, as does an electromechanical parking brake and heated seats. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Maybe I should’ve waited to choose a favourite, because for just $1,800 more than the Limited you can opt for near luxury SUV-level $39,495 Premier trim, which is now top-of-the-line for 2019. It once again includes the vertical LED fog lamps from the Sport within unique satin-silver trimmed bezels, as well as special aluminum-look satin-silver trim on the front fascia, side mirror caps, roof rail posts, side sills, and rear bumper. Additionally, exclusive 18-inch five-spoke machined alloy wheels combine with chromed exterior door handles and a stainless steel rear bumper step pad to spiff up the look further. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The orange stitching is nice, and the orange vent surrounds probably won’t be to everyone’s liking. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Inside, the Forester Premier features exclusive brown leather upholstery that I really like, plus an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, while Subaru’s brand new DriverFocus driver fatigue and distracted driving mitigation system uses facial recognition to detect drowsiness or distraction. 

I should also mention that all of the trim details and prices were verified at CarCostCanada, where you can also find dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands when negotiating with your Subaru dealer, plus they have rebate information on any discounts that might be available to you. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
These two-tone cloth seats with orange highlights are exclusive to Sport trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Continuing on, the 2019 Forester has been thoroughly redesigned around the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which has resulted in greater refinement, capability and dynamic performance, plus more interior roominess. 

It’s difficult to grow inside without growing outside, with the new Forester now measuring 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) more from front to back at 4,625 mm (182.1 inches), with a 30-mm (1.2-inch) longer wheelbase at 2,670 mm (105.1 inches), while it’s also 21 mm (0.8 inches) wider including its mirrors at 2,052 mm (80.8 inches), or 20 mm (0.8 inches) wider not including its mirrors at 1,815 mm (71.4 inches). Its front and rear track has widened too, now up 20 and 15 mm (0.8 and 0.6 inches) respectively to 1,565 and 1,570 mm (61.6 and 61.8 inches), which, along with the Forester’s other dimensional and mechanical changes has caused a one-metre (3.3-foot) larger curb to curb turning circle of 5.4 metres (17.7 feet). 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
To find out about rear seat roominess and comfort, check out our upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Despite maintaining its minimum ground clearance at 220 mm (8.6 inches), the new Forester is actually 5 mm (0.2 inches) lower in height than its predecessor with its roof rails included at 1,730 mm (68.1 inches), while its base curb weight has increased by a 26 kilograms (57.3 lbs) at 1,569 kilos (3,459 lbs) when compared to the previous model’s optional CVT. Still, the fully loaded 2019 Forester Premier now weighs in at 1,630 kg (3,593 lbs), which actually makes this top-line model a surprising 56 kg (123.4 lbs) lighter than the ritziest version of the 2018 model in spite of its greater size. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
A large rear cargo area opens up for longer items via standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with a more spacious passenger compartment, the new Forester improves cargo capacity by 29 litres (1.0 cubic-foot) behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks in base trim, from 974 to 1,003 litres (34.4 to 35.4 cubic feet), and by 40 litres (1.4 cubic feet) in base trim when those seats are laid flat, from 2,115 to 2,155 litres (74.7 to 76.1 cubic feet). When the optional sunroof is added, which encroaches slightly on overhead space, the difference from old to new grows to 43 litres (1.5 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, from 892 to 935 litres (31.5 to 33.0 cubic feet), and 68 litres (2.4 cubic feet) when the rear seats are lowered, from 1,940 to 2,008 litres (68.5 to 70.9 cubic feet). This is a significant improvement that can really make a difference when faced with a large load of gear. 

As for the rest of the story, I’ll be back soon with some experiential thoughts, feelings, and yes, some gripes too. And I’m not just talking about my orange overwhelm. Until then, check out my orange glory 2019 Forester Sport tester in the photo gallery above…

The completely redesigned 2019 Forester, now in its fifth-generation, is just arriving at Subaru dealers nationwide, with a new price of $27,995.  In case you were wondering that’s $2,000 pricier than…

Redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester goes on sale from $27,995

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The all new 2019 Forester, shown here in new Sport trim, appears to be a big improvement over the outgoing model. (Photo: Subaru)

The completely redesigned 2019 Forester, now in its fifth-generation, is just arriving at Subaru dealers nationwide, with a new price of $27,995. 

In case you were wondering that’s $2,000 pricier than last year’s base Forester, but it now comes standard with a host of features that should make the bump in MSRP well worth it. 

First on the list is a set of stylishly safer LED headlamps, a technology that previously required a move up to Limited trim in order to partake, and one that’s still optional with most of its rivals including the totally redesigned 2019 RAV4 and recently redesigned Honda CR-V—the Mazda CX-5 already comes standard with LED headlights and refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee now does as well. 

2019 Subaru Forester Limited
Full LED headlamps set the fifth-gen Forester apart from most peers. (Photo: Subaru)

The Forester’s new LED headlamps also feature automatic on/off so you won’t always have to remember to turn them on and off manually, this standard feature part of last year’s Convenience upgrade, while new standard automatic climate control gets pulled up from 2018’s Touring trim. 

