If Subaru were a surfer dude, then it’d be riding the crest of a very big wave. And the 2019 Forester would likely keep it there.
The redesigned compact crossover sport utility vehicle, now in its fourth generation, arrives with more streamlined and sophisticated styling, as well as a host of new features.
Built on a new global platform that also underpins the Ascent, Impreza, and Crosstrek, the Forester delivers improved access for passengers and cargo, a new engine and transmission combination with automatic idle stop/start for improved fuel economy, additional safety measures, and standard all-wheel drive.
Except for the company’s rear-drive BRZ sports coupe, developed with Toyota, all Subaru cars and crossover SUVs put the power to the ground with all four wheels. The Forester doesn’t have the off-road credentials of muscular Jeeps and Land Rovers. But it can handle foul weather conditions and moderately challenging terrain, especially on versions with X-Mode, which includes hill descent control.
Five trim levels are available, starting with the $25,270 Base, followed by the $27,070 Premium, new $29,770 Sport, $31,770 Limited, and $35,270 Touring. Prices include the $975 destination charge.
All Foresters come with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes pre-collision throttle management and braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist with lane departure and sway warning.
The tested Sport model came with a $2,045 option package that included blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, and a power rear tailgate with pushbutton closing and adjustable open height.
The package also included Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen, premium Harman Kardon audio, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and SXM satellite radio. It brought the Sport’s bottom-line price to $31,815.
Power surges from a newly engineered 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb.-ft. of torque with city/highway/combined fuel consumption of 26/33/29 miles to the gallon.
It is mated to Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable automatic transmission. CVTs ordinarily multiply torque seamlessly without shift points. However, on the Forester Sport, the CVT incorporates a computer-generated seven-speed manual shift mode with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Under hard acceleration in automatic mode, it also mimics a conventional automatic’s upshifts.
The Forester is equipped with a system called SI-Drive that allows the driver to select throttle characteristics for fuel economy (“intelligent”) or maximum performance (“sport”), called “sport sharp” on the Sport trim.
The horizontally opposed engine, also called a boxer or flat engine, results in a lower center of gravity, which contributes to more secure road-holding and handling.
As a vehicle that is oriented toward small families and adventuresome singles, the new Forester is designed to be both practical and comfortable. The rear doors are wider than before and swing open nearly 90 degrees for adults to easily step in. Also, the cargo area, with 33 cubic feet of space, has an opening more than 43 inches wide and 32 inches high for ease of loading large objects. Fold the rear seatbacks flat and the space expands to 71 cubic feet.
Though not a racer, the Forester Sport’s suspension tuning and performance-oriented wheels and tires, aided by brake-engaged torque vectoring, enhance handling on curving roads. At highway speeds, it tracks true and is quiet except for some intrusion of engine noise.
The ride is compliant on all but the roughest roads and the Sport comes with supportive front seats upholstered in sturdy and comfortable cloth.
One caution to note: If the driver inadvertently shuts down the engine with the transmission in “drive,” the Forester will roll away. If that happens on many other vehicles, the transmission automatically shifts to “park.” Even at that, the Forester is a highly desirable vehicle and a staunch competitor in the compact crossover class.
Since its introduction in 1997, it has totaled sales of 1.8 million, with many owners keeping them beyond expected trade-in times. As a company, Subaru has been uncommonly successful, one of a few manufacturers that thrived despite the recession of a decade ago. In the last nearly seven years, it has had 81 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth.