The Subaru Forester is a sensible vehicle in the crossover segment that’s gone crazy for flash and drama. The fourth-generation Forester is a simple recipe of utility, style and above all, function. The 2017 model has been given a significant “midcycle refresh.”
On the outside, there is a new grille, bumper and headlights. Interior updates include more soundproofing — thicker door glass and restructured door seals to reduce wind noise, underfloor insulation and an acoustic windshield.
The Forester has two four-cylinder engine choices and a six-speed manual transmission (on entry trim levels) or a continuously variable automatic transmission. The base 2.5-liter engine has 170 horsepower with fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city, 28 highway and 24 mpg combined on 87-octane fuel. The CVT raises mileage to 26/32/28 mpg. The turbocharged and direct-injection 2.0-liter engine has 250 horsepower and mileage ratings of 23/27/25 mpg on the recommended premium fuel.
Sold in four trim levels, starting prices range from $23,470 to $35,170, including the $875 freight charge from Gunma, Japan. All Foresters — and all Subarus — are all-wheel drive. I tested a top-line Forester 2.0XT Touring, which has a starting price of $35,170; with the Navigation and EyeSight safety package for $1,595, the sticker was $36,765.
The 2.0-liter engine with twin-scroll turbo gives brisk acceleration with no turbo delay. And the CVT is quick to keep up with the power demands. The manual mode simulates the shift points of an eight-speed transmission.
The standard all-wheel drive will be a non-issue for those who may think they don’t need it. There is little impact on fuel economy, the car’s turning circle is tight at 34.8 feet, and the traction is always reassuring. The Subaru system continuously powers all four wheels and will transfer torque to the wheels with the best grip.
Subaru says that the 2.0XT Touring has the highest level of luxury ever in a Forester, including an option for Saddle Brown perforated leather-trimmed upholstery with contrast stitching. The Touring’s standard equipment includes a heated steering wheel (a first for Forester), a 10-way power driver’s seat, high-intensity headlights that turn with the steering wheel and smart-key locking and push-button ignition.
The Touring also gets larger disc brakes. There are 12.4-inch vented front discs and 10.9-inch rear discs — up from 11.6-inch vented discs and 10.8-inch solid discs with the 2.5-liter engine.
The interior is off-the-charts smart for a vehicle in this size class. There is big-and-tall headroom of 40 inches with the moonroof, or 41.4 inches without. Legroom is long at 43 inches.
The driver controls are centrally positioned with three large knobs for temperature and fan selections. The touchscreen is an easy read for access to the map, audio, phone, apps and other vehicle settings.
I like the simple hand-brake lever at the shifter console. There is a handy storage area with a 12-volt plug ahead of the shifter, but I wished for a USB port there, too. There is a USB and audio port in the center armrest console with a sliding top.
There’s also PIN-code access that allows the Forester to be locked without using the remote fob, which will be handy for runners, bikers and hikers who don’t want to stuff a key in their pocket. Use the keypad on the rear hatch to set your personal five-digit code to lock and unlock the vehicle.
Sightlines are completely open across the hood and over the shoulder. Large visors have extenders and mirrors that are covered but not lighted. There is a hefty driver footrest, and the front seats (with perforated centers) are firm but comfortable and supportive for the daily commute.
Storage areas include a large and lighted glove box. The door storage will accommodate tall bottles. The doors open wide for easy access and have padded armrests and a sturdy grab handle ideally placed for leverage.
The back-seat area has good footroom and a low center tunnel for more spacious three-across seating. The seat bottom has enough length for adult thigh support, and there is a fold-down padded armrest with cup holders. The seatback has no recline, but the angle is comfortable.
The squared-off cargo area is great for gear, but the ceiling may be low to roll in a tall bicycle. The seats fold (and are light to push back into position), but there is a ridge between the cargo space, and the folded seatbacks could be an issue for car camping.
The Forester is a complete package of utility, enjoyable drivability and smart attention to detail..
Mark Maynard is online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage