By on July 16, 2013

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Between the A+ report card from Consumer Reports and a last-crossover-standing result for the IIHS small overlap test, even Tommy Callahan could sell somebody a Subaru Forester. “Here comes the meat wagon WEEE-OOO WEEE-OOO and the medic gets out and says, ‘Oh my God’. New guy’s around the corner puking his guts out – all because you wanted to buy a RAV4.”

Factor in some much-improved fuel economy from a continuously variable transmission, and the sales figures are like spank-tra-vision to Subie execs: up by a third year-to-date. Holy shnikes! Is this the year the lovable approach hiking shoe crosses-over from niche product to all-round segment leader? Let’s go camping.
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The Fozzie new mug eschews stylish wakka-wakka in favour of an outline that could just as easily be wearing Mitsubishi’s three-pointed star. Not that the Forester has ever been a stunningly handsome machine, but this new one puts me in mind of the grafted-on noses GM once put on all their minivans to bump safety ratings.

But it’s not bad-looking – this is inoffensiveness as a styling exercise. It might not be as cutting-edge as some of the other designs out there, but it looks like it’ll age better than the toaster-shaped original, and there is one extremely exciting visual thing about this crossover: you can actually see out of it.

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I’d like to get Sajeev’s scorecard on the Forester’s design, but a closer look at the thing shows all kinds of good news. There’s plenty of greenhouse, and the rear-quarter windows are, well, windows. How rare is that? There’s not too much slope to the rear glass and those are functional roof rails as-standard. Front overhang is maybe a little prow-ish, but rear is good, and ground clearance looks suitably Subaru-ish.

On the Forester’s inside, the eyeball finds less to love. Like the new Impreza, the Forester is much improved over the previous generation, and could be considered mid-pack for interior quality. However, even in this Limited-trim model, there is evidence of some cheapness.

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Look at these child anchors for instance. The foam of the seats is exposed when a LATCH tie-down is in-place, and while rear-seat room and comfort is better than that of a Ford Escape, family use is going to cause some unsightly wear.

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Using your Forester as a cargo hauler is going to be a mixed bag too. While the way this new, bigger version swallows gear is impressive, the seats don’t fold completely flat, and both seatbacks and the little flap that covers the gap are flimsy and look prone to tearing and/or bending. Even more annoying is the lack of proper cargo area illumination – there’s just a rinky-dinky little lamp on the bottom right that’s about as effective as a birthday candle in the Mines of Moria.

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Up front, the Fozzie rates a utility-grade pass for chunky knobs and dials and a centre cargo area with plenty of room for USB chargers or power-converters. Despite this Limited’s theoretically fully-loaded layout, the Harmon/Kardon stereo could have been lifted right out of a Subaru from last year. Or last decade. Or the decade before that. It sounds okay though.

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Even with not-much mileage on the clock, the door-cards and centre area on this press-loaner were beginning to look a bit scratched up. The split-level display is a bit odd (why a digital clock face?) and the backup camera is only big enough as an emergency aid. Here again though, the Forester’s rear visibility is so good, you only need refer to it when the trunk is entirely full.

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Pop the hood and – hey, an engine! I remember those! Granted, the Subie’s 2.5L pancake-four looks a bit like a plastic facehugger is impregnating an industrial dishwasher, but how rare these days to see a motor in all its unshrouded glory. Look, there’s even an exposed oil-filter! Just think of the smell after spilling gallons of 5W-30 all over the engine manifold – the home-mechanic’s potpourri.

Several important things about this carry-over engine (first introduced in the Forester in 2011, the FB25): it’s chain-drive, not belt and while it retains the same 2.5L displacement and 170hp rating as the old EJ-series options, both bore and stroke are different for very slightly more low end power – 4lb/ft. I do have some concerns about overall longevity with heat-cycling the plastic manifold, and the pool of FB25-powered cars with over 100,000 miles is too small to see if the new design completely dodges the EJ’s headgasket issues (granted, Subaru resolved the bulk of these by 2005, but there are still problems cropping up as vehicles age).

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Bigger news on the drivetrain front is the CVT now installed in all automatic Foresters. Continuously Terrible Transmission, rubber-band, motor-boat, whining, fun-sapping, blah blah blah. Nonsense.

While you can still buy a manual transmission Forester – now a 6-speed, huzzah! – the CVT in the base Forester is perfectly fine if you know how to drive it. Turbocharged XT models drive like a fat Nissan Juke (er, that’s intended to be a compliment), and if you’re gentle with throttle inputs and don’t push the thing, you’ll appreciate both the better fuel economy and the smoothness from the naturally aspirated motor.

And trust me, you’re not really going to want to push it. While the Impreza is reasonably fun-to-drive, the Forester is bigger, bulkier, squishier and numb-er. On-ramp acceleration is acceptable, the over-boosted steering is still okay, and the car feels extremely planted in the corners, but a Mazda CX-5 would be a much better choice for driving pleasure. Except for one thing.

Mancala

This is a mancala board, a popular African game, and it’s also an excellent visual representation of the potholed gravel road I ended up on after taking a wrong turn getting out of Squamish, BC. I’d just driven the Mazda on similar, if drier, roads and my reaction on seeing a few miles of this corrugated surface – with a sleeping baby in the back and in a bit of a hurry to make it to the campsite to get a decent spot – is unprintable.

The Forester, God bless her, picked up her fancy new skirts and just glided across the bumps like a hovercraft. Yes, you expect Subarus to be good off-road in the traction department, but it was still an impressive performance – after the first couple of hundred feet I started aiming for the bigger potholes to see what would happen. No problemo.

Back on the road, some of the less-good things about Subaru DNA reasserted themselves. Anyone nostalgic for the days of frameless windows will love the way the extra-large door-mounted side mirrors impart wind noise like a Sopwith Camel strafing the trenches. Yes, my spur-of-the-moment durability experiment probably caused it, but the mild rattle issuing from somewhere in the dashboard is pure Fuji Heavy Industries maraca.

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And yet, as I wound down the curving highway, loaded up with camping gear and family, there’s a lot to like about this car: excellent safety rating, decent power, CRV-pipping fuel economy, lots of utility and even a bit of mild off-roading prowess. All the usual Subaru foibles are there too, but it’s a decent rig. Way to forge ahead, Tommy.

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146 Comments on “Review: 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited...”


  • avatar

    Nice review.

    I’m still wondering how bad the repair/replacement costs are on a CVT out of warranty. I’ve imagined they’ve come down, but I’ve never really read anything recent.

    With that being said, I’ll take a traditional stick or traditional auto first.

    The only exception might be if I every buy a super-high-mpg toyota appliance/hybrid of some sort. With my average cost of gas @ $4/g this year, it’s tempting….

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      They still aren’t really serviceable, so owners are going to pay through the nose for complete replacements in most cases.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      I’m getting 46 MPG on a CVT Accord on a 37.5 mile communite if I go 60-65. I get around 40-42 MPG if I do 70ish. I get 36 MPG on this commute if there’s heavy traffic and I go about 20-30 MPH.

      The savings in gas over 10 years might make up for any CVT repairs. Maybe.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        Consumer Reports is saying the same thing. They got slightly better HWY mileage on their 2013 Accord CVT than their 2013 Fusion HYBRID. It’s in the latest issue.

        see also Ford’s response to CR:
        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-16/ford-says-it-s-boosting-fuel-economy-of-2013-hybrids.html

        When I was shopping the Accord Sport (and others) the salesman wanted me to get the CVT and I was amazed at the 1500 rpm at 60 mph. But I explained that I buy cars for the LT, like 15 years and I knew the 6 speed would be superlative while the CVT could be very expensive. Or not. He offered a 10 warranty extension and I told him if I wanted to buy an extra warranty I wouldn’t be buying a Honda.

        btw, my 6 speed Sport in Eco mode gets 43 mpg if driven at @ 65mpg. Much better than advertised. But I love the way it growls when pushed in non-Eco.

        I guess we’ll know in 5-10 years if the Subie & Honda CVT ‘s make the grade.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian Walfield

      I have a 2007 awd CRV. With around 100,000 miles it’s been good to me and I will drive it into the ground.. I’m now looking for a new vehicle for my wife. I’m close to buying a 2014 forester instead of another CRV. Am I making a mistake? All this talk about head gaskets makes me nervous.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Visually, this is the best since the second generation IMHO. If only I could talk the wife into it, which is a tough sell. I’ve even promised her a NOLEZ license plate just to avoid any confusion.

    You know, to show her support for Florida State.

  • avatar

    CVT is going to bite it before head gaskets.

  • avatar
    Skink

    My wife and I have about 2500 miles on our 2014 Forester Limited with CVT. We’re liking it. A couple of driving observations: you’ll feel every little bump and frost seam at slow speeds. More compliance would help. Go faster and it’s just right over all surfaces. It’s been fun to feather-foot it and coast, observing the mpg number. Between the CVT, the light steering, and the gigantic moonroof, this can be mistaken for a very quiet boat, it’s that serene, smooth and open to the great outdoors. Tiller steering should be offered. With the CVT, we’re not missing abrupt, jarring downshifts when revving up for passing. It’s fun to drive, but not necessarily in the hard core enthusiast way. We love the outward visibility, and the way the doors swing open ninety degrees. The perforated leather seat inserts are very comfortable. We bought our car from among the dealer’s incoming cars; it was equipped with an option package that includes these incredibly cool LED puddle lights embedded in the glass of the side rear view mirrors. The cargo area light is weak. There is a 12v socket back there so maybe we’ll rig up some supplemental lighting. Red panel lights are ‘aviation correct’ and preserve night vision. The multifunction display high up on the dash, with its wheel-mounted dual paddle selectors and its deep sun shade over the display make for a very useful and readable display in all lighting states.

    Since we got the car we were gratified to learn of Forester’s summa cum laude performance in the small overlap crash test. We shopped and drove every CUV in the Forester’s class. We’d do it again.

    That’s a scattershot, incomplete report. I’ll tell more if it occurs to me.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      For us it wasn’t a question of which SUV, but which Subaru. We also drove the Crosstrek, but there was too little extra room in the back compared to the Impreza (3rd gen) we were trading in to make it worthwhile. The Outback was out of our price range as was the Tribeca.

      What do you think of there being no ‘fake’ ratios in the CVT like the XT has? We don’t care, but some people seem to be riled up over it.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        I don’t care about the lack of fake stepped auto gears. As I said, I don’t miss the stepdown gear shifting, nor no I need to hear and feel upshifts while accelerating. If I cared about picking my gears to optimize my driving experience, I’d get another car. This Forester’s role is my wife’s DD. We live in Minnesota next to a lake at the bottom of hill. She leaves for work often before the snowplow shows up, so we need a kickass awd vehicle with great ground clearance. that reminds me – the nifty thing about getting the 2.5 Limited is that it has X-Drive, Subaru’s augmented low speed auto-brake, auto-throttle awd enhancement. It’s supposed to really improve control and traction on slippery inclines, which is right up our alley, no pun intended. X-Drive is standard on the 2.0 XT, but I didn’t want the extra complication of a turbo, and I didn’t want to have to buy premium gas. The salesman told me the take rate on the XT is very low, on the order of 5 to 10%, enthusiast reviewers’ preferences notwithstanding.

        Thanks for prodding my memory about X-Drive. It’s unique to Subaru, and one of the reasons we got the 2.5 Limited.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        One other thought about the fake shift points mode in the XT. I feel that was done as a sop for the potential XT buyer who wants the turbo performance but grinds his teeth over the lack of gears to grind with a manual.

        • 0 avatar
          Chicago Dude

          My current vehicle is the first I’ve ever owned with an automatic transmission. I’ve never used the select-your-own functionality to upshift/downshift for sportiness (that’s dumb, in my opinion). I have used it to force the transmission to stay in a particular gear, especially since my car only has P-R-N-D and no 2-1 or L. It’s useful in those rare situations.

