|The Forster’s rugged good looks are amped up in 2.0XT Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’ve just scratched the surface of the many changes that joined those updates, plus numerous modifications in between, to the point that today’s Subaru is so far advanced over its predecessors it might as well be an entirely different SUV. Of course,
|The Forester strikes a more traditional, upright pose than most competitive compact crossover SUVs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
First off, while the Forester originated as more crossover than SUV, it now appeals to more dyed-in-the-wool SUV fans that have somehow been forgotten in a near global shift to car-based utilities. With many of its rivals becoming ever sleeker in their quests for more sport in the SUV equation, Subaru stays confidently upright in the Forester’s styling, as if it’s somehow capturing a lost youth it missed out on the first time around. As a fan of serious 4x4s from Land Rover’s original Series I and Defender to Toyota’s Land Cruiser FJ and BJ70, not to mention Mercedes’ Geländewagens old and new, I’m subconsciously pulled toward the Forester’s more
|Limited trim adds sharp looking LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Yes, Subaru still uses its XT nomenclature, and both the 170 horsepower naturally aspirated base 2.5-litre engine with 174 lb-ft of torque, and the 250 horsepower direct-injected 2.0XT powerplant with 258 lb-ft of torque, which is one of the most powerful in the mainstream compact SUV class, are formed from the brand’s iconic horizontally opposed four-cylinder “boxer” design. This “H” engine lineup, which even includes a larger 3.6-litre H6 in Subaru’s Legacy and Outback, has been enhanced for refinement and fuel economy over the decades, with the Forester’s
|2.0XT models get this sportier front fascia and other bodywork enhancements. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
As you may have noticed I haven’t included FWD and AWD fuel economy comparisons, which is due to Subaru supplying all Foresters, as well as most every other vehicle in its ever-growing lineup, with standard all-wheel drive. No other vehicle in the mainstream compact crossover SUV class can say the same, not even Jeep. What’s more, Subaru’s unique engine design, which can be laid lower
|Stylish machine-finished 18-inch alloys with dark painted pockets are standard with the 2.0XT powertrain upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The result is a compact SUV that inspires confidence in the kinds of slippery conditions that all Canadians have been experiencing so far this winter, and most suffer through every year. Along with the added inclement-weather grip, the Forester’s AWD aids stability in all weather conditions, even dry, improving high-speed handling for better performance whether on pavement or gravel, while ride quality remains comfortable for the class.
|If you see these "XT" initials on the tailgate and you’re driving one of the Forester’s challengers, don’t ask for a race. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
All of this advanced driving kit might sound as if it’s connected to a rugged, truck-based SUV, but today’s Forester is based upon Subaru’s well-proven small car platform architecture that also underpins the previous-generation Impreza and Crosstrek
|Subaru has gentrified the Forester’s interior over the decades, this latest version especially upscale in Limited trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Yes, the Forester is spacious. Most anyone should fit comfortably up front, the 10-way powered driver’s seat, which comes standard on everything above the base model, providing ample adjustment including powered lumbar support, and the tilt and telescopic steering column capable of long enough travel to satisfy those with slightly shorter torsos/arms than legs, like yours truly.
When the driver’s seat was set up for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame I found
|A colour trip computer joins an even more colourful multi-information display atop the dash, and a large touchscreen just below. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The tall side windows and large panoramic sunroof overhead gave my Limited model an airy greenhouse effect, this trim line particularly well-equipped with steering-responsive LED headlights, a heatable steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 0.8-inch larger 7.0-inch infotainment system featuring a premium quality high-resolution touchscreen with tablet-like multi-gesture tap, swipe and pinch capability, very accurate navigation
|The mostly analogue gauge cluster is highly legible in all lighting conditions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The sunroof actually gets pulled up from lesser Touring trim, which starts at $30,495 in the 2.5i and $33,995 with the 2.0XT, this model also adding its windshield wiper de-icer to Limited trim, plus an electroluminescent primary gauge cluster with a colour TFT multi-function display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone auto climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, reclining rear seatbacks,
|This is one of the more fully featured multi-info displays in the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
|Subaru has made big improvements to its Starlink infotainment system in recent years. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
My 2.0XT Limited tester also received a very reasonably priced $1,500 EyeSight package that’s available on 2.5i/2.0XT Touring (for $2,800) and 2.5i Limited trims as well, which adds proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, steering
|Subaru’s navigation proved easy to use, fast, and very accurate. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Subaru has done a good job of gentrifying its Forester over the years, with this latest model the most refined yet. This includes reduced noise, vibration and harshness levels as part of last year’s update, while it also gets a fully padded soft synthetic dash top that folds over the top half of the instrument panel and all the way down each side of the centre stack, the lower portions of which appear like handles
|Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is amongst the best of its ilk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The aforementioned leather-wrapped steering wheel rim is thickly padded, and therefore feels both sporty and comfortable in the hands, while the shifter is clad in leather as well, plus features a contrast-stitched leather boot. Perforated leather covers the seats, except for the bolsters that are finished in solid leather with contrast stitching.
|X Mode really helps get the Forester out of slippery situations. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’ve already gone over much of the infotainment system’s features, so suffice to say it’s a very good up-to-date design that’s easy to operate thanks to touch-sensitive
|The seats are comfortable and visibility excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
This can be said of the overall interior too, with even the cargo compartment finished fairly well for this volume-branded class. The powered tailgate is painfully slow to open or close, although on the positive it doesn’t resist if you’d rather do so manually, while my tester’s cargo floor was protected with a fitted rubber tray, a
|This is what Subaru simply calls a sunroof. Big isn’t it? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Cargo capacity measures 726 litres (25.6 cubic feet) behind the rear seats and under the retractable cargo cover, 974 litres (34.4 cubic feet) when factoring in the area above the cargo cover, and 2,115 litres (74.7 cubic feet) when the 60/40 split rear seatbacks are lowered. This said the rear subwoofer eats some gear-toting space away from Limited models, which only provide 892 litres (31.5 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and 1,940 litres (68.5 cubic feet) when they’re laid flat. In order to lower them, you can either
|Rear seat roominess and comfort is impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
At the other end of the Forester is the aforementioned scoop-adorned aluminum hood, and while I don’t normally comment on engine covers, the Forester 2.0XT’s is particularly nice. I like seeing this level of detail under the hood, as it shows Subaru’s pride in this uniquely impressive power unit. Along with some nice louvres and a bright silver “SUBARU BOXER DIT” plaque, a large grated-silver opening provides access from the forced air above. Only a quad of downdraft Webers would look better, but of course that’s only a whimsically misguided thought from a vintage fanatic.
|The rear seatbacks fold flat automatically by pulling levers on the sidewalls, opening up a lot of cargo space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Yet that’s ok. Subaru is one of few mainstream brands that have managed to develop some real premium cachet, this achieved by sticking true to their engineering principles while delivering superior performance both on and off the road,
|Even the 2.0XT’s engine cover is special. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
For these reasons and more, Subaru has enlisted a large, loyal following that appears to be growing with every passing year. I recommend you take a close look at a Forester if you’re in the market for a compact SUV, as you’ll likely appreciate what you find.
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