Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L Turbo Boxer 4-Cyl
Power:
250 HP / 258 LB-FT
Transmission:
CVT
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
23 City / 28 HWY
A Weekend Away With Subaru's New Crossover



My trip was so quick, I didn't even realize I was in Tokyo. Arrive Friday, drive Saturday and head home on Sunday. That's a brutal, sleep-depriving, time-zone-crimping turnaround, but I was game, because the 2014 Subaru Forester is an important product. In fact, in the last 15 years or so, it's arguably become the heart of the Japanese automaker's American range in our crossover-crazed nation.

Subaru had arranged a whirlwind tour to give a handful of journalists, including Autoblog, a chance to see, hear, touch and drive the new Forester before it goes on sale overseas this month. American dealers won't see this CUV until early next year, and we won't even get our first view of it in the metal and undisguised until the LA Auto Show in two weeks – we were only afforded a brief drive in disguised prototypes, so more in-depth impressions will have to wait until we have more time with the car.

Unbeknownst to Subaru, though, I was probably one of the few people it didn't want driving its new model – especially with jet lag. After all, I find the current Forester overrated and underpowered. Yes, it comes with a unique boxer engine, all-wheel-drive capability and hippies in sandals touting Subaru love, but still I detest it in all nine factory colors. Its oversized greenhouse, gangly stance and the tacked-on hood scoop on the turbocharged model has never sat well with me. To me, the Forester has always been a vehicle never quite done.

With this fourth-generation model, though, there are a slew of improvements that promise to make the Forester more palatable from looks to performance, though the addition of a new Continuous Variable Transmission on the spec sheet did cause me some consternation as I approached the Forester for the first time.
2014 Subaru Forester driving

It can't be overstated: This vehicle is essential to Subaru's success. It represents about 25 percent of the marque's total sales. Here in the US, 22 percent of all Subarus sold this year have been Foresters – only the Outback outsells it. So it's gotta be good – really good in view of some of the mushrooming segment's newest competitors.

Its center of gravity is lower, a neat engineering trick considering the roof has been raised.

Like most redesigned vehicles, the Forester has increased in size with this latest generation. Engineers have made its track 0.8-inches wider, broadened its wheelbase by an inch and expanded overall length by 1.4 inches. It has even grown taller by over an inch. Despite this, Subaru has lowered the vehicle's center of gravity, a neat engineering trick considering the roof has been raised.

Overall, these changes may seem minute, but they all play a role over the road, helping to give the Forester a stable, well-planted ride. That's not necessarily the sexiest compliment a vehicle can garner, but it's a seriously important attribute in this segment – and besides, a good ride is a good ride.

2014 Subaru Forester driving2014 Subaru Forester driving2014 Subaru Forester driving

Unseen developments have had a big impact on quality of life inside the Subaru, too – additional insulators stuffed in more nooks and crannies do a lot to quell noise, vibration and harshness. One reason for my longstanding dislike of the outgoing Forester has been the unfortunate "hollow" sound that echoes throughout its cabin when driving on concrete roads. Those unpleasant noises will be eaten up by all of the sound-deadening materials now on board with this new model. Before, the Forester was like a Capitol Hill echo chamber full of useless din that only left this driver with a headache.

Subaru readily agrees this model changeover is more evolution than revolution.

Also helping to eliminate unwanted squeaks and rattles, Subaru says it has improved the Forester's torsional rigidity by a whopping 150 percent, a fact most noticeable when we were taken over an off-road course with a professional driver. Even sliding through gravel and traversing big rocks, the Forester felt compliant and sure-footed, (though, admittedly, I wasn't behind the wheel).

Looking back and forth between new and old models, you can see they're different, but it's more difficult to point out exactly where the changes are on each vehicle. Look closer. Subaru readily agrees this model changeover is more evolution than revolution – an admission that reminds us of what Honda officials say when they rolled out their redesigned-for-2012 Civic. But unlike that car, which was universally thumped for decontenting, the Forester shows more maturity. It's grown up – it's not a cheaper version of itself, it's a better one.

2014 Subaru Forester grille2014 Subaru Forester headlight2014 Subaru Forester wheel2014 Subaru Forester badge

The hood adds a few crinkles, the headlamps have been replaced, the roofline has been reshaped with more slope to the back glass, all to make the Forester look sleeker to both onlookers and the wind. But the changes go beyond the superficial. The A-pillar has been pushed out by an inch, making the windshield a little steeper, resulting in improved visibility.

The turbocharged model loses its trademark hood scoop, also providing better aero.

The turbocharged model loses its trademark hood scoop, also providing better aero. The loss of the top-mount intake is likely to jar some of the brand's faithful, but I think it's a big improvement. Curiously, this dramatic change on the outside didn't require moving the intercooler from atop the engine where it used to be fed by the scoop. Instead, Subaru just reworked the plumbing so air now comes to it from the front grille.

Other changes to the Forester's exterior include doors that extend down over the frame, with rocker panels now incorporated into the bottom of the doors. The reasoning behind this was simple: It makes it possible for drivers to enter and exit without getting their pant legs muddy from rubbing up against a dirty sill. Again, it's the maturity of this decision I appreciate. Sure, spinning tires through the dirt and ice is fun, but some of us still have to go to work without chunks of dried mud on our pants.

2014 Subaru Forester engine

While the base Forester comes with the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine that produces 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque, Subaru has added some fun with its new 2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged four cylinder. The latter ups the ponies under the hood from 224 horsepower on the outgoing engine to 250 and 258 pound-feet.

I quickly forgot that the turbocharged Forester even had a CVT.

The base model is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or the aforementioned CVT. The turbocharged model gets either a six-speed manual or CVT with paddle shifters offering eight "speeds." I'll admit right here to hating CVTs. I understand their usefulness in reaching higher fuel mileage numbers, something every automaker must strive for these days. But their shiftless driving and constant whining under load are loathsome.

And true to CVT form, when I took the base model with the pulley transmission around Subaru's double top secret test track, I kept waiting for the Forester to explode. It never did, but the whine of the engine on our preproduction test mule was disappointing. The acceleration was smooth and quick, but the sound didn't match up to the drive because the transmission would find the most efficient point in the powerband and then just stay there. It's unnerving. I'd opt for the manual every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

2014 Subaru Forester interior2014 Subaru Forester front seats2014 Subaru Forester rear seats

That said, I've also never liked programmed artificial shift points added to CVTs, they've always felt artificial. However, Subaru seems to have gotten it right. While the turbocharged model already starts out with the benefit of 80 more horses, the programmed-in shift points feel natural and direct. I hate to admit it, but I quickly forgot that the turbocharged Forester even had a CVT.

Get inside and you'll instantly see, feel and touch the improvements.

Subaru says that the new turbo four can perform nearly as well on regular gasoline, but it still recommends using premium fuel if you want to get everything out of it. Additionally, Subaru estimates that the base Forester will achieve 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The turbocharged model will hit 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Both are improvements over the outgoing models, figures that put Subaru squarely among the leaders in the compact crossover segment.

Get inside and you'll instantly see, feel and touch the improvements. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the outgoing Forester was its lackluster interior. Thankfully, the new model's accommodations are most impressive. First of all, there's simply more interior space. By stretching and widening the body, the interior has gotten bigger. That space is well used, and the entire environment just looks and feels better. Instead of hard plastics at every sharp corner, there are soft touch points for your elbows. Both rows of seats have been rebuilt from the frame out and they're comfortable. Even the steering wheel feels more substantial. There are additional nice touches all over, including a rebuilt center stack that has good flow from top to bottom and a small screen between the gauges that provides additional driver information. In addition, Subaru has added Harmon Kardon premium audio and Aha radio integration.

2014 Subaru Forester rear 3/4 view

Really, the interior feels and looks much more grown up throughout. From its fold-flat second row to available options like a power height-adjustable liftgate and Subaru's new EyeSight safety system (it manages high tech safety features including adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system), the Forester never left us feeling like we were missing anything.

the steering weight was firm and I was pleasantly surprised how well the tires keep the Forester planted in corners.