          For a CVT, especially a Subaru in which you probably expect to spend a bit of time on unpaved roads in hilly areas, the fake shift points could be very useful for forcing the transmission to stay within an ideal range given the grade and other road conditions. Thus, I think it is good to have unless Subaru has other ways to deal with those conditions.

          • 0 avatar
            Skink

            At low speeds the X-Drive deals with those concerns better than merely staying in given gear.

            Not sure if the XT’s fake auto shift regimes afford the driver the ability to stay in one ‘gear’. If it did, that would be nice.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I drove both the Forrester and Outback and purchased the Outback. True the Forrester is taller (but seating position is not), and it’s an overall simpler vehicle in some ways (I’m a Luddite).

        But with the Outback in it’s last model year before the ’15 redo, the deals were considerably stronger. I got my ’13 Limited (loaded except for Eyestight) for about $5000 off. It also feels more refined.

        The sight lines in the Forrester were absolutely excellent.

        Overall you can’t go wrong with either.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    We own a 2.5i model, and most of the praise and criticism here applies to our cheap-o special as well. Ours doesn’t have rails and Subie wants $400 for a dorky looking set of crossbars, and the stereo *does* look almost exactly like the one in our six year old Impreza, but other than that the thing has a great hart and doesn’t skip a beat when driving over gravel, potholes, or pedestrians.

  • avatar
    dts187

    This line:

    Granted, the Subie’s 2.5L pancake-four looks a bit like a plastic facehugger is impregnating an industrial dishwasher

    Slow clap.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    Why o why can’t a manufacturer make a utilitarian car than is also performance based. It is becoming like motorcycles. You either get a adventure tourer or a full on crotch rocket, nothing in between.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      What do you mean exactly by performance and utilitarian?

      There is stuff out there like CTS-V wagons, large performance sedans that can carry people and stuff. Grand Cherokee SRT8 anyone? Raptor? A Ford FPV ute?

    • 0 avatar
      csj

      You aren’t even trying. In the Subaru family, there are the WRX and STi hatchbacks, at home on racetracks, autoX, and rallyX courses world over. They swallow enough gear for a weekend backpacking trip for four. They will get you through any road that has been plowed at least once in the winter. They will tow 2000 lbs. I believe they lost some of their ruggedness with the 2008+ models, but they still do these things decently.

      Looking for something different? What about an SVT Raptor?

      Motorcycles: Kawasaki Ninja 1000, Ducati Multistrada, any sports-standard with luggage.

      • 0 avatar
        See 7 up

        If the WRX and STI hatchbacks (of which I have owned 1) were so utilitarian, why do people buy the Forester?

        Perhaps I am not trying hard enough, but everything that is a little more useful than a hatchback comes with the base powertrain/fwd OR an automatic. Nobody is making a car ala 2nd Gen Forester with the detuned STI engine, or if you have the money an S4 Avant.

        The Multi is a great bike I will admit. $, but great. The bike industry seems to be coming around – giving some of adventure touring bikes the engines and handling that use to be in the realm of the now almost nonexistent sport-touring segment.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Good point. I had an 09 WRX, you had to fold down the seats to fit anything of size in the hatch. I put a lot of stuff in there but it is not a big car. We have an 05 Outback now it has a ton more room than the Impreza it is a real wagon. Can carry much cargo behind the rear seats.

          Used to be that Subaru would sell you a WRX wagon, or a Forester XT, Legacy GT wagon, or even an Outback XT all with a stick. All great driving fast cars and useful too. All no longer offered, except for the WRX and STI hatch now.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Love the big greenhouse. Wish it became the new trend in automotive design (again?). If I were looking to move up from my 2007 Honda Fit, this would be entering on top of the list for a test drive.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    The Subaru “it’s great at everything and everything else sucks” cheerleading is becoming a lot like what happened to the Pats the second time they won the Superbowl. Now, what happened to them again? Oh, wait….

    http://timenewsfeed.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/bradying.jpg?w=480&h=320&crop=1

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      The problem with your analogy is Subaru sales are up every year. They are winning their “Superbowl” so to speak every season. No decline in sight.

