A master class in practicality
Many modern vehicles try to be too many things at once, but the 2019 Subaru Forester stays true to its roots. Like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Jeep Wrangler, the new Forester knows exactly what it is and performs its mission superbly. Like the rest of Subaru’s crossovers, the Forester prioritizes sensibility, which made it popular to buyers in the snowbelt and those in search of an adventurous, efficient family vehicle. Here’s why this compact crossover nails its mission brief so successfully.
Riding on Subaru’s new global platform that also underpins the Ascent, Crosstrek, and Impreza, the 2019 Forester has grown slightly. But much like the vehicle it replaces, the 2019 Forester has all the flair of a refrigerator box. Practicality is where the 2019 Forester sets itself apart. Three adults can sit comfortably in the rear with legroom to spare, even with tall occupants up front. Open the liftgate, and you have a massive opening and a 33.0-cubic-foot cargo area (35.4 cubic feet on models without a sunroof). Fold the second row, and total capacity jumps to 70.9 cubic feet (76.1 cubic feet on models without a sunroof).
The boxy styling gives you excellent headroom, making the cabin feel airy and less claustrophobic than swoopier rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson. Competitors’ sexy exterior styling also means their windows are small, compromising visibility; the Forester’s upright greenhouse gives the driver a nearly 360-degree view, no cameras needed. Additionally, the 2019 Forester’s rear doors open wider than you’d expect, which helps when installing a child seat or hauling bulky objects. The cabin is also well insulated with minimal road, wind, and tire noise even at highway speeds.
Subaru’s Starlink interface is now one of the easiest infotainment systems to use. There’s next to no learning curve, and it keeps things simple with a responsive 8.0-inch touchscreen and shortcut buttons for all major functions like media, radio, navigation, and home menu (a 6.5-inch unit is standard on lower trims). There are knobs and buttons for climate controls, and nothing is buried in submenus. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard across the lineup, giving you another option for your infotainment interface. Higher trims include an excellent Harman Kardon audio system with minimal high-volume distortion and even sound distribution throughout the cabin. Subaru does need to move the SI-Drive buttons over to the center console near the X Mode knob to consolidate all drive mode selections in one place. The secondary screen also requires its own set of controls, which are located within the main touchscreen rather than on the same three buttons that toggle through the instrument cluster display.
The way the 2019 Forester drives builds on the car’s simple, straightforward demeanor. On the road, the Forester is easy to pilot with steering that’s light but disconnected. There’s more weight at high speeds, but feedback is nonexistent. The suspension is tuned impeccably, absorbing bumps well without transmitting impact to the passenger compartment. There is some body roll, but it’s well controlled. When pushed hard through Motor Trend’s rigorous testing regimen, the 2019 Forester generated 0.79 g on the skidpad and finished the figure-eight course in 28.1 seconds at an average of 0.60 g.
Thanks to its more rigid platform and revised chassis, the Forester feels secure on the road even at high speeds. Off-road, those same qualities carry over; you can easily get the car through gravel, sand, and unpaved surfaces without much fuss. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and better approach, departure, and breakover angles than many of its rivals, this crossover can get you far into the wilderness. Despite the Forester’s added rigidity and stiffness, its ride quality rivals that of more expensive vehicles wearing premium badges.
Although the 2019 Forester received more power, the 182-hp 2.5-liter flat-four is underpowered. At the track, the 2019 Forester finished the 0–60 run in 9.6 seconds and the quarter mile in 17.3 seconds at 82.3 mph (132.4 km/h). This makes the Forester one of the slowest cars in its class, and you feel it every time you prod the accelerator.
Straight-line acceleration is glacial on the road,” said features editor Christian Seabaugh. “It just takes forever to build up speed, no matter if it’s 0–30 or 45–65 mph (0-48 or 72-105 km/h).” You’ll need patience and earmuffs passing on the highway, as gunning it causes the motor to get thrashy. The CVT does a fantastic job of keeping the engine in its powerband and is responsible for all the heavy lifting. Features editor Scott Evans declared that the transmission “is putting in a Herculean effort to maximize every last pony.” A manual mode allows you to use the paddle shifters to “shift” through seven preset ratios, but acceleration remains sluggish. When left to its own devices, the CVT does an admirable job mimicking a traditional geared transmission, preventing it from droning. Even so, it gets jerky enough that you feel it in the cabin.
EyeSight, Subaru’s suite of active driver assistance features, is now standard on all 2019 Foresters, and it remains one of the best systems available. Because we tested a range-topping Touring model, the Forester also came with rear automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert (optional on Sport and Limited trims). The lane keeping assist works in conjunction with a lane centering system that does a fine job of ensuring you’re not drifting around. Should you veer out of your lane, the car will ease you back to the center. Two editors praised the Forester for how gently the system operates and liked that it’s nearly imperceptible. Adaptive cruise control also works well, keeping an appropriate distance in its closest setting and maintaining set speeds admirably even when going downhill. Subaru’s new DriverFocus system uses a camera to detect when the driver is tired or distracted and issues an alert. However, even a slight move to change the climate controls can trigger the system, causing it to act like an angry babysitter. “Nanny Subaru is everywhere. You can’t even punch in the direct number of the radio station you’re seeking while the car is in motion,” said executive editor Mark Rechtin.
By this point, you may be thinking the 2019 Subaru Forester is boring. It’s slow, its exterior design is conservative, and there are too many nannies. The Forester is all about making the less exciting part of life stress free; it has a spacious cabin for you, your friends, and your gear. The suspension is comfortable on the daily commute yet the car is agile enough that you can confidently make emergency maneuvers. We found the crossover extremely underpowered, but mainstream consumers upgrading from older vehicles may look past that when considering how well rounded it is as a whole package. The 2019 Subaru Forester is a master class in making an honest, dependable vehicle that charms you with its practicality.
|2019 Subaru Forester Touring|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Flat-4, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||152.4 cu in/2,498 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||182 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||19.6 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||11.6-in vented disc; 10.8-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||7.0 x 18-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||225/55R18 98H (M+S) Falken Ziex ZE001 A/S|
|TRACK, F/R||61.6/61.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.1 x 71.5 x 67.5 in|
|GROUND CLEARANCE||8.7 in|
|APPRCH/DEPART ANGLE||22.9/24.6 deg|
|TURNING CIRCLE||34.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,575 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||58/42%|
|TOWING CAPACITY||1,500 lb|
|HEADROOM, F/R||40.2/37.7 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||43.3/39.4 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||58.2/57.2 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||70.9/33.0 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.4|
|QUARTER MILE||17.3 sec @ 82.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||129 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.1 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,700 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$35,470|
|AIRBAGS||7: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||16.6 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||21.8/31.4/25.3 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||26/33/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||130/102 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.67 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular|