2018 Forester New Car Test Drive
The Subaru Forester is familiar, as a pioneer compact wagon-like utility vehicle. It was a crossover before crossovers were called crossovers, meaning it's based on a car platform. It was boxy then and it's still boxier than the many copycats that have come along over the years.
Forester brings the ride and handling of a car, with all-wheel drive proven over the ages, and nearly nine inches of ground clearance for primitive pursuits. It's the most popular Subaru, if not the one you see in pictures, and has won an award or two for being one of the best buys on the market.
A year ago, we spent six months with a turbocharged Forester 2.0XT, testing it in a variety of conditions and terrains, confirming the awards are well-earned. It doesn't have the agility of the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5, but feels far sportier than the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, or Toyota RAV4. It's got one of the best continuously variable transmissions in the game, and gets an EPA-rated 28 Combined miles per gallon. Its virtues are impressive: reliability, longevity, good handling, all-weather capability, and interior room with cargo capacity.
The Forester's styling was updated for 2017 (grille, bumper and headlamps), and for 2018 the changes are in packaging. The EyeSight active-safety package is standard on Touring models, a camera system that sees danger ahead and self-brakes. Along with that system comes self-dimming headlamps that turn with the car, and reverse automatic braking. The Touring models also have blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts. A Black Edition Package is a new option for 2018 Forester 2.5i Premium models.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine making 170 horsepower. This boxer engine is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox or CVT. Acceleration is adequate.
A quicker option is the turbocharged 2.0-liter that makes 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque; it comes only with a paddle-shifting CVT, which can be programmed to feel like a six-speed or eight-speed automatic transmission using Subaru's SI-Drive system. That 2.0XT model gets 25 Combined miles per gallon on Premium gasoline. Over a few thousand miles during our six-month test with a Forester 2.0XT, we averaged 24.1 miles per gallon.
The federal NHTSA gives the Forester five stars overall for crash safety, and the insurance industry's IIHS confirms that with top ratings in every crash test including the challenging small overlap frontal crash, making it a Top Safety Pick Plus.
2018 Forester 2.5i models come in base ($23,795), Premium ($26,195), Limited ($29,395), and Touring ($30,090) models. Forester 2.0XT comes in Premium ($29,495) and Touring ($36,090).
Standard equipment in all models includes rearview camera, Bluetooth hands-free calling, audio streaming, and a 6.2-inch touchscreen. Options include perforated leather seats, a 7.0-inch screen with infotainment, eight-speaker, 440-watt sound system, and power rear liftgate.