      This has nothing to do with enthusiast love or hate, good reviews or bad. They are selling cars and making money, that is all that really matters to them as a business.

      I get a different vibe from the review, more like a “good at lots of things, not the best at any of them” which doesn’t make for good street cred with the Internet Enthusiast Brigade but does make a product that people want to buy.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      Lesse, after they won their second SB, they won another, made 2 more Super Bowls and 2 more AFCCG, and won 75% of their regular season games.

      So you have made exactly the opposite point you were trying to make.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    It’s nice to read a review of a Subaru without the obligatory gross generalizations about Subaru owners. Oh wait, the author went there.

    I’ve only seen one review of a Subaru that resisted this temptation, and that was autoblog.com of all places.

    Anyway, aside that, it was a straightforward review of an extremely straight forward vehicle, and that’s what I like about it. It doesn’t have any stylish pretensions, everything is there for a purpose, and nothing more. The interior is utilitarian and sparse, for good reasoning as these cars do get used quite heavily for how they’re marketed and perceived.

    Given the improvements to the new engine, I think one mated to the 6 speed manual would be a killer combo for reliability and fun factor.

    The only gripe I had look at this Forester with different trim levels was the factory navigation system, which was terrible. Opt for a different model and buy your own Garmin or some other aftermarket brand. They’re cheaper and you can port it over to your other vehicle if the need arises.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      I’m just curious – which gross generalizations are you referring to? That I took it on a family camping trip?

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Our 2024 2.5 Limited, which is one just one trim level below the top of the line, has the ‘basic’ HD stereo AMFM CD radio with no nav, which was just the way we wanted it. All we need, all we wanted, all we got. Glad that we didn’t have to buy crapnav to get the huge moonroof. All the other moonroofs out there are mail slots.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Yes, as an Outback owner I have sunroof envy. Glad they kept the massive one on the Forrester.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Unfortunately Subaru of America will not let you buy a stick-shift Forester with a sunroof anymore. (Only the lowest two trims, 2.5i and Premium, offer a stick, and only with the Premium CVT and higher trims can you get a sunroof.)

        The all-new 2003 Forester offered the sunroof only on the highest XS trim line, but the lineup was revised a few years later so that all but the base model came with it standard. So the present situation may change analogously, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

        No one has mentioned the power tailgate that the 2014 Forester offers as standard on the several highest trims. I have a relative who bought one (a Touring with EyeSight) and depends on that feature; she wouldn’t be able to reach the raised tailgate easily on her own.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      A commenter went there.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    How is it better than a Honda CR-V? Honestly?

    One has a bullet proof engine, transmission, amazing seats, wonderful utility, amazing design (yes, I think the CRV is an absolutely out of this world gorgeous design), and rock solid resale value to boot.

    I just dont understand these Subaru’s. I love the novelty of the boxer engine, the “stance”, and the quirkiness of the Subaru mystique.
    However, none of the Subie quotients make financial sense.

    My money would be on the CR-V. All day, every day, and on weekends.

    • 0 avatar
      grzydj

      No turbo CR-V nor can it be equipped with a row-your-own manual transmission either.

      I do agree that the CR-V is bolted together a bit better and will probably be more reliable in the long term than the Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      “amazing seats” and “absolutely gorgeous” haha well you are totally in love with the CR-V why would you say anything else. Clearly you are incapable of stepping outside your own emotions to use some objective thought so maybe communication is a waste of time for you?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The CR-V’s seats are pretty remarkable. My mother is very particular about seats and ride quality, and she loves the seats in her 2012 even after a few 10+ hour road trips. Her last two cars were a BMW and a Porsche, and she is not one that would pretend a car has decent anything. As for the styling, I think it is okay. It isn’t as bad as CUVs that use the challenging appearance approach, and it isn’t one of those cars you’re likely to look back at as you walk away. The engine is simply the best in class, as is the ride. The steering is quicker than the front roll stiffness merits. The shift points are somewhat lousy thanks to CAFE optimization. The same 5-speed in our 2004 Acura TSX is always in the perfect gear to complement the engine’s power curve while the CAFE box in the CRV creates peaks and valleys. It’s a shame, but at least it isn’t a turbo of inferior performance. Other strengths? The CR-V’s packaging is brilliant. The simple flip fold seats, comfortable accommodations all around, and low loading floor make other manufacturer’s engineers look like amateurs. Then there’s the ownership experience. No problems and surprisingly decent gas mileage so far. True Delta shows the CR-V to be one of the best new cars you can buy and the Ford Escape to be one of the worst. To each their own.

