The original Subaru Forester, essentially a tall station wagon with all-wheel drive, was a crossover utility vehicle before the term was even invented. Now, the fourth-generation 2014 model builds on that formula and advances it with improved performance, better fuel economy and more comfort.
By TOM STRONGMAN
Subaru owners are famously loyal because the Forester is adept at handling bad weather and country roads with ease. It’s the automotive equivalent of a hiking boot that looks good enough to be worn with dress clothes.
I drove a top-of-the-line 2.5i Touring and I was impressed with the features that one often finds on more expensive vehicles. Key among those was the EyeSight system that consists of stereo cameras that integrate adaptive cruise control, vehicle lane departure and pre-collision braking.
When the cruise control is on, the vehicle automatically adjusts its speed to maintain distance behind the car ahead. If that car slows dramatically, or stops, the Subaru will also slow or come to a complete stop without any input from the driver. In stop and go traffic, the Forester slows down and speeds up with the flow of traffic without the driver touching either the gas or brake. If the vehicle comes to a near stop, the driver has to take over and accelerate back up to speed.
The horizontally opposed, four-cylinder aluminum engine delivers 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. Often called a “boxer,” this flat configuration is similar to that of a Porsche 911 or an old air-cooled Volkswagen. One advantage is a low center of gravity that yields cornering stability.
Transmission choices include a six-speed manual or a new CVT automatic that Subaru calls Lineartronic. The CVT transmission is not my favorite, but Subaru has managed to make it operate more like a regular automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway.
All-wheel drive has been a staple of the Subaru brand for 35 years, and since 1997 all models are so equipped. The system on the Forester comes in two configurations, depending on the choice of transmission. Manual transmission models have a central differential that divides the power evenly between the front and rear wheels. If the front wheels slip, more power is sent to the rear, and vice versa.
The all-wheel-drive system used with the CVT is more variable. It “transfers power to the wheels with the most grip should slippage occur,” according to Subaru.
The turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0XT engine has 250 horsepower, and it is for those who want more power and fun than fuel economy.
The Forester is available in base, Premium, Limited and Touring versions. The turbocharged Forester 2.0XT is offered in Premium and Touring versions. Prices start at $21,995 and range to $32,995 for the 2.0XT Touring.
The new Forester is only fractionally larger than the old model, but the cabin has more space. Headroom is ample, the seats are nicely contoured and the rest of the interior is practical without being utilitarian.
The instrument panel has attractive textures and large gauges. A rearview camera is standard. The navigation system has a six-inch screen. Bluetooth, smartphone integration, audio streaming, text messaging capability and iPod compatibility are standard. XM satellite radio with traffic alerts is available by subscription.
The standard 60/40-split rear seat folds to provide a flat cargo floor. A double-wishbone rear suspension enables the cargo floor to be wider between the wheelhouses.
Standard safety equipment includes front, side and side-curtain airbags. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control are also standard.
The test car’s base price was $29,995. Options include keyless ignition, EyeSight and high-intensity headlights. The sticker price was $32,220.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com.