Additionally, a new electromechanical parking brake replaces the old handbrake, freeing up space between the front seats and modernizing the driving experience, while new auto vehicle hold replaces the old hill holder system that previously only came with the manual transmission that’s now been discontinued. In its place, Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is now standard across the line, which means that Subaru’s impressive X-Mode off-road system with Hill Descent Control, and SI-Drive drive mode selector are now standard too. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
Of course, Subaru’s symmetrical AWD comes standard with the Forester, important for the upcoming winter that The Farmer’s Almanac forecasts will be extremely cold. (Photo: Subaru)

Along with that CVT and Subaru’s much lauded Symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system that remains standard, the 2019 Forester gets a new direct-injection enhanced 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that’s good for 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, which is a 12-horsepower and 2-lb-ft advantage over last year’s identically sized base engine. The drivetrain now includes an auto start/stop system that automatically shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, which helps to reduce emissions while improving fuel economy, the latter resulting in a 0.2 L/100km savings despite the increase in performance, from 9.2 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 8.4 combined to 9.0, 7.2 and 8.2 respectively. 

2019 Subaru Forester Limited
Need to ford a river on your way to camp? No problem for the new Forester. (Photo: Subaru)

The big change for 2019 isn’t what comes with the Forester, but rather what’s no longer on offer being that Subaru has discontinued the SUV’s optional 2.0-litre turbocharged engine upgrade that previously put out 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and still managed a relatively thrifty 10.2 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.5 combined. Granted, few vehicles in this class offer such a potent optional engine, but nevertheless it was an important differentiator in a market segment that’s rife with competition. 

The aforementioned base model is once again simply called 2.5i in reference to its engine designation, and along with everything already mentioned includes standard power-adjustable heated side mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, steering wheel controls, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, StarLink smartphone integration with Aha radio, HD and satellite radio, two USB ports/iPod interfaces, an aux input, heatable front seats, roof rails, the usual active and passive safety features including an airbag for the driver’s knees, and more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Sport trim gets a black and orange trim treatment for a truly unique look. (Photo: Subaru)

Regarding infotainment, the standard infotainment touchscreen is now 0.3 inches larger in diameter at 6.5 inches, and now features standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility that wasn’t even optional before. 

Above the base 2.5i, features become even more generous in second-rung Convenience trim, while the 2019 Forester can also be had in Touring, new Sport, Limited and new top-line Premier trims. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
The new Forester’s styling and trim options should make it very popular. (Photo: Subaru)

Convenience trim, at $30,295, includes everything from the base model plus fog lamps, a rear rooftop spoiler, 17-inch alloys replacing the standard 17-inch steel wheels with covers, a windshield wiper de-icer, silver finish interior trim, chrome interior door handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, a colour TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, a 6.3-inch colour multi-function display atop the dash that’s controllable via steering wheel-mounted switchgear, two more stereo speakers for a total of six, dual-zone automatic climate control (the base model is single-zone), sunvisor extensions, illuminated vanity mirrors, premium cloth upholstery, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar support, a flip-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, and more. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
Unique satin-silver details provide a classy touch to the top-line Forester Premier. (Photo: Subaru)

For a reasonable $1,500 you can add Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems that includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lead vehicle start alert, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control, while the upgrade also includes reverse automatic braking, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, and a retractable cargo cover. 

2019 Subaru Forester Limited
Limited trim allows for this classy cream coloured leather interior. (Photo: Subaru)

EyeSight comes standard with all other trim levels, including the $32,995 Touring model that gets everything already mentioned as well as automatic high beam assist, a large power-sliding glass sunroof with a sunshade, and a powered tailgate with memory function. 

Above this, Sport, Limited and Premier trims get a new two-mode X-Mode off-road system that’s capable of even greater go-anywhere prowess thanks to separate settings for snow and dirt, as well as deep snow and mud, while larger 316 mm front rotors add better braking power over the standard 294 mm discs. 

2019 Subaru Forester Limited
The Limited can also be had with a black interior, while a new 8.0-inch touchscreen now comes standard in upper trims. (Photo: Subaru)

Additionally, these three trims include steering responsive headlights and Subaru’s Side/Rear Vehicle Detection (SRVD) system as standard equipment, improving safety, plus a leather shift knob and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen adds an inch to the diameter of last year’s top-line infotainment interface, while once again including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto where there wasn’t such smartphone connectivity last year. These upper trims also include dual rear USB ports for a new total of four, plus A/C ducts on the backside of the centre console, and reclining rear seats. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Sport trim won’t be for everyone, but those who like orange will love this edgy new model. (Photo: Subaru)

The new $34,995 Sport is the visual standout of the 2019 Forester lineup thanks to a unique gloss black grille, special front corner grilles, a larger rear spoiler, a blackened out trim strip that runs across the rear liftgate before striking through the taillights, a unique rear under-guard, plus bold orange trim on its front fascia, roof rail posts, side sills and rear bumper, the latter wrapping up and over the exhaust to highlight a chromed tipped tailpipe, while a bright orange “SPORT” badge gets added to the liftgate. The Sport also gets exclusive dark metallic 18-inch alloys with subtle orange accents, while LED daytime running lights, vertically stacked LED fog lamps and LED turn signals integrated within the mirror caps add to its upmarket appeal. 