        Subarus are one of the few cars that have mechanical character. Their engines and drive systems are elegant design solutions. Their prices are within reason. They have broader manual transmission availability than most. It is just a shame that they place much higher upkeep demands on their owners than products of the two best car manufacturers do.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          So I assume you also like the CX5 since it has good real world economy and has simple flip fold seats (40:20:40 if you so desire) in addition to its other positive characteristics.

          I assume you saw the Edmunds recent group test with the CRV first and the CX5 a close second, with the RAV4 third.

          It was heartening to see you actually praise Subaru somewhat.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The cramped and uncomfortable back seat defeats the purpose of buying one of these for me. Its reliability score is average too, which doesn’t measure up well with 0 issues for 2013 CR-Vs and 2 issues per 100 2012 CR-Vs. The most common problem area is hood flutter. Good luck getting rid of that. I’ve learned my lesson about recommending Mazdas. They’re hit and miss, and anyone that actually takes the time to seek expert advise deserves more than just reinforcement of qualities they can detect on their own.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            I didn`t know about the hood flutter so looked into that and saw that a TSB was issued and the issue was corrected. The two people that mentioned that had it fixed and no re-occurrence.

            From my recollection of sitting in both as well as looking at the interior dimensions data both CUV’s had comparable interior passenger space.

            To each their own and for some absolute reliability is the most important criterion.

        • 0 avatar
          JD321

          The way the CR-V 5-speed shifts is obnoxious and I would rather had a totally flat floor than the low loading height. The next one should fix the goofy look of the front end and have the nice low-end-torque Earth(I hate even using this friggin phrase)Dreams I4 with a 6-speed automatic. Maybe a bit better driving dynamics and the CR-V will be perfect.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Seats are so subjective. My aunt bought the new CR-V nothing but a Honda for her. She has pillows on the seats, it is too firm for her compared to her old Pilot.

          Subaru seats have short bottoms lately and they have reduced bolstering steadily through the years, so not holding out a lot of hope they are best in class either.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Actually, Edmunds just rated the CR-V over the new Mazda, because it is so much better at its mission.

          Plus the slower CR-V got better real world mileage than the Mazda.
          http://www.edmunds.com/honda/cr-v/2012/comparison-test1.html

          Only comparison tested the Honda, Mazda and Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        My wife looked at the new Forester – she really wanted one, but after testing the CRV there was no contest: the CRV was much quieter, appears to be better put together and had the creature features she wanted. The biggest knock against the Forester was the wind and road noise. It was bad.

      • 0 avatar
        suspekt

        - it is good looking as are many vehicles from all makes
        – it does have great seats

        Not sure why you are so offended by my adoration of the CRV.

        I don’t own one.

        I own a Prius but admire the CRV’s combination of utility, style, and price.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      having test driven all these new CUVs lately… and many, many times…hte Honda is dreadfully old. It drives years behind the others.
      As for as bulletproof, I dunno..but all around driver I would NOT look forward to driving it everyday.
      The Escape and the CX5 were really fun and I look for reasons to get out and drive through the hills.
      The Honda did not even come close to feeling more solid than these 2.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      It depends on what you’re looking for. The CR-V is very much a left brain car – it ticks the right boxes for economy, reliability and utility but it is a drag to drive and its AWD system is primitive compared to the Subie.

