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…