Building on its laurels
No one buys a crossover based solely on how quick it is. But if it’s quicker than its competitors and has one of the most spacious cabins in its class, there’s reason to be impressed.
Last year, we tested a 2016 Subaru Forester with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine delivering 170 hp. It ran from 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, or on the slower side of the competition. Equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine making 250 hp, our 2017 Forester tester did the deed in just 6.8 seconds. Essentially, it creamed four-cylinder competitors we’ve tested in the past few years including other models with similar power outputs such as the 2017 Ford Escape EcoBoost AWD, which clocked a time of 7.3 seconds, and the 2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo AWD, which hit the mark in 8.1 seconds.
The Forester left other big players in the dust such as the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 AWD, the 2017 Honda CR-V AWD, and the 2016 Toyota RAV4 AWD. It even matched the time of a V-6-powered 2016 Jeep Cherokee producing an additional 20 hp.
Although quick, it’s unlikely you’ll want to unleash all of the Forester’s power at once. Punch it, and you’ll hear a harsh, laboring engine noise you won’t want to repeat. In everyday driving, the Forester exhibits an aggressive initial throttle response, though it’s not quite as jumpy as the one on the naturally aspirated model. I had a difficult time adjusting to the Forester’s start-up feel even after a few days with the vehicle.
The Forester benefits from a controlled body and handles corners with poise. But the suspension transmits the feeling of every small groove in the road, making the Forester a bit chattery. For the 2017 model year, Subaru installed thicker door glass and new door seals to improve cabin insulation, and it worked. Wind noise is no longer a problem like it was on the 2016 Forester we tested.
Also part of the model refresh, the 2017 Subaru Forester receives a quicker gear ratio in the steering to improve handling. Still, most of the updates to the Forester 2.0XT involve trim and technology. Subaru’s EyeSight safety system receives new features and uses new color cameras that provide a wider and longer field of vision. High beam assist and steering responsive headlights are other new options. Inside the cabin, the Forester receives a heated steering wheel for the first time, standard on our tester. Touring models are available with new Saddle Brown interior upholstery, which looks and feels expensive. In fact, we thought our $36,765 USD tester offered quite a bit of value, with niceties such as a power rear gate with height memory, heated front seats, available navigation, plus the available EyeSight system with precollision braking, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and other capabilities. One of my favorite features is an alert that beeps when the vehicle in front has moved at a fresh green light.
Minor nips and tucks haven’t brought the Forester into modernity. Despite the refresh, it feels outdated, thanks to the awkward dual-screen setup and ancient analog instrument cluster. The optional 7.0-inch touchscreen, new for 2016, works well but has older-looking graphics.
All the technology in the world can’t make up for cramped quarters, which is why we’ll give the Forester a pass when it comes to its slightly older cabin. With plenty of seat room even for tall passengers and a maximum of 68.5 cubic feet of cargo space, the Forester 2.0XT delivers on one of the most important values held by the crossover segment. Surfboards and a family’s worth of suitcases are no match for the spacious Forester. This thing isn’t designed like a box for nothing. Unfettered by bulky pillars and swoopy lines, drivers can see more glass and less sheetmetal around them while enjoying plenty of headroom. The Forester boasts a high ride height and low belt line, providing drivers with a commanding view of the road.
Although the Forester won our 2014 SUV of the Year award, its competition has advanced just as far, and in terms of design and technology, even more quickly. Just think of rivals that offer Apple CarPlay, a head-up display, and larger touchscreens with crisp graphics. Luckily the faithful Forester remains quick and all-around functional, qualities many of its rivals still haven’t mastered.
|2017 Subaru Forester XT (2.0 Touring)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$36,765|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/250-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve flat-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,702 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||181.5 x 70.7 x 66.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 90.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.0 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/27/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/125 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.79 lb/mile|