It's difficult to comment authoritatively on the new Forester's ride and handling. My time with it didn't amount to much more than a few laps on an oval track and a couple of laps on a curvy dynamic test circuit. For whatever it's worth, the steering weight was firm and I was pleasantly surprised how well the tires keep the Forester planted in corners. Its body never twisted or leaned too hard during aggressive cornering, and the all-wheel drive built confidence. Acceleration was quick enough to provide a few giggles, but that's not really the purpose of vehicles like this, right?

For its intended uses like driving kids to school, daily commutes, grocery runs and weekend getaways, the new Forester should perform admirably. Judging by our brief rendezvous in Japan, it's a good ride through and through. And even though our trip was short, this Subaru proved it was well worth the ride.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 159 Comments
      Jeremy Pennini
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Subaru had to relocate the intercooler from the top of the engine to the front, requiring subtle differences on the Forester's face to accommodate the intercooler." The intercooler is clearly visible in the image below this statement. It hasn't moved at all! WTF?
        Jeremy Pennini
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jeremy Pennini
        The only reason I'm reading this article is to find out how Subaru is piping air in to the intercooler, and all I find is an obviously false statement? What the hell?
          Doug Utz
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jeremy Pennini
          It indeed is a top mount intercooler, but now ductwork from the upper portion of the grille feeds air into it, eliminating the hood scoop. The article isn't very clear, that's for sure.
        454
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jeremy Pennini
        I noticed that, get your facts straight AB...
      STi135iM3
      • 2 Years Ago
      Call me crazy, but that still looks like an intercooler sitting on top of the engine. My guess is that they've done what Mazda did with the MS3 and have a "built in hoodscoop" so to speak on the bottom side of the hood that funnels are into the intercooler
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @STi135iM3
        Mazda did, the first gen MS3, and MS6 had a similar setup. Even the second gen MS3 has the same routing going on, but to a lesser extent since it has an actual hood scoop.
        foxtrot685
        • 2 Years Ago
        @STi135iM3
        Yeah I noticed that as well, unless that engine shot is of another engine in another Subaru vehicle. This article really seems rushed for some reason.
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      ok.. nice work..... but... tell me more about how: "The turbocharged model loses its trademark hood scoop, also providing better aero. The loss of the top-mount intake is likely to jar some of the brand's faithful, but I think it's a big improvement. This dramatic change on the outside necessitated one on the inside, as well: Subaru had to relocate the intercooler from the top of the engine to the front, requiring subtle differences on the Forester's face to accommodate the intercooler." you can plainly see the intercooler sitting atop the engine in the photo immediately following this obvious misunderstanding / misinformation ....
        SurfWRaX
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Yeah, covered below in an earlier comment. Sounds like the author drove something different than the press shots show.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        "This dramatic change on the outside necessitated one on the inside, as well: Subaru had to relocate the intercooler from the top of the engine to the front, requiring subtle differences on the Forester's face to accommodate the intercooler." specifically this part... seems all wrong... 1) on the inside?? you mean beneath the hood? 2) the intercooler has obviously not been relocated to the front, only the duct has, to the front grill...
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        "This dramatic change on the outside necessitated one on the inside, as well: Subaru had to relocate the intercooler from the top of the engine to the front, requiring subtle differences on the Forester's face to accommodate the intercooler." 1) what change to the inside? do you been beneath the hood? 2) the intercooler has obviously not been relocated ; only the duct has.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        @scott burgess
      NB
      • 2 Years Ago
      The article is wrong about the front mount intercooler. The intercooler is still top mount. The shape of the hood acts like a reversed hood scoop, air pushes through the grill - over the engine and top mount intercooler - and out the top of the hood near the windshield.
        Hazdaz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NB
        So its like the hood on the old Mazdaspeed 6? If so, I foresee the BRZ STI getting a similar hood.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Hazdaz
          [blocked]