2019 Subaru Forester Sport
Yes, that’s a lot of orange. (Photo: Subaru)

Inside, the Sport model’s orange theme continues with uniquely treated dash vent surrounds and centre console detailing plus orange stitching throughout, and within the gauge cluster plus some background lighting, while an additional exclusive Sport feature includes an SI-Drive Sport system that provides more immediate throttle response. Lastly, the Forester Sport replaces the availability of Crimson Red Pearl, Horizon Blue Pearl, Jasper Green Metallic, and Sepia Bronze Metallic exterior colours with an exclusive Dark Blue Pearl paint finish. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
Stylish camel brown upholstery makes the top-line Premier trim’s interior look downright rich. (Photo: Subaru)

The $37,695 Limited loses some of the Sport’s aesthetic and performance features, but keeps most of its convenience and luxury upgrades while adding unique 18-inch 10-spoke bright-finish machined alloy wheels, a premium grille, chrome detailing around the fog lamp bezels and side windows, auto-dimming side mirrors with approach lighting and reverse tilt (the latter item a Subaru first), an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass, chrome trimmed primary gauges, a heatable steering wheel rim, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link with weather, sports and stock market information, an eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon audio system with an eight-channel amplifier, leather upholstery in black or platinum, silver contrast stitching throughout, driver’s seat memory, heatable rear outboard seats, and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
The Forester now comes standard with an automatic CVT, X Mode off-road capability, and an SI-Drive mode selector. (Photo: Subaru)

New $39,495 Premier trim is top-of-the-line for 2019, and once again includes the vertical LED fog lamps from the Sport within unique satin-silver trimmed bezels, as well as special aluminum-look satin-silver trim on the front fascia, side mirror caps, roof rail posts, side sills, and rear bumper. Additionally, exclusive 18-inch five-spoke machined alloy wheels combine with chromed exterior door handles and a stainless steel rear bumper step pad to spiff up the look further. 

Inside, the Forester Premier features exclusive brown leather upholstery plus an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, while Subaru’s brand new DriverFocus driver fatigue and distracted driving mitigation system uses facial recognition to detect drowsiness or distraction. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
That’s a lot of digital displays, all models now shipping with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Photo: Subaru)

Of note, all pricing was verified at CarCostCanada.com, where you can also find detailed trim and feature pricing, dealer invoice pricing that let’s you get the best deal possible when negotiating for your new Forester, and rebate information on any discounts that might be available to you. 

All of the new 2019 Forester’s features come within a compact SUV that’s been thoroughly redesigned around the new Subaru Global Platform (SGP), which has resulted in greater refinement, capability and dynamic performance, plus considerably more interior space. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
Cargo room has increased, along with passenger space. (Photo: Subaru)

This means it has grown slightly all-round, now measuring 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) more from front to back at 4,625 mm (182.1 inches), with a 30-mm (1.2-inch) longer wheelbase at 2,670 mm (105.1 inches), while it’s also 21 mm (0.8 inches) wider including its mirrors at 2,052 mm (80.8 inches), or 20 mm (0.8 inches) wider not including its mirrors at 1,815 mm (71.4 inches). The new Forester’s front and rear track has widened too, now up 20 and 15 mm (0.8 and 0.6 inches) respectively to 1,565 and 1,570 mm (61.6 and 61.8 inches), which, along with its other dimensional and mechanical changes has caused a one-metre (3.3-foot) larger curb to curb turning circle of 5.4 metres (17.7 feet). 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
Need more luggage space? Check out the new Forester. (Photo: Subaru)

Despite maintaining its minimum ground clearance at 220 mm (8.6 inches), the new Forester is actually 5 mm (0.2 inches) lower in height than its predecessor with its roof rails included at 1,730 mm (68.1 inches), while its base curb weight has increased by a 26 kilograms (57.3 lbs) at 1,569 kilos (3,459 lbs) when compared to the previous model’s optional CVT. This said the fully loaded 2019 Forester Premier now weighs in at 1,630 kg (3,593 lbs), which actually makes this top-line model a surprising 56 kg (123.4 lbs) lighter than the ritziest version of the 2018 model in spite of its greater size and spaciousness. 

2019 Subaru Forester Premier
The new 2019 Forester is one fine looking compact SUV. (Photo: Subaru)

Along with a roomier passenger compartment, the new Forester improves cargo space by 29 litres (1.0 cubic-foot) behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks in base trim, from 974 to 1,003 litres (34.4 to 35.4 cubic feet), and by 40 litres (1.4 cubic feet) in base trim when those seats are laid flat, from 2,115 to 2,155 litres (74.7 to 76.1 cubic feet). When the optional sunroof is added, which encroaches slightly on overhead space, the difference from old to new grows to 43 litres (1.5 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks, from 892 to 935 litres (31.5 to 33.0 cubic feet), and 68 litres (2.4 cubic feet) when the rear seats are lowered, from 1,940 to 2,008 litres (68.5 to 70.9 cubic feet). That’s a significant improvement that can really make a difference when faced with a big load. 

A press release about the new 2019 Forester promises “maneuverability that’s synonymous with the popular Subaru,” but we’ll need to properly road test it in order to relay any improvements to its driving dynamics. 

Until then, make sure to check out our photo gallery of the 2019 Subaru Forester above.

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long.  The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much…

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech Road Test

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru’s WRX STI, tested here in top-line Sport-tech trim, gets refreshed styling for 2018. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

For being such a niche model, Subaru doesn’t leave the WRX and its even quicker WRX STI sibling alone for long. 

