The Subaru Forester consistently earns praise from critics.
The current Forester has been named the top small SUV in 2017 by Consumer Reports. It achieves a level of technological advancement that makes it safer and a better performer than before, especially in the top-tier 2.0XT Touring model tested for this review.
On the performance front, the 2.0XT comes with a 250-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 258 pound-feet of torque. Its horizontally opposed design (also called a boxer, flat or pancake configuration), in which the cylinders lie flat on both sides of the crankshaft, contributes to a lower center of gravity that aids handling.
All-wheel drive is standard, and the power gets to the wheels through an innovative continuously variable automatic transmission with three modes.
In the Intelligent mode, for routine driving chores, the CVT multiplies the engine’s torque without shift points. For sharper performance, two additional shift modes — Sport and Sport Sharp — can be controlled by paddles on the steering wheel.
Shift into Sport and the transmission mimics the shift points of a six-speed automatic transmission for quicker response. Sport Sharp takes it one level better with eight gear levels. Both the six- and eight-speed modes operate automatically or manually with the paddles.
Handling is enhanced by brake-activated torque vectoring that more precisely points the Forester around curves. The suspension system soaks up softer bumps, but the ride on rough roads gets choppy.
On the safety side, the tested Forester 2.0XT arrived with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver-assist features. They include adaptable cruise control, which automatically maintains a set distance from the car ahead; pre-collision braking, which will stop the vehicle if it detects an imminent collision; lane-departure warning and mitigation, which steers a wandering vehicle back into its lane; reverse automatic braking if an object is detected; rear cross-traffic alert; sway warning; automatic headlight high beams; and blind-spot warning (superfluous if the outside mirrors are adjusted properly).
A couple of aids will assist with modest off-roading: hill descent control, which maintains downhill speeds at 12 miles an hour or less; and pushbutton-activated X-Mode, which reduces wheel slip by automatically adjusting engine and transmission responses below 18 miles an hour.
With its tall, somewhat boxy construction, the Forester delivers plenty of passenger and cargo space. Head room inside is generous enough for 10-gallon hats, and the tall windows provide excellent visibility.
Though the rear seat backs fold flat, they do not line up with the cargo floor. But there’s a generous 32 cubic feet of space for cargo behind the seat backs (which grows to 69 cubic feet when the seats are flipped down).
Pricing starts at $22,595 for the base model. The 2.0XT starts at $35,170 and, with navigation system, the Eyesight driver assistance and Subaru’s Starlink roadside assistance services, had a tested price of $36,765.