2014 Subaru Forester XT HD Video Review
Live anywhere with rough roads or significant snowfall and the Subaru Forester is a common site. Forester has been the sensible shoes of the automotive world since it’s US debut in 1998. The faithful will spot the completely redone 2014 model, others will probably be oblivious to the familiar but refined silhouette. What’s most obvious here is that Subaru isn’t messing with success.
It is larger now, 1.4 inches longer, .6 inches wider to be exact. 2.0 XT models can be spotted by the more aggressive front fascia (the hood scoop is gone). Subaru boasts that they’ve carved out more interior space this time around.
What It Costs- Base model Foresters are powered by a normally aspirated 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder that makes 174 horsepower. Equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, it starts at a reasonable $22,820. Remember that Subaru’s unique Boxer engine lays deep in the engine bay for a low center of gravity. Do I even have to mention Symmetrical all-wheel drive is standard?
I’m testing the XT Premium model (MSRP $28,820 including destination), which is the basic trim grade of the higher-performance Forester (got that?). XT signifies a torquey 250 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo engine does the grunt work. It’s direct injected now. That and a standard continuously variable transmission boosts fuel economy to an EPA rated 23 city, 28 highway. I drove briskly this week for a 22 mpg average. Subaru specifies premium grade fuel for the 2.0T engine.
Playing In The Dirt- Forester has a good reputation when it comes to rugged duty so I’ve brought it to the famed DirtFish rally school in Snoqualmie, WA to spend some quality time with dirt roads, mud and undulations. This is a driver’s playground with all sort of conditions and instructors so good, they teach new skills to established stunt drivers.
Forester doesn’t disappoint. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the 2014 model can crawl over all sorts of terrain with little drama. CVT equipped Foresters get an active torque split all-wheel drive system that distributes power to the wheels with grip.
A new X-Mode optimizes the all-wheel drive system for more confidence and engages hill-decent control. I spent an hour or so on Dirt Fish’s back 40 motoring through soft dirt, deep puddles, moderate whoop de dos, and long muddy patches without breaking a sweat. It’s the kind of stuff Subie owners do and why they have a fiercely loyal following.
That said, I begin searching for DirtFish’s tougher stuff, and find it in a series of deep undulations partially filled with water. FYI, they’re more impressive in person than on video. Yes, Forester can handle them but with some slight rubbing, it’s about as rough as you’ll want to go. I scuffed up the underside of the front and rear fascias, the kind of thing most cars get running into those concrete blocks found in parking lots. I suspect these will be badges of honor for Subaru owners. Forester is not a Jeep Wrangler and not meant to be one, but it should do what most sane owners will ask of it, and probably more.
Fun On Road Too- Most miles will be on pavement and despite the squarish shape there’s not much wind noise at highway speeds. It’s also noticeably quieter than Subarus of the past. Visibility is excellent. All tires get grip and XT’s turbo launches Forester briskly and securely.
0-60 spools up in under 6.5 seconds. Don’t let the practical box look fool you, Forester XT is surprisingly fun to drive. It’s closest rival being Mazda’s slightly smaller CX-5. Electric power steering doesn’t offer gobs of feedback but feels better than most.
Forester’s suspension (revised in the rear) is set on the soft side of firm, appreciated when traveling on rough roads. The new XT gets a sportier suspension tuning than standard non-turbo models but it remains comfortable.
Subaru’s continuously variable transmission has simulated gearshifts. “Si Drive” buttons on the steering wheel do a decent impression of six and eight-speed transmission feels (plus it alters throttle response). It does keep some of the rubbery dynamic that CVTs are known for. Also, like many modern gearboxes, it’s programmed to quickly search out higher ratios for better fuel economy. Occasionally it sounds bogged down a little, again, like others.
The Great Indoors- Inside Subaru has stepped up its game with soft touch materials for the instrument panel. Silver painted trim keeps the ambience conservative and sensible. The door panels get brushed aluminum accents with perforated panels that look richer than the dashboard. Cloth and leatherette seats are comfortable, generously bolstered and have whiplash protection.
A small screen on the top of the IP houses a back up camera, turbo boost and throttle position info, driving efficiency graphics, and a readout that shows which wheels are getting power plus the steering angle of the front wheels.
The large glass roof is the next best thing to having a convertible. I’m not too crazy about the nav and sound system’s user interface with its small buttons and icons. The sound is fine for NPR listeners, audiophiles will want more. On the positive side, hook up a smartphone and there’s Aha radio to stream music, podcasts and more.
Hip To Be Square- Forester’s boxy shape allows for generous room in the back seat and Subaru engineers managed to lower the profile of the driveshaft tunnel a few inches. There’s plenty of leg, knee, foot and headroom for six-footers. There’s storage in the doors and a handy dandy armrest with cupholders. No power port or adjustable vents though.
Cargo space? The champion in this class is the Honda CR-V that somehow swallows up 12 packs in the TP trunk test. Foresters squared off dimensions offers up a lot of space- nearly 62 cubic feet with the seats down- but it still can’t match the Honda. With the rear seat usable, the Subie fills up with 10 packs of the two-ply (not 9 as the video says) but understand that there’s a good amount of room for a medium sized dog to lounge (do I know my Subaru demographic or what). There’s storage for small stuff under the load floor and a spare tire beneath that. There are also the expected tie-downs, bag hooks and power port.
Show restraint with the option boxes and the Subaru Forester XT is a frisky friend that will go nearly anyplace you want. Loaded with keyless ignition, leather interior and Subaru’s EyeSight system (that integrates adaptive cruise, pre-collision braking and lane departure) and the price zooms up past 35 grand. That’ll buy a lot of gorp and hiking boots. Forester’s familiar design might not get your attention but the capability and refinements will.