Subaru owners are faithful. To the vehicles, to the brand, to the ethos.
It keeps owners in the fold, and attracts new buyers in big numbers.
Like the Prius, Tesla, Jeep and others, people like a brand or model that stands for something.
So, you don’t go messing with success.
Now that we have an all-new, 5th –generation Forester for 2019, it’s not a big shocker that this model is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Which is okay, since there wasn’t anything wrong with the previous model.
You might have trouble picking the new one out, so here’s some tips. Built on the Subaru Global Platform, the new model is a bit larger, while front, side and rear under guards give a more rugged look. New LED headlights give a fresher front end, while the signature hexagonal grille incorporates active shutters to improve fuel efficiency. New colors, including our tester’s very outdoorsy Jasper Green gives some visual pop. Overall, a handsome, upscale looking vehicle.
The Luxury Box
Good looks aside, the redesign pays off handsomely in creature comforts. A longer wheelbase (105.1 in vs 103.9 in), serves up a 1.4-inch improvement in rear legroom, and wider rear openings and a steeper C-pillar gives easier access for those in back. All around there’s improved headroom, hiproom and shoulder room and you can tell – the interior feels huge and inviting. And visibility outside is superb.
When it comes to carrying gear – something Forester owners are sure to do – there’s nearly 2 cubic feet more of cargo space, while a flatter load floor and wider opening mean easier access. Subaru says it’s possible to load a full-size golf bag sideways without needing to tilt it. Cool. We loved the bamboo-theme rubber cargo mat in our tester. Very cool.
They also did some smart stuff, like creating a textured surface for the cargo floor sides and rear gate trim to reduces dirt, and putting PVC material on the bottoms of the front seat backs to resist scuffing.
The Forester’s great visibility doesn’t just make it a box seat, its load of goodies make it a luxury box. All 19 models feature niceties from welcome lighting and automatic climate control to Subie’s indispensable and excellent EyeSight safety suite, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-collision Braking and Lane Departure, Sway Warning (great for towing) and Lane Keep Assist.
Our Limited model is fairly high up in the trim build, and spoils you with a classy two-tone black on gray interior, with leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and a massive panoramic moonroof. Piano black and Chrome trim help things feel upscale, while the traditional Subaru layout of switches is sensible and easy to use.
We especially like the EyeSight display in a small hood above the center console – it gives you real-time information of what the system is doing, and how it’s responding.
All Forester models now feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while up-level trims like our Limited get a larger, crisp and bright 8.0-inch touchscreen, and USB ports front and rear.
Interestingly if you want Navi, you’ll have to pop for the full-boat Touring trim – proof, we think that most people are using their smartphones for that task these days. Connectivity is good for lots of stuff, and with Subaru’s available Startlink you can get all sort of goodness like remote start, live concierge, and stolen-vehicle tracking.
Less WRX, more LUX
So far, so good. But when it comes to the drive, how you feel about the Forester depends on what kind of Subaru-enthusiast you are. If you love the rally-bred, thrilling performance of the WRX sedan, you might be disappointed to learn that they’ve killed both the turbo engine and the manual transmission for the new model. We should point out that there’s a Sport model that looks pretty cool, but if you’re a petrolhead, the WRX is your Sube.
The brand is smart though, for the huge majority of people who buy the Forester, the focus is all in the right places. It starts with more power from the 2.5-liter, horizontally-opposed “boxer” engine, now pumping out 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque (vs. 170 and 174, respectively).
The standard Lineartronic CVT transmission is just ok – in day-to-day it’s smooth and unobtrusive, but when you get on it, it hangs on the rpm’s like a motorboat. Meh. We’d probably opt for either the Sport or Touring trim – which feature a manual-mode that lets you paddle-shift through a simulated 7-speed transmission. Much more fun.
While we didn’t exactly love the CVT’s performance, we can’t argue with the excellent fuel economy – 30+ mpg on the freeway was easy.
Also easy to love is the comfy ride. The Forester has that long-legged, supple feel of vehicles that know how to go long distances in rugged conditions. Despite that soft suspension, the handling is crisp, not wallowy, and we liked the good steering feel. It’s an easy vehicle to drive.
Subies are especially well-known and loved for their bad-weather and off-road capabilities, and the new Forester ups the ante here. There’s the driver-selectable SI-DRIVE that allows the driver to tailor the throttle characteristics.
Active Torque Vectoring comes from the WRX, and helps the All-Wheel Drive Forester turn in on dry surfaces, and adds stability and control in the slop. You’ve even got two snow settings to make sure you make it to the slopes (or work…), and plenty of ground clearance to help keep you clear everything from speed bumps to snow berms.
Adding to the confidence of the drive on our Limited trim level was Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
How green the Forest(er)?
Actually, the new Forester strikes us as an excellent value. With so much of the gear made standard across the board, the base Forester at $24,295, with standard AWD, Subaru EyeSight and Apple CarPlay is immensely appealing. Heck, we’d even pull off the wheel covers and enjoy running around on the steelies! Old school Subaru all the way!
Running up the line, there’s the Premium ($26,695) which adds Starlink connectivity, 17-inch alloys, power panoramic moonroof, 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability and a 10-way power driver’s seat. Probably your sweet spot in value.
The Sport model ($28,795) and it’s the looker of the bunch with 18-inch black finish alloys, orange exterior accents, two-tone cloth upholstery, plus SI-DRIVE engine management, paddle shifters and Keyless Access with Push-Button Start. We’ll take one in Crystal White Pearl!
Moving away from sport and more towards luxury brings you to the Limited like our tester ($30,795). Leather, blind spot/ rear cross detection, 18-inch machine finish alloys, all-weather package and dual-zone climate control make for one sweet ride. Add in destination, and we carried a sticker of $31,770.
It’s good value, too – a comparably-equipped 2019 RAV4 comes in at $35,195. The CR-V EX-L, $32,195.
For those who want a Forester with the mostest, there’s also the Touring model ($34,295), with exclusive saddle brown leather, Navi, DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, Power front seats, heated front and rear seats and blingy silver finish exterior accents.
We enjoyed our time with DeForester Kelly. (Hey, it’s green, right?) It has that unique Subaru vibe – so loyalists will love it. But it also plays – and wins – against traditional powerhouses like RAV4 and CR-V.
The all-new 2019 Forester is a great crossover.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.