Ah, Subaru. While the company has made great strides in going mainstream over the past few years, they still are not quite on the radar for the casual car buyer, who cannot be bothered to think about cars. You buy a Subaru because you seek one out. Sure, the easy thing is to just walk into a Honda or Toyota showroom, but even as Subaru is losing its quirkiness and expanding their appeal, their legion of fans remain loyal. I should know, I have relatives who have owned Subaru’s for nearly thirty years. And I get the appeal. My cousin taught me how to drive a stick shift in his 1976 Subaru wagon, which was an absolute riot to drive. Tall and narrow, we would navigate completely unmarked trails at the local park with nary a problem. Light blue with a blue plaid and vinyl interior, I was smitten with that car, and I wanted it badly, but by the time I was of driving age rust had taken its toll on the old girl.
So I had to smile when a 2014 Marine Blue Pearl Forester was dropped off to me, which has been redesigned for this year. Sadly, without a matching plaid interior. Yes, it is far more refined than the old ’76 Subie, but is the modern iteration of the tall, narrow wagon, or should I say crossover. What I miss about Subaru’s are their endearing but dorky looks. To the casual observer, this could be any car. Subaru has never been a company that looks to seek attention to itself, or be flashy, but the stylists took conservative styling to an extreme. Yes, it is a fine looking car, but what it lacks identity and character, qualities that were once the hallmark of Subaru.
Subaru is known for their utility, and the interior of the Forester continues that tradition. Yes, it’s a little short on style, but that isn’t the point here. What we do have is a roomy interior with an impressive amount of cargo space. Finding a comfortable driving position is simple enough, and most of the main controls are intuitive to use. Unfortunately, our test car’s navigation and infotainment system was frustrating to use, and lags behind the competition. Selecting the SiriusXM satellite radio station you want should not have to be that hard. So, if you are in the market for a Forester, skip the high-end options, you will be much happier for it.
The new Forester is available with a choice of two engines, the first a 2.5L boxer four rated at 170hp, and a 2.0L turbo boxer four rated at 250hp. Of course, all Foresters are all-wheel drive. Base 2.5 Foresters can be had with a six-speed manual, but once you move up to higher trim levels, a Continuously Variable Transmission is your only choice. A manual tranny is not available with the turbocharged engine. Acceleration around town is adequate, the ride is comfortable enough, steering a bit numb-but the same can be said for most four cylinder small crossovers. The Subaru does the job it is supposed to do, but you never forget you are driving an appliance. Even the Subie’s signature boxer four’s engine note is muted. To quote, isn’t that what makes a Subaru a Subaru? The Garage are no fans of the mooing CVT transmissions which extracts all the joy out of driving, but buyers will no doubt appreciate the 24/32 MPG city/highway EPA fuel economy figures.
The Forester is available in six different trim levels. Our test car was the 2.5i Touring, the top-spec for for the base non-turbo engine. Standard equipment includes 17″ alloys, panoramic sunroof, dual zone auto climate control, 6.1″ LCD touch screen control panel with Navigation, Bluetooth, Harmon Kardon audio with HD radio and XMSirius satellite radio, power driver’s seat, power rear lift gate, leather interior, and heated front seats. Our test car added an option package which included keyless access and start, EyeSight Driver Assist, Pre-Collision braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and pre-collision throttle management system and HID headlights, which are some pretty high-end tech items for such a modest CUV. All in, our Forester has an MSRP of $33,220USD. This is on the high end of the compact CUV price scale, but not a bad value for having the latest in high-tech safety features.
For sure, it was impossible to not recall my fond memories of my cousin’s beloved ’76 Subie, and as I watched the Forester drive off, again, I smiled having lived with a light blue, tall Subaru wagon. Yes, it still has the basic elements that make a Subaru a Subaru, chiefly a boxer engine, all-wheel drive, a no-nonsense interior and plenty of utility. What it lacks from Subaru’s of yore is that quirky character, but Subaru will quickly point out to me how much their sales have improved since they went mainstream. And they would also likely counter if it turned off their previous customers? To answer that, Subaru would also point out my cousin just bought a Subaru XV CrossTrek. His wife has a new Outback. And their son has a new Legacy. Question answered Subaru, carry on.