Subaru’s compact AWD Forester has been a top seller for the company, but the 2019 model is even more impressive. It now has loads of sophisticated technology, greater interior capacity and a new more powerful engine.
Forester also received a new, 1.2-inch longer wheelbase that affords better rear seat leg room and slightly larger cargo capacity. And when comparing Forester to their famous Outback, Forester is a bit smaller and more svelte compared to earlier models that had a boxy styling.
Forester is now offered with a new 2.5-liter, Boxer 4-cylinder engine that puts out 182-hp and 176 lb/ft of torque. This is up from last years’ model that attained 170-hp and 174 lb/ft of torque. So Forester experienced a performance boost to boot. When coupled to a standard CVT automatic transmission with shift paddles that simulate a 7-speed manual transmission, Forester earned EPA mileage estimates of 26 city, 33-highway mpg. This miserly fuel economy is helped somewhat by start/stop engine technology.
Performance, wise, the new 2.5L engine supplies a linear application of power, enough to move this 3,500 pound plus SUV with lively spirit. We did notice that the engine is a tad noisy at idle, but it dissipates once underway. It also has a tow capacity of 1,500 pounds. Enough for a small utility or boat trailer.
Forester Sport that we tested (it’s also offered in Premium, Limited and Touring trim versions) came standard with SI-Drive. This is a powertrain performance management system that allows the driver to tailor the vehicle’s throttle characteristics by choosing between “Intelligent” and “Sport” modes (Sport Sharp on Forester Sport). “Intelligent” mode helps smooth out accelerator inputs for fuel saving, while “Sport” mode tunes the throttle to emphasize performance.
Forester’s driver selectable and excellent X-Mode AWD system offers Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes that alter engine, transmission shift patterns, front/rear clutch force, brakes and more. All for better traction during difficult driving conditions.
After an easy 18-5-inch step-in, Forester Sports’ interior is as its name implies, sporty. Seam edges are sewn in orange contrasting stitching and the heated cloth front seats were widened by 1.2 inches for good lateral support and soft comfort.
HVAC controls are large and easy to use. And with Subaru’s Starlink Connect, the temperature, fan, locking/unlocking the doors and other functions can all be done via your smartphone. It was nice to see a Max A/C button that puts out more, faster cooling air. It’s a handy feature unfortunately no longer seen on cars today.
A large 8-inch touchscreen offers a host of apps, Travel-Link providing local fuel prices, sports info, stocks and more. There’s also a nifty daily and 5-day weather map. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now offered as well.
On their Touring model, Subaru provides their Driver Focus system that uses infrared sensors and facial recognition to determine driver distractions (like if driver takes his/her eyes off the road for three seconds) or fatigue. Talk about Big Brother watching you. Now you have your car looking out for your safety.
Back seats are equally as comfy as the fronts. Wide opening doors allow easy ingress/egress and once in, you’re treated to ample leg and headroom even for 6-footers.
In the newly enlarged cargo area that has a wider hatch opening, the upright rear seats offer 35.4 cubic feet of space. That measures out to being 34.5 inches deep, 51 wide and 32 high. Flip the 60/40 seatbacks and capacity increases to 76.1 cubic feet for 68 inches of cargo loading depth.
Beneath the cargo floor and above the space saver spare tire, is a handy six compartment foam bin to stow small items out of sight.
Our Sport trim test car is set apart from other models with its gloss-black exterior trim and orange accents whose theme follows through on the interior.
Ride wise, Forester is quiet and a smooth rider on Faulken 18-inch tires. Its electric power steering makes the Forester easy to park in tight places and offers some road feel.
As for handling, body lean in sharp turns is nicely controlled and Subaru’s impressive torque-vectoring system automatically applies the brakes to the inside wheels to keep the SUV on its intended direction.
With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, Forester can trek through some impressive snow depths. That was one of the features we loved about my wife’s ’98 Subaru Outback. So that model was always my favorite. But since driving the Forester, my fondness goes out to it. And if you make a comparison, Forester has better undercarriage clearance than most crossover/SUVs and even some light trucks.
With a lengthy list of standard features including a panoramic sunroof and safety items such as tire pressure monitoring, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and more, Forester Sport carried a base price of $28,795. After adding the Option Package ($2,045) and delivery ($975), the Sport bottom-lined at a reasonable $31,815.
Subaru offers the most comprehensive line of SUVs starting with the Outback, Forester and Crosstrek. Take your pick as they’re all excellent choices for an all-weather family vehicle.