I remember my first time being in a Subaru Forester. My cousin’s mom had bought a first generation Forester back in 1997 as a 1998 model, and it was now handed down to him to use when he first got his license, and all I could think of was it’s like a wagon, but so much cooler. It was gray with gray interior, and so much fun, even though it was only the NA version with 165hp it was still a hoot to toss it around.
While the days of the wagonesque Forester are long gone, the spirit that it had is still very present. The Forester XT lost its manual transmission back in 2008 which was a sad loss, and it also became more of an SUV instead of a wagon. To the enthusiast, this was a sad day, but to Subaru and other non-enthusiats it was the day that the Forester became a true SUV.
The 2014 Subaru Forester XT fixes pretty much everything that was wrong with the 2008-2013 model. Gone is the ancient 4-speed automatic, and instead it comes with a brand new CVT as well as a new 2.0l turbo engine. The new engine now employs direct injection and comes with 250hp and 258ft-lbs of torque, up 24hp and 22ft-lbs. Not bad for an engine with smaller displacement. Thanks to the smaller displacement as well as direct injection the new turbo engine achieves a very respectable 28mpg highway/23mpg city. I averaged about 26mpg’s with mixed city/highway driving, which was very good for an AWD SUV with this much power.
While it didn’t feel as sporty as that first generation Forester XT with a manual transmission, it was still plenty quick. Steering is controlled electronically, which usually suffers from numb feedback, but steering felt more direct and less numb than other electronic steering racks that I’ve been in. Ride comfort was pretty good for an SUV. It was pretty quiet on most roads and highways and was able to absorb thuds and thumps pretty well, while still retaining the sporty feel. Thanks to the slightly stiffer suspension available on the XT, body roll was fairly minimal, but you could still feel its height when taking turns at an increased speed. I’d say if you really wanted it to handle a little better, slap on some high performance summer tires, and you should have a little bit more control in the corners, but for the most part it’s more of a family SUV that can have a bit more fun than most SUV’s(CVT limited).
About that CVT, I’m not a fan of any CVT, but I would have to say Subaru has done a fine job of making this not feel as much of a CVT as possible. Acceleration is smooth and linear and has some “shift” points so it doesn’t seem as whiney as others, and if you put it into sport# mode and play with the paddle shifters it gives you the feel that you’re shifting an 8-speed dual-clutch. Not bad considering its still just a CVT.
Interior quality is good. I mean it’s still a Subaru, so its more functional than it is luxurious, but the materials that are used were nice to touch, aside from a few plastic pieces here and there. Seats were supportive and very comfortable, but I wish they had a little better side bolstering, as well as a little longer seat bottoms. You can tell that these seats were designed more for the American market, rather than the smaller bodied Japanese market. While this is not a huge SUV, it felt plenty big inside. All passengers had ample room, and did not feel cramped, even with the seat all the way back you could fit a rear-facing carseat. Seating position was phenomenal and gave you great views all around the car. It felt like you were in a giant greenhouse as there were minimal blind spots.
The Forester has been Motor Trends SUV of the year twice, one being the 2014 winner, and Car & Driver’s Best Small SUV winner 3 times, and it’s clear why that is. It’s a great package which can suit the many needs of someone looking to buy an SUV. It’s fun, quirky, quick and sporty if you want it to be and affordable. To add to that great list, it’s also one of the safest vehicles on the road by earning the IIHS Top Saftey Pick+ rating. So if you’re considering an SUV and don’t need a third row, I suggest starting with the Forester at the top of the list, and compare to your other options to make your decision. Mine would still land on the Forester.