The world rally-inspired sedans received a ground-up redesign for 2015, featuring much more distinctive bodywork all-round including unique bumpers, fenders, aero, and trim details when compared to its Impreza sedan donor model, plus a new, more potent direct-injected 2.0-litre turbo-four replacing the aged sequential multiport injected 2.5 in the regular WRX, this new engine adding three horsepower and 14 more lb-ft of torque resulting in 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft, a six-speed manual in place of that model’s old five-speed, and the option of a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddles where no automatic was ever offered before. The STI continued forward with its 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four making 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
You can choose between a subtler rear lip spoiler on the rear deck lid (shown) or a massive wing, with no extra charge for either. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Model year 2016 added one-touch turn signals, revised steering wheel controls, and a standard 6.2-inch touchscreen with StarLink smartphone integration, plus the Hyper Blue-painted STI Hikari limited edition; 2017 added automatic reverse-tilt to the passenger’s side power mirror, a more premium-like woven fabric headliner, and improved the six-speed manual transmission’s feel, while Sport-tech trims also received Siri Eyes-Free, Mirror Link, Travel Link and SiriusXM Traffic integration; and now for 2018 this dynamic duo get a few styling updates, some chassis mods, a bevy of additional refinements, as well as new safety features, while the STI gets one redesigned drivetrain component. Subaru has made changes to the 2019 version too, but I’ll leave those until later. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Sharp looking LED headlamps add sophistication to the WRX STI’s styling, plus much brighter forward illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 2018 styling updates affect both models and include a new front grille and bumper design and reworked interior door trim, while other updates include a new primary gauge cluster with a 5.9-inch colour multi-information display (MID), a fold-down rear centre armrest with integrated cupholders, reduced interior noise, new suspension tuning, and bigger batteries. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The WRX has never been shy about hood scoops, this one fully functional as always. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Specific to the base WRX, manual models get a new shift lever and yet better shift and clutch take-up feel, plus improved steering feel, whereas the STI now includes standard LED headlights, standard cross-drilled Brembo brakes that are 24 mm larger and 6 mm thicker up front than those on the regular WRX, at 340 by 30 mm, plus 40 mm larger and twice as thick in back at 326 by 20 mm, with six-piston front calipers (two more than the previous STI and four more than the regular WRX) and two-piston rear calipers (double what the WRX offers) plus four-channel, four-sensor and g-load sensor equipped Super Sport ABS, a revised Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD) system that’s no longer hybrid mechanical with electronic centre limited-slip differential control, but rather an electric design that provides quicker, smoother operation, while inside it gets red seatbelts. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
All of the STI’s dramatic bodywork has purpose, the big corner vents for cooling the brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for new 2018 options, Sport trim with the base WRX is updated to include steering-responsive LED headlights, LED fog lights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the Sport-tech package adds new StarLink connectivity apps including Yelp, Best Parking and Glympse. Additionally, Sport-tech models with the manual now get the option of an RS package featuring eight-way powered front seats, leather and ultrasuede upholstery, uprated brake pads, and red calipers, while Sport-tech cars with the Sport Lineartronic CVT become the first WRX models to ever include Subaru’s EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
These gorgeous 19-inch alloys do a nice job of framing the STI’s standard six-caliper Brembo brakes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for the STI, an upgrade to Sport trim now adds 19-inch wheels, wiper-activated automatic headlights, and a 10-way powered driver’s seat, while the fog lamps were deleted to allow for larger air intakes. Additionally, STI models upgraded with the Sport-tech package can be had with either a massive rear wing or much smaller lip spoiler, the latter more appealing to those who don’t want to draw as much attention from passersby, while a set of Recaro sport seats are added in both leather and ultrasuede upholstery, with the driver’s receiving eight-way powered adjustment. Subaru also includes the aforementioned StarLink apps with the Sport-tech upgrade. Like I said, Subaru doesn’t exactly remain idle with the WRX and STI, despite its relative niche model status. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Just in case you mix your car up with a lesser WRX variant, Subaru effectively reminds onlookers about the STI’s dominance. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Then again, if Subaru has a flagship model it would have to be its WRX STI. Certainly the new Ascent crossover SUV is larger and more luxurious, as is the mid-size Outback crossover and the Legacy sedan it’s based upon, such attributes normally befitting of flagship status, but the WRX STI has become legendary for being one of the best performing sport compacts available since inception, and as noted earlier, is derived from the brand’s motorsport heritage. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
If you’re silly enough to race a WRX STI through corners, you’ll be seeing a set of these for as long as you can keep up. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Added to this, the 4,616 examples sold into Canada last year, and the 2,308 delivered up to the close of Q2 2018 (which bizarrely is precisely half of the entire 2017 total number despite having zero months with the same figure—Subaru only totaled 2,303 WRX/STI sales at the halfway mark of 2017), made up a significant 8.5 percent of Subaru’s total volume in 2017 and 8.3 percent so far this year, not to mention a third of the Japanese brand’s overall Impreza sales over the same six months if you combine the two models’ Q2 figures (Subaru sold almost half as many WRX/STI models as Imprezas over the first half of 2018). What’s more, the WRX/STI earned more than twice as many invested fans than VW’s GTI/Golf R combo. So much for being a niche model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
The functional rear diffuser feeds through a sporty quad of chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I like the styling updates, as they give the front end a more aggressive appearance that strengthens the entire design. I also lean more toward subtlety than flash, so therefore I was glad Subaru chose the smaller lip spoiler for my ride. Of course I appreciate the downforce benefits of a gargantuan rear wing when attempting to breach the sound barrier, or at least reach the STI’s top track speed of 251 km/h, but there’s no race course anywhere near my home that would allow for such a test, and it goes without saying that I’d rather not have my car impounded before being forced to pay the towing and storage fees, plus the fines that would be due after being caught doing speed trials on public roads, and then have to explain to Subaru why they couldn’t access their car for a week or more. Nah, I’d go for clean lines over radical aero any day of the week, and this upgraded STI looks much more appealing from front to back. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Subaru has really improved the WRX interior over the years, with this latest STI Sport-tech proving to be the best version yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Subaru follows the usual red on black performance car interior theme, and while I won’t go so far to call this approach creative, the overall look is well executed, meaning that it’s not as gauche as some others, such as Honda’s Civic Type-R (that goes for exterior styling too). My tester’s Sport-tech trim meant that psuede covered the door panel insets, armrests, and centre seat panels front to back, while the ones up front had the “STI” initials embossed into the leather headrests and white “RECARO” lettering embroidered into the top portion of the seat panel. The side bolsters are covered in mostly black leather other than their top portions finished in a thick stripe of red, while the outer sections receive a thin line of red contrast stitching. Subaru decorates the seatbacks further with red piping up top, but really what matters most is how wonderfully comfortable and incredibly supportive they are. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Red stitching on dark grey ultrasuede makes for one classy cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The rear seats aren’t quite as fancy, but they’re surprisingly dressed up with the same red and black, partial-psuede and leather upholstery, plus the outboard positions are cut out like buckets so even those in back have some lateral support to keep them in place if you plan on having some fun. 

On that note, adjustability is critical in a performance car, because along with the lateral support factor you need to maintain as much control as possible. To this end the upgraded seats include the aforementioned power adjustments, while all STI trims provide plenty of telescopic reach from the steering column resulting in a rally-ready driving position, or at least the ability to get the seatback upright and steering wheel as close to the driver as possible. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport Tech
Yet more ultrasuede, leather, metal, digital interfaces, etcetera make up the STI Sport-tech’s performance-oriented environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The STI steering wheel is thick, padded, flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped and ideally formed for comfort and, once again, control, with red baseball stitching along the inside of the rim, while the shift knob is black leather as well, with a bright red translucent candy drop top. The leather boot below gets red stitching to match the same thread used on both sides of the padded leatherette trimmed centre console, the new STI a lot more luxe than any previous WRX model. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI gets a bright, clear, down to business primary gauge cluster. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The hood shielding the dash-top MID gets the same red-stitched leatherette treatment, while the fiery colour illuminates the primary gauges, the infotainment interface background and some of the cabin’s switchgear before continuing onto each door panel and elsewhere throughout the interior. And as overdone as this might sound in words, it’s actually quite tasteful when viewed. 

That gauge cluster is 100-percent purposeful performance, with bright, clear dials that are easy to read in any light, while the multi-info display at centre isn’t as graphically stimulating as some others in the segment, yet still displays an eco-gauge, driving time info, a digital speedometer, a gear display, cruise control details, an odometer, trip meter, SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent Drive) indicators, and something no other brand’s vehicles have, a graphic showing front and real power bias from the aforementioned DCCD system, actuated via a rocker switch on the centre console. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The WRX STI’s centre stack is as wonderfully symmetrical as the car’s AWD system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Just in case you’re feeling shortchanged for not getting as much digitized imagery in the gauge cluster display, check out the big dash-top MID mentioned a moment ago. Controlled via a rocker switch just above the infotainment display, it comes filled with a high-resolution TFT screen and loads of functions like average fuel economy, graphics for the configurable centre differential, a digital PSI boost gauge, etcetera, making it a helpful sidekick to the much larger StarLink infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack below, this such a massive improvement over previous WRX systems that it’s a night and day experience. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
On top of the dash is this handy widescreen multi-info display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Thanks to its Sport-tech upgrade, my tester’s touchscreen was a half-inch larger at 7.0 inches in diameter, while its ultra high-resolution glossy display also gets navigation with detailed mapping, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with all the functionality of the lesser 6.5-inch system, such as a backup camera with guidelines, and all of the aforementioned features and apps. They’re all accessible from an interface with superb graphics and a really nice layout, featuring big digital buttons for the map, audio, phone, apps, info, and settings interfaces. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Sport-tech provides an accurate navigation system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

A high-quality dual-zone auto climate control system sits below, with really well made knobs that don’t wiggle when rotated, plus nice, tight fitting buttons. I also like that the HVAC system’s temperature readouts are displayed up on the dash-top multi-info system for easy visibility when on the move, just another way Subaru keeps things convenient and safe. 

Over and above features already mentioned, $47,295 Sport-tech trim includes proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, and a great sounding 320-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, while additional items pulled from $42,495 Sport trim include 245/35R19 89W Yokohama Advan Sport V105 performance rubber to go with those aforementioned uprated rims, welcome lighting, a powered moonroof, the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD) featuring blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alert, plus more. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Dual-zone automatic climate control makes for a much more habitable driving environment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lastly, on top of features that come standard with the regular $29,995 WRX and other previously noted features, all STI’s include a glossy black grille, brushed aluminum doorsills with STI branding, carpeted floor mats with a red embroidered STI logo, a leather-wrapped handbrake lever, front and rear seats upholstered in black and red leather with black ultrasuede inserts, dual-zone auto climate control, and a bevy of performance upgrades including a quick-ratio rack and pinion steering system, inverted KYB front MacPherson struts with forged aluminum lower suspension arms, performance suspension tuning, high-strength solid rubber engine mounts, a red powder-coated intake manifold, a close ratio six-speed manual gearbox, a Helical-type limited-slip front differential and a Torsen limited-slip rear diff, plus more for $40,195. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Subaru has spent a great deal of time and effort to perfect the WRX STI’s six-speed manual, and it’s paid off. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I should also point out that Subaru finishes the interior off with a higher level of soft-touch synthetic surface treatments than ever before, getting the car closer and closer to premium territory with each passing generation. And it’s plenty roomy for a compact too, both up front and in back where the seats are nicely sculpted out to keep your rear passengers in place when pushing the envelope. Now that we’re contemplating such practical matters, the STI’s trunk is plenty large for a sports car at 340 litres, and it benefits from expansion for longer items via 60/40-split rear seatbacks. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The STI provides more driver controllable performance settings than any rival. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along that vein, the fact that you’re driving a turbocharged four-cylinder powered compact car won’t benefit your pocketbook all that much in the STI, thanks to 14.1 L/100km city, 10.5 highway and 12.5 combined. If that’s an issue for you the regular WRX is good for a claimed 11.3 city, 8.5 highway and 10.0 combined, while the same model with its CVT can eke out 12.6, 9.6 and 11.2 respectively. 