          XT6Wagon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Hazdaz
          SVXpearlie, there is plenty of room on the BRZ for a turbo. Its already got its spot picked out under the crank pulley like all the other recent turbo subarus. Then either a FMIC or a Air/water intercooler and bamn, done with minimal piping and don't have to mess with the hood at all.
        Kwijiboz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @NB
        So air enters through the grill, gets warmed up passing through the radiator, swirls around the hot engine before heading to the top of the bay (where it's hottest?) before finally getting cooled? Cool.
      godwhomismike
      • 2 Years Ago
      I had a 2009 Forester XT Limited, which I leased in summer 2008. That lease matured in summer 2011, and at that time I got the 2011 Kia Sportage SX, because there were no changes to the Forester since I first leased the redesigned '09 model. I will tell you this, the second this lease matures, I am getting the 2014 Subaru Forester XT. Seems like all of my issues with the '09 have been addressed. Anything is better than a 4 speed auto, so I will be happy with a CVT with 8 simulated gear ratios and paddle shifters. The audio system in the '09 (even upgraded with the navi and subwoofer) sounded worse than my junk store alarm clock radio. The interior looks a lot better. Looks like it is loaded with features. Power. The 2009 XT had no low end torque at all. 226 lb ft in 2009, now it's 258 lb ft. Also, all of that torque is now available at 1900 rpm instead of the 2800 rpm in the outgoing model. In real world driving, you definitely notice that. My Sportage SX makes it's 269 lb ft of torque at 1850 rpm, and that was immediately noticeable when I first drove it. Fuel Economy. I know the '09 XT was rated for 19 city and 24 highway. I never saw above 19.8 mpg in my day to day driving, which consisted of a lot of highway and mountain driving. I routinely see about 23-25 mpg in my Sportage SX. The fact that the '14 FXT is rated for 23 city and 28 highway is a major welcome for me.
      foxtrot685
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like it. A lot more than I thought I would. I like the design direction and it does look like more of a substantial vehicle. The hood scoop will be missed by me but this design looks more modern. One question, the article mentions that the intercooler is now at the front of the vehicle but the engine photo shows it at the top of the engine, as usual? Which is it?
        Chris Bangle
        • 2 Years Ago
        @foxtrot685
        I think he meant the ducting to the intercooler. It used to be on hood and now it comes from the front just under the hood.
        russiarulez
        • 2 Years Ago
        @foxtrot685
        Yeah was wondering the same thing about the intercooler being on top in the photos?
      Jesse Lamb
      • 2 Years Ago
      So Jalopnik says only the CVT is available on the Turbo, but Autoblog says you can choose either the 6 speed manual, or CVT with paddle shifters. Who is wrong here? Jalopnik: For the 2.5, you can pick between a 6-speed manual and CVT, and the CVT is the only transmission for the Turbo 2.0. Autoblog: The base model is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or the aforementioned CVT. The turbocharged model gets either a six-speed manual or CVT with paddle shifters offering eight "speeds".
        oRenj9
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jesse Lamb
        As much as I would like to see another turbo, row-your-own Forester, I don't think we will.
      fivegear
      • 2 Years Ago
      I sure hope that isn't a typo stating that it will be available with the turbo AND the stick shift!
      Mazdaspeed6
      • 2 Years Ago
      intercooler is still top mounted. Its visible RIGHT THERE in the picture of the hood. A mazdaspeed6 also has a top mounted intercooler and no hood scoop. Air flows under the hood rather than through.
      Anubis
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like the brand but I miss the smaller versions of this car; it is too large now. Maybe an improved version of the Impreza will suffice.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Anubis
        [blocked]
      fivegear
      • 2 Years Ago
      I sure hope that isn't a typo, would be great to have the turbo model AND be a stick shift!!
      Rental Rep
      • 2 Years Ago
      Forester, looks more like a FORDester amirite? guys...?
        carguy1701
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rental Rep
        Swing and a miss, kid.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rental Rep
        IMHO , no.
        waetherman
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rental Rep
        It does bear some resemblance to the new Escape. Most of these CUVs are starting to look very similar.
          Rental Rep
          • 2 Years Ago
          @waetherman
          From the A-pillar back definitely resembles the Ford, but as you mentioned, they all look simular now. Why all the downvotes? No one likes corny jokes they dont agree with any more?
    • Load More Comments
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