2019 Subaru Forester Touring Review

Bigger but not necessarily better


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Huge amounts of room, more rugged design, new EyeSight system is at the top of the heap for safety, top trim is nicely outfitted, easy to drive.
Negatives: Dog slow, unnecessarily tall, lower trims lack features, looks as if you've given up any notion of fun.
Bottom Line: The Forester is one of the most practical vehicles on the road. It's safe, roomy, easy to drive, and has solid in-car tech. Too bad it's boring to look at and boring to drive. Those who want AWD traction, great gas mileage, and serious cargo room will gravitate to it. Those who want a bit of driving fun should absolutely look elsewhere.
The Forester has come a long way in five generations. It's now much bigger, more sophisticated, and still truly safe and four-seasons capable. It's now big, more capacious than the Outback, and it looks like a real SUV instead of a tall wagon. There are a host of great standard features with regard to tech and safety, and the interior space has grown commendably. But has the Forester lost some of its cult mojo in favor or PTA likeability? We get that Subie had to adapt to the times, but something fun may have been sacrificed at the altar of appeal to the masses. We drove the top trim Touring for a week to see if the Forester has departed from its beloved past or one-upped itself by following the herd. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.8

 

The Subaru Forester isn't particularly fun to drive, and that's too bad because the XT from years ago was a blast of a crossover with its turbocharged boxer engine. The current Forester, however, is more of a people/gear hauler than anything else. While it maneuvers well in tight spots, acceleration at low speeds is oddly jerky.

Ride Quality: It absorbs bumps and pavement irregularities well. It's a comfortable ride thanks to a softer suspension setup.

Acceleration: To call it slow would be an understatement. It weighs almost 3,600 pounds and only has 182 horses. There's no turbocharging, so the torque numbers are paltry as well. It takes almost 10 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standstill, which feels almost geologic. The CVT doesn't help matters.

Braking: Braking distances are about average, and progression is good after the initial mushiness, but that initial vague travel is a bit disconcerting in emergency situations. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Steering: For a crossover, it's pretty responsive and precise but lacks feedback like most vehicles in its class. The Mazda CX-5 is far better in this regard.

Handling: For a tall vehicle, the Forester manages its height well. There's some body roll, but the Forester can handle weight shifts in turns decently.

Technology

6.9

 

The in-car tech in the Forester offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you don't need the nav system that's on higher trims. There's also onboard 4G LTE onboard Wi-Fi on all trims, too. Overall, it's a solid set of tech features, and the infotainment system works well, though it's not the easiest to use.

Infotainment System: The 8" color touchscreen is vivid and easy to read, but we think there are too many colors, and the menus take some getting used to. The top-mounted info screen is helpful for relevant car data, a nice addition.

Controls: Physical audio knobs and infotainment buttons are well-placed and well-sized. The steering wheel controls are also situated for easy operation while driving. HVAC control knobs are large and easy to read and to use. Subaru did a nice job of placement and size with their controls, unlike Toyota.

Styling

5.6

 

We think that with the size increase of the Forester over the past two generations, it's also become worse looking than previous generations. It's become too busy and overstyled for our liking. The more we see it, the less we like it.

Front: The fascia is bigger than ever and definitely more SUV-like, intentionally so. There's now too much chrome in the grille and the foglight housings, and it's just not as attractive as two generations ago.

Rear: Most of the rear fascia is decent, albeit pretty standard for crossovers/wagons. We like the roof spoiler and the contrasting faux diffuser. It's the taillights we hate. They look like bloody incisors ripped from the gums and laid sideways. Awful.

Profile: This is the Forester's best angle thanks to modest use of creases and contours. But with its tall profile and big wheel wells, it most definitely looks more like an SUV than a tall wagon.

Cabin: Our top trim tester with its perforated brown leather is classy (for a Subaru). It's one of the better-looking cabins but still lacks the fluidity of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. It's definitely more granola in a nice-boxy sort of way.

Comfort

8.4

 

The Forester has thankfully grown in size to accommodate tall adults in front and back, and there's way more headroom all around than is necessary. It's almost too tall in the upper regions to be of any use aside from taller cargo items or NBA players.

Front Seats: The leather is decently soft and seems high quality. The cushioning is just right, and there's enough lateral support to hold you in place in turns.

Rear Seats: Cushioning isn't as ample as the front seats, but they're comfortable enough for longer trips. Legroom and headroom for adults is very good.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Other than the annoying sound of the little four-cylinder being hammered to squeeze out power, the Forester is quiet and well-built.

Visibility: Here's one more areas where the Forester shines. The huge expanses of glass make for excellent visibility all around. You don't need to rely on cameras here.

Climate: The Forester's automatic climate control system is responsive and works quickly. The vents are big and move air well, but because the center vents are angled back from the display screen, you can't use the passenger center vent to cool/heat the driver, which is annoying.

Safety

9.3

 

The Forester is one of the safest mainstream vehicles on the road, which should be very reassuring for owners and their families. EyeSight and the DriverFocus suites of safety measures provide additional reassurance for Forester drivers.

IIHS Rating: It earns the Top Safety Pick+ thanks to "good" in all crash tests, "good" headlights, "good+" for excellent LATCH ease of use, and "superior" front crash prevention.

NHTSA Rating: Five stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: The impressive set of standard features includes automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. There's also a DriverFocus system that detects drowsiness and cues the driver to stay alert with visual and audible warnings.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

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Storage Space: The front row of the Forester presents solid storage options for small daily gear. there's a big open cubby in the center stack, sizable cupholders, and an armrest compartment to keep gear out of sight.

Cargo Room: The second row deploys via pushbutton and folds flat, leaving a huge 76.1 cubic feet of cargo space. That's impressive for a vehicle this size. It's larger than the Toyota RAV4 and even the bigger Mazda CX-9 in this configuration. With the second row seats in place, the Forester has 35.42 cubes, as much as the bigger Hyundai Santa Fe.

Fuel Economy

9

 

The Forester is very good when it comes to fuel efficiency, and it's geared that way due to the small displacement engine and CVT pairing. The performance suffers but the mileage truly benefits. Few crossovers do this well. We drove it hard and still got good numbers.

Observed: 25.7 mpg

Distance Driven: 233 miles

Audio

7.9

 

Our tester came standard with the upgraded Harmon Kardon system, which was very good, though not excellent. The system was clear and loud without distortion, but the bass seemed lacking. We haven't experienced the stock system.



Final Thoughts

The Forester is one of those vehicles thats very competent at what it needs to do. It's big inside, comfortable, is very easy to drive, and has solid tech and remarkable safety. It's basically an ideal family transporter, but it lacks any amount of verve in its personality, looks, and driving fun. We hope the brand brings back the turbo XT and decides to spend less time adding styling elements and more time making the Forester at least a little engaging. Never has a vehicle so uninspiring to drive scored so well in so many other categories.
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