By the way, the SI-Drive system noted earlier lets you choose between the default Intelligent driving mode, Sport mode and Sport-sharp mode, which is Subaru-speak for the usual comfort, sport and sport-plus modes. They work wonders, especially the latter “S#” mode, which sharpens up the STI’s responses to the point of racetrack readiness, ideal for those moments when you want to get the most out of a very potent package. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
The top-line Recaro seats are superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is where the STI’s 2.5-litre EJ257 H4 comes in, an engine that hasn’t changed one iota since before this car’s full redesign. Therefore its output remains 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque, while its six-speed gearbox is truly smoother to operate since its multiple refinements. Lastly, the WRX STI’s torque-vectoring Symmetrical-AWD system is still amongst the best in the business, designed for all surface traction, meaning it can easily manage wet or dry pavement, snow, gravel, dirt, or almost anything else you throw in its way. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
This powered glass sunroof comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I kept it to dry tarmac during my test, and no I didn’t have a track at my beck and call so I obeyed all posted speed limits and… ha ha yeah right. Of course, I found opportunity to open it up when the road cleared and it was safe to do so, and let it be known the STI’s feisty turbo-four craftily providing 305 great ways to get past anything blocking the lane ahead. It launches from standstill with ferocious immediacy and a brilliantly snarling engine note, adding a resonant auditory track to particularly fast-paced visuals. Clutch take-up is ideally weighted with travel short and to the point, while its metal pedals are ideally placed for a little heal, toe action, those uprated brakes fabulously responsive no matter how many times I deep dove into them. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
Rear passengers enjoy the comfort and adhesion of ultrasuede seat inserts too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Likewise, the STI’s hydraulic power steering is wonderfully reactive and great at communicating feedback, while its suspension setup is ideally balanced, giving way ever so slightly at both ends when push came to shove, and doing so with a confidence inspiring level of predictability. 

This balance is configurable from front to rear via the previously noted DCCD, which lets you lock in an alternative AWD torque split to the otherwise default 41:59 bias, allowing for the characteristics of a rear-wheel drive sports sedan or vice versa, this complemented by a double wishbone rear suspension design as capable of absorbing pavement irregularities as the previously noted struts up front, while always keeping the car horizontal to the road. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
A sports car yes, but the WRX STI is plenty practical too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

This is a car you can comfortably drive fast, plus feel safe, secure and always in control of, but take note it won’t take long before you’ve gone so far past those aforementioned limits that you might be walking home, or at the very least be served up a hefty fine, so keep eyes peeled for party poopers. 

If you’re lucky enough to live near a racetrack or have a friend that owns hectares of ranchland interconnected with drivable dirt roads, or even if there’s a large parking lot (preferably covered in snow) somewhere nearby, Subaru has your ride, and despite all of the sport compacts that have come and gone since the WRX started wooing us from afar way back in the early ‘90s and finally got real for us here in North America in 2002, or 2004 for the STI, it’s still the all-wheel drive compact to beat. 

2018 Subaru WRX STI Sport-tech
How many rally tires can you fit into the back of an STI? With the 60/40-split seatbacks lowered, a lot more than you might think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As I write this review the model year changeover from 2018 to 2019 has occurred, which now gives you an option that might be worth your undivided attention. A near identical version of the STI’s turbocharged 2.5-litre four now includes stronger pistons, a new air intake, new ECU programming and a high-flow exhaust system, resulting in the same torque yet five more horsepower totaling 310, while the gearbox gets a new third gear for quicker acceleration. Lastly, the entry and top-line infotainment systems get some tweaks, but like the new powertrain I’ll need to experience these firsthand before making comment. 

Those wanting a bargain can try their luck on a remaining 2018 model, although don’t expect to get too much off as the WRX STI, and all Subarus for that matter, hold their resale values well. Of course, this will be a bonus when it comes time for you to resell, but believe me, handing over the keys to this super-sedan might take more willpower than you can muster. 

Yes, if you’re longing for an outrageously competent sports car with the added convenience of four doors and a sizeable trunk, look no further than the Subaru WRX STI. Even if you don’t need the back seat and storage, it’s one of the better performance cars available for less than $50k, and thanks to its ever-improving refinements its now a viable alternative for anyone otherwise interested in a premium-branded sport sedan.

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t…

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited Road Test

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
If you’ve always wanted a Subaru Outback but never taken the plunge, the 2018 model is the best iteration yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Sales of the Subaru Outback have been on an upward trajectory over the past five years, with calendar year 2017’s results of 11,490 units showing 87.7 percent growth since 2013. The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantra no doubt came into play for this 2018 model year refresh, but despite only receiving a subtle redo I have to say the iconic mid-size crossover looks better than ever. 

Over the years the design has slowly evolved from beefed up wagon to low-profile SUV, with this latest iteration the most rugged looking yet. The 2018 model gets a reworked grille, revised lower front fascia, new door mirrors, and a much more aggressive rear bumper design, making it just as appealing to adventure seeking, wilderness conquering daddies as it has always been to reality-minded mommies. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
From side profile it’s difficult to tell new from old. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While the grille gets a stronger strikethrough in its upper section, the 2018 Outback’s redesigned headlights might be the most dramatic visual enhancement up front. Now each cluster is more sharply angled with a unique scalloped treatment at the topmost inner point, as well as a more defined signature LED element inside, whereas the matte black lower fascia’s fog lamp bezels protrude upward in a more pronounced fashion, or at least they appear to do so now that more body-colour surfacing separates them from the centre vent. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 2018 Outback’s rear bumper design is the most obvious clue to its model year. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

New mirror housings with slimmer more sophisticated looking LED turn signals aside, there’s not much to distinguish the outgoing Outback from the new one when viewed from the side, although if you look very carefully from this vantage point it’s possible to pick out some augmentation to the new taillight lenses and rear bumper, the latter feature getting additional black cladding extending upward at each corner. That bumper cap makes the most obvious difference from the rear view too, giving the Outback most of the rugged visual upgrade mentioned earlier. Outback faithful should be well pleased with the exterior changes made to this 2018 model, although improvements made inside might elicit even broader smiles. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
All Outback headlights are redesigned, yet only upper trims get full LED illumination. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The renewed interior features higher-grade materials, greater comfort, reduced engine, wind and road noise due to acoustic front door glass, and more advanced electronics, with some key upgrades including a redesigned steering wheel with reorganized switchgear, standard dual USB charging ports for rear passengers, a new 6.5-inch STARLINK infotainment touchscreen for base 2.5i trim that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration plus Aha radio, a centre display that grows from 7.0 to 8.0 inches in just-above-base 2.5i Touring trim and higher, plus a new voice-activated dual-zone automatic climate control interface featuring digital readouts for easier legibility and greater overall functionality also comes standard with the same 2.5i Touring and upper trims, as does a redesigned centre vent grille, centre panel, air conditioning panel, and instrument panel. Lastly, Limited and Premier trims get steering-responsive LED headlights, while more functionality gets added to these models’ navigation system. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Along with the new headlights, the grille, bumper and wheels get noticeable revisions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

All 2018 Outbacks get a retuned suspension that makes a noticeable improvement in smoothing out pavement imperfections and quieting the ride, while it certainly doesn’t seem to have upset the mid-size crossover’s always stable and confidence-inspiring handling. The Outback isn’t just a strong performer, but possibly even more importantly it feels a lot more premium than its mainstream-branded peers. There’s a genuine solidity to its overall build quality, while the inherently smooth 3.6-litre H-6 adds to this upscale ambience in ways only a six-cylinder can. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
How long will this 3.6R badge grace the back of top-tier Outback trims? The more formidable new 2.4-litre turbo-four will likely replace the big H-6 soon. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I don’t know how long Subaru will support this engine now that the even more potent 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has been introduced for the larger 2019 Ascent, up 4 horsepower and 30 additional lb-ft of torque over the 3.6R, but for now the refined powerplant does a good job of helping the Outback imitate a luxury CUV in quietness and performance, its output measuring a meaningful 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. 

Performance off the line is very strong, although it’s more of a smooth linear power than anything WRX-like. Still, the high-torque Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) offers nice positive shifts, plus you can slot the lever over to a new seven-speed sequential manual mode before swapping gears via steering wheel paddle shifters in order to maximize performance or short-shift to minimize fuel usage, the latter good for a reasonably efficient claimed 12.0 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.5 combined as-tested or 9.4, 7.3 and 8.5 respectively with the base 175-horsepower 2.5-litre four-cylinder. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Outback interiors keep getting better and better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The steering is substantive feeling, meaning that it’s not too loose and light, but it certainly isn’t overly heavy or ponderous either. In fact I found its weight just right no matter the speed, and extremely easy to turn into tight parking spaces. 

Speaking of easy, visibility is superb in all directions thanks to a tall SUV-like ride-height and expansive glass all the way around, while rearward visibility and safety is improved by a very clear backup camera with an especially good wide-angle view, not to mention dynamic guidelines. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
This is easily one of the highest quality interiors Subaru has ever done. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Improving driver ease yet further, Subaru includes an electromechanical parking brake with auto-release, plus the brand’s well-proven Symmetrical all-wheel drive system incorporating hill descent control and X-mode to overcome rougher off-road sections as well as deeper snow, either of which is made easier due to an impressive 220 mm (8.7 inches) of ground clearance. 

We didn’t have any snow to slog through during my time with the car and had no opportunity to take it up the mountain for winter testing, only encountering some West Coast spring showers, but previous experiences with the Outback in inclement weather have always been positive so there’s no reason this one would be any different. In fact, the new model’s improved suspension compliance should be a benefit for dealing with such situations, on top of providing the superb ride mentioned earlier. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Electroluminescent dials are joined by a 5.0-inch multi-info display in upper trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Not affecting my tester yet still important to note for the majority of Outbacks being sold, all four-cylinder trims are now Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) rated, which translates into one of the lowest emissions ratings in the mid-size SUV class. Important for safety, all Outbacks get a revised brake booster to improve stopping performance, while Subaru’s acclaimed EyeSight suite of advanced driver assistance systems remains available with all trims above base and standard on the top-line the Premier model. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The centre stack gets a redesign, with this top-line infotainment touchscreen upsized by an inch to 8.0 inches in diameter. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

EyeSight, at just $1,500, includes pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, lane keep assist, lead vehicle start alert, reverse automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and new high beam assist, which incidentally let Subaru remove the third camera from the other side of the Outback’s rearview mirror. 

