By David Colman
Hypes: Great Sightlines in All Directions, EyeSight Is Useful Option
Gripes: Unreadable LCD Touch Screen
The all new 2014, 4th generation Forester looks enough like its immediate predecessor to confuse you into believing Subaru has simply revised the sheet metal a bit. But a quick look at the specification sheet reveals the new Forester, at 181 inches in length and 71 inches in height, stands 1.5 inches longer and 2.1 inches taller than the version it replaces. The additional height is most noticeable when you enter the airy new cabin without ducking your head. In fact, if you’re feeling all hat and no cattle, go ahead and wear that ten gallon Stetson. You still won’t graze the roof liner, even when your Forester comes equipped with the huge Panoramic Power Moonroof that is standard issue on the Touring model. The extra length translates into added rear seat legroom, enabling aft passengers to lounge without knocking knees. Even the cargo hold is more spacious than before, growing to 74.7 cubic feet from 68.3 cubic feet when the split back seats are folded flat.
Of course, the extra size comes at a slight penalty in added weight, as the new Forester, at 3,415 pounds, carries an extra 164 pounds when compared to the previous model. However, the performance disadvantage you might expect from the additional weight is offset by the new CVT transmission, which has finally made its way to the Forester model line. Having introduced the very first CVT transmission to the US market in its Justy model back in 1988, Subaru has more experience with continuously variable transmissions than any other manufacturer. The breeding shows in the Forester application, where the CVT operates seamlessly, always offering just the right rpm range for the 2.5 liter flat 4 to operate optimally. There’s invariably enough zip on tap to master any merge or pass you might undertake. If you really feel the need for more speed, you can upgrade your 170hp Forester to the optional 258hp 2 liter, turbocharged 4. Bear in mind that the turbo will use more gas than the base motor, which manages 27 MPG in overall driving. Regardless of engine choice, the Forester is tow rated at a commendable 2,400 pounds.
When equipped with the newly available “EyeSight” driver assistance package ($2,400), the Forester is one of the safest vehicles you can buy in terms of crash prevention. Subaru has perfected its lane keeping program by seamlessly integrating EyeSight’s information stream into your driving routine – without the annoying chirps and buzzers so many other manufacturers favor. If you start to wander from your intended direction of travel, EyeSight will simply flash an orange warning light on the info panel between the 8,000rpm tachometer and the 150mph speedometer. The package also provides pre- collision braking and throttle management. Keyless access is included as well as high intensity discharge (HID) headlights. If you are inclined to favor such driver aids as EyeSight, you’ll discover that Subaru’s system puts most others to shame. Just be forewarned that you cannot attach anything to your windshield without disrupting the view of the twin CCD (charge coupled device) cameras attached to either side of the rear view mirror. Also, scratched windshields must be replaced with genuine Subaru glass to maintain the integrity of the system.
The Touring Forester utilizes a grip enhancing rubber cargo mat in the trunk compartment that helps stabilize loose items. The rear hatch features automatic lift when you pull the up on the indented exterior handle, as well as automatic closure. The interior carpets are covered with loose weave sisal mats that were all the rage 40 years ago when they were known as cocoa mats. They still work well and look great, and I’m not sure why they ever disappeared. Subaru has seen fit to provide 3 nice chunky knobs for the heating and ventilation system. Would that they had done the same for the entertainment/navigation unit, which requires you to input commands to a 6.1 inch LCD touch screen that is virtually impossible to read in daylight. The good news, however, is that the navigation unit is standard equipment on the Touring model, and the Bluetooth enabled AM/FM/HD/SIRIUS radio thumps out a whopping base through its Harmon Kardon 440 Watt amp and speaker system.
You won’t win any road races with the Forester because its handling suffers from its high center of gravity, and the Yokohama G91 Geolander tires (225/60R17) confer modest grip. But no one buys this Subaru to win races. Its appeal lies in its consummate practicality, standard all wheel drive traction, spunky pancake 4 engine, new CVT drive train, and above all, its unsurpassed interior spaciousness. If all that isn’t worth a relatively modest investment of $33,220, good luck bettering this combo elsewhere.
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
- Engine: 2.5 Liter Opposed 4, Electronic Fuel Injection
- Horsepower: 170hp
- Torque: 177 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/32 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $33,220
- Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars