2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
No one was surprised when we opened the liftgate on the 2014 Subaru Forester and found a rubberized plastic mat with water-trapping raised edges covering the entirety of the cargo area. It seemed a shame that we hadn't bought a pair of wet, muddy golden retrievers along for the ride. Then we noticed that you can drop the rear seatbacks via buttons in the cargo area, a neat touch. Practicality, thy name is Subaru.
Given that this company first made a name for itself with small, four-wheel-drive station wagons, the compact crossover -- arguably the modern evolution of that genre -- seems like the definitive Subaru. Indeed, the Forester is the brand's bestselling model, with the larger Outback not far behind. Certainly, the auto-buying public is hip to the fact that these vehicles are a Subaru specialty. As road test editor Chris Nelson relates: "I've had three different people ask me recently which of these vehicles they should buy. I gave each a different answer, based on what I thought would be ideal for them. But all three ended up getting the Forester."
The Forester's popularity has shot up since its redesign last year. The biggest change compared with the previous model is the much greater fuel economy, achieved mostly by junking the old four-speed automatic in favor of a CVT. At 24/32 mpg, the Subaru's EPA ratings are just a shade under the other CVT-equipped car in this test, the Nissan Rogue. Although the 2014 Subaru Forester's four, like the Nissan's, makes only 170 hp (with 174 lb-ft of torque), its acceleration was more energetic thanks to the Forester's light weight.
Unfortunately, Subaru does not tune its CVT to mimic the behavior of a conventional automatic, and our testers all bemoaned the boxer four's loud droning under acceleration. Subaru offers two workarounds here. First, you could go for the manual transmission -- yes, there is one, and no, it's not relegated only to the base car. Additionally, the manual lowers the price of entry by $1500. Or you could step up to the turbocharged 2.0XT model. The 2.0XT, which is about $3000 more than an equivalent 2.5i, brings 250 hp to the party, along with 258 lb-ft of torque.
In our test car, the 2.5-liter/CVT powertrain combo didn't exactly encourage energetic driving, nor did the vague electric power steering, but as Voelker noted, the 2014 Subaru Forester "corners well but rides firmly." There might not be a lot of joy to be had behind the wheel, but you do have to marvel at the view out. The upright styling, thin pillars, and huge side windows create an interior that one tester likened to "a glass cube." The cabin is quite roomy -- much more so than before -- but the seats are too hard to be truly comfortable.
Our top-spec Touring model's leather upholstery and interior finishes were neither plush nor stylish, a reminder that when Subaru tries to do luxury, it only reinforces the notion that the brand's strong suit is practicality. The touch-screen navigation radio is a disaster that looks and functions like a cheesy aftermarket unit from ten years ago; it's best avoided. To its credit, Subaru, unlike Honda, does offer a suite of high-tech safety features -- its EyeSight driver assistance system, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane departure warning. Bundled with keyless ignition and HID headlights, it adds a substantial $2400 to the price. With it, the as-tested total for our 2.5i Touring was $33,220, a figure that raised a few eyebrows given that this was not the more powerful, turbo model. To us and, we suspect, to its buyers, the Forester makes more sense in lower-spec trim -- but if we were looking to spend more, we'd go for the turbo engine here rather than a lot of fancy equipment.
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
|MSRP (with destination)||$30,820|
|Price as Tested||$33,220|
|Engine||2.5-liter DOHC flat-4|
|Horsepower (hp)||170 @ 5800 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||174 @ 4100 rpm|
|Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined)||24/32/27 mpg|
|CHASSIS AND MEASUREMENTS|
|Front suspension||Strut-type, coil springs|
|Rear suspension||Control arms, coil springs|
|Brakes f/r||Vented discs/discs|
|LxWxH||180.9 x 70.7 x 66.4 in|
|Track f/r||60.9/61.1 in|
|Curb weight||3366 lb|
|Cargo (behind second/first row)||31.5/68.5 cu ft|
|Legroom (first/second row)||43.0/41.7 in|
|Headroom (first/second row)||40.0/37.5 in|