Design tweaks and the move to Subaru's Global Platform bring a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase and 1.4 more inches of rear legroom. Occupants up front sit in new, more comfortable seats and enjoy more space in the center tunnel thanks to an electronic parking brake. In back, wider rear door openings and a steeper C-pillar allow easier ingress.
The tailgate opening increases by 5.3 inches in width, onto a squarer cargo area with a flatter floor and a standard cargo tray. An interior LED illuminates the load bay when the tailgate's open, an exterior floodlight shines outside the rear of the crossover. Lower the rear seats and access 76.1 cubic feet of loading room, 1.9 cu. ft. more than before. The carmaker says you can put golf bags in the car sideways without needing to tilt them, an arcane, yet commendable, achievement.
A trim shakeup adds a new variant, the lineup being Base, Premium, Limited, Touring, and a new Sport model. Base and Premium ride on 17-inch wheels, the others get 18-inchers. All Foresters are powered by an "enhanced" version of the present 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder with direct injection, higher compression, and active exhaust valve control. The engine now makes 182 horsepower, a 12-hp improvement, and 176 pound-feet of torque, a 2-lb-ft improvement. For you Forester experts, that means yes, the 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine vacates the premises.
Every trim gets a Lineartronic CVT and stop/start. Touring and Sport models get a manual mode and paddle shifters, mimicking a seven-speed gearbox. The Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) offers Intelligent and Sport drive modes (Sport Sharp on the Sport trim); Intelligent prioritizes fuel economy, Sport maximizes thrills. Fuel economy reaches as high as 33 miles per gallon on the highway, depending on trim. All but the base model boast X-Mode with Hill Descent Control, the version on the Limited, Touring, and Sport trims comes with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud settings to address particularly nasty inclines and descents.
The Touring model focuses on luxury, packing 10-way power driver's seat, eight-way passenger's seat, heated steering wheel and rear seats, and two-setting memory side mirrors. The Sport starts with all of the Premium goodies and adds a "high-grade instrument panel," LED fog lights, side mirrors with turn signals, a rear roof spoiler, exclusive gray interior with orange stitching, and the All-Weather Package (heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer.)
Limited, Touring, and Sport all feature keyless access with push-button start, and High Beam Assist for those LED headlights. Only Limited and Touring come with Steering Responsive Headlights. Limited and Touring feature dual-zone climate controls. Via the Subaru Starlink service, drivers can start the engine and adjust the climate control remotely. The tire pressure monitor on all trims displays the pressure in each tire. Trailer Stability Assist modulates the brakes to counter trailer sway.
While every new Forester comes with Subaru's EyeSight driver assistance features, the Touring spec debuts the DriverFocus fatigue and distraction alert. In unison with EyeSight, DriverFocus uses facial recognition software to monitor signs of fatigue or distraction on up to five different drivers, and it remembers each driver's seat, climate control and infotainment presets. The 2019 Forester hits dealers later this year.