Of course, a full array of active and passive safety features come standard across the line, while the Subaru Rear/Side Vehicle Detection System (SRVD), which includes blindspot detection, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert, is standard with all models above the base 2.5i. Additional safety upgrades include a collision detection feature that can automatically unlock the doors if required, plus automatic door locks that do the opposite when getting under way, a window off-delay timer, and improved child safety seat anchors. Fully equipped with EyeSight and the Limited/Premier models’ full LED headlights, which are now steering-responsive as well, the 2018 Outback’s collective safety kit once again receives a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
It’s hard not to like the colourful Apple-inspired menu interface. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Along with the Outback’s lengthy list of safety equipment and aforementioned mechanical prowess, my Limited model was beautifully finished inside, plus roomy and comfortable for the five-seat mid-size crossover class. Cream-coloured contrast stitching enhanced the soft-touch instrument panel, even extending to the halfway point of the centre stack, and crossed the nicely revised door panels as well, albeit without the contrast stitching which is instead used for the door inserts and armrests, while new shift panel detailing and attractively redesigned leather upholstery join features like fabric-wrapped A-pillars that were already doing a good job of pulling this mainstream volume-branded crossover SUV closer to premium status. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Subaru has refreshed the lower console too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The new steering wheel is a really attractive leather-wrapped design with sporty thumb spats to enhance comfort and grip. Switchgear is very good as well, and includes audio controls, voice activation, and phone controls on the left spoke, plus multi-information display controls below that, while the right spoke is taken up by dynamic cruise control functions, with a switch under that for the heatable steering wheel. 

Possibly the biggest overall improvement to Subaru interiors is on the digital front, with the Outback’s displays very high in resolution, its colours bright, and graphics benefiting from wonderful depth of contrast. This is most noticeable with the new larger infotainment touchscreen, but it’s also true within the driver’s primary gauge cluster that features beautifully bright backlit analogue dials surrounded by an even brighter full-colour 5.0-inch multi-information display in EyeSight-equipped models (a 3.5-inch display is standard), this filled with plenty of premium-level functions, such as EyeSight those features including adaptive cruise control, the ECO gauge, additional fuel efficiency info, etc. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The 10-way powered driver’s seat is wonderfully comfortable and very supportive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Back to the centre stack, infotainment functions include AM, FM and satellite radio, CD, USB, Bluetooth and aux media capability, Bluetooth phone, very accurate navigation with nicely detailed mapping, Starlink, Aha, Pandora, Travel Link, plus the aforementioned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, car info, car settings, plus more, while it’s all organized from a stylishly colourful Apple-like home menu. 

Features in mind, a quick glance at any Outback’s wheel and tire package can help distinguish its trim level, as base 2.5i and Touring models get 17-inch rolling stock and Limited/Premium trims receive larger 18-inch alloys. On that note, pricing for the base 2.5i starts at $29,295 plus freight and dealer fees, as found on CarCostCanada.com, while moving up through the line shows Outback 2.5i Touring trim priced $3,500 higher at $32,795, 2.5i Touring trim with EyeSight at $34,295, 2.5i Limited trim at $36,795, 2.5i Limited trim with EyeSight at $38,295, and 2.5i Premier with EyeSight at $39,195. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Rear seat roominess, comfort and finishing quality is top-notch for the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

If you want the 3.6R six-cylinder engine in base Touring guise you’ll be asked to pay $35,795, whereas the 3.6R Limited starts at $39,795, the same package with EyeSight that I drove will set you back $41,295, and finally the 3.6R Premier with EyeSight is priced at $42,195. 

Features exclusive to Limited trims and above that were not yet mentioned include brushed aluminum front doorsill protectors, silver and authentic looking matte woodgrain interior accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Homelink garage door opener, rear climate controls, a great sounding 576-watt, 12-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, two-way driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, two-way heatable rear outboard seats, and more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
A powered tailgate opens up to an expansive cargo area. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As yet unmentioned items pulled up from lesser trims that enhance the Limited model’s experience include auto on/off headlamps, LED daytime running lights, fog lamps, welcome and approach lighting, LED turn signals on the side mirror housings, a windshield wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless access, pushbutton ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, illuminated vanity mirrors, a sunglasses holder in the overhead console, a powered moonroof, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support, a rear centre armrest, a powered rear liftgate, three-way heated front seats, a retractable cargo cover, four chrome cargo tie down hooks, two utility bag hooks, a cargo tray, a sub-floor compartment, 60/40-split rear seatbacks with one-touch flat-folding capability, plus more. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
The Outback is hardly short on utility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As noted earlier the Outback is spacious, with plenty of room for large adults front to back. It’s comfortable too, the front seats superbly supportive, especially in the lower back and from side-to-side. What’s more, the Outback is as nicely finished in back is it is up front, and includes a large and wide centre armrest that flips down at the ideal height for optimal adult comfort (or at least it was perfect for me), while it comes filled with sizeable cupholders featuring grippy rubber clasps to help keep drinks securely in place. A covered compartment on the backside of the front centre console includes two USB charging ports plus an auxiliary plug, but other than aforementioned rear ventilation, good reading lights overhead, and big bottle holders moulded into the lower door panels that’s about it for rear passengers. 

2018 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited
Get the impressive 3.6R H-6 while you can, as it’s days are likely numbered. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As for rear seat roominess, I had about six inches ahead of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my five-foot-eight height, plus loads of space for my feet. There was also a good five inches above my head and about the same next to my shoulders and hips. In other words, there’s loads of room in back for two average sized adults and one child, or three smaller adults. Likewise, the cargo compartment is accommodating thanks to 1,005 litres (35.5 cubic feet) behind those rear seatbacks, or 2,075 litres (73.3 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. 

Thanks to Subaru making this already excellent crossover SUV better with each makeover, it’s hardly a mystery why Outback popularity continues to grow.