      So as family transportation, the CR-V excels but if you want any kind of enjoyable driving experience or live near gravel roads where permanent AWD is an advantage then buy something else.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Superior symmetrical AWD, X-Drive, hugenormous moonroof, superior crashworthiness, great resale value, unsurpassed outward visibility, superior ingress/egress, perforated leather seating surfaces, better fuel economy. The Cr-V is nice, though. It came in second for us.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      The Forester is (and always has been) one of the few CUVs with a degree of off-road ability. I’d bet there are few places a CRV can go that a Civic can’t.

    • 0 avatar
      JD321

      The Subaru X-Drive is the ultimate value…Especially for snow-belt Skink. The Sunroof is also great. But a CD player in his 2024 Forester seems a bit dated (sorry…couldn’t resist). The front end of the CR-V is still a bit “Off” but it is an excellent value.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      What I think is funny is people talking about the CRV being “beautiful”. Sure looks are subjective but really? The new CRV is almost as awkward as the Crosstour. There is no cohesiveness to the design and it has a hunchback worse than Quasimodo. I love Hondas but beautiful should be reserved for Alfas, not Hondas.

      Of course this new Forrester is kinda ugly too.

    • 0 avatar
      MBsam

      Just the fact that you specifically call out “(yes, I think the CRV is an absolutely out of this world gorgeous design)” means you know that’s not the general consensus on this vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Actually the CR-V was my semi-finalist when I bought the Outback. Seats were equal, cargo room in back advantage Outback, storage space up front huge advantage CR-V, overall refinement advantage Outback.

      You can’t go wrong with either. The Outback just felt lie a more substantial car, and the headlights more effective than the CR-V. The Honda REALLY needs the euro-market projections.

      Compared to the Forrester I thought the CR-V was more refined, but the Forrester more assured on a dirt trail.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    It’s able to soak up bad roads with out wobbling around corners like a plastic shopping bag full of Jello… This I like.
    The manual version is on my shopping list.

    • 0 avatar
      toomanycrayons

      “It’s able to soak up bad roads with out wobbling around corners like a plastic shopping bag full of Jello…”

      So, you drove the CR-V, too? I thought it wobbled on the dealer’s lot, and I couldn’t tell where the edges were; couldn’t see much of anything, and I’m 6′ 2″. The only other time a vehicle ever made me anxious like that it was a Honda, too. I pulled out to pass on a highway while road testing an Insight, and..it just sat there once it hit the wind. Gulp! Insight noted: Death trap…

      Full disclosure: Tried them ALL, bought the 2014 Forester Limited. Actually got out of a 2013 Escape Titanium tester, crossed the road and bought the Subaru after another test drive. Don’t buy the Marine Blue w/grey leather: We did.

      Only quibble: No decent automatic cargo area light! Really? I never even thought to check, buying cars in the daylight as I do…

  • avatar

    Not knocking the car and with all due respect as I read a lot of love by you guys here for Subarus, but my is it a generic and boring looking car. Honestly, it makes a CRV look mildly interesting.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      It does. The CR-V is prettier. Note, though, that the profile of the 2014 Forester is basically identical to one of the BMWs. Not the headlights, but the body and greenhouse. I recall the mid-90s Honda Civic had an identical body profile to the concurrent Mercedes S-class sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      Subaru’s are not know for their looks, never have been. Bland is good for them because most of them are downright ugly. For me they represent technical ability though and they have enough to almost forgive the ugliness.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like my kind of car. Really.

        In many places though, if the idea is to grow, they have na uphill battle with those looks. I read the article, Subarus interest me, but interest me ’cause I’m na enthusiast. A casual onlooker in places where Subaru is at best marginal will never notices the car. What inspired me to write this little post is that the author wrote it looked good and that it’d age better than the rest. In my mind, I thought, it doesn’t really need to age, it looks 10 yrs old already.

        Again, this is coming from someone who normally leaves trucks and lots of Japanese car related articles to read later. ‘Cause it was a Subaru I read it maybe the first thing on TTAC today. But I’m guessing that lots of my countrymen and non enthusiasts would simply not give this car a second look cause of the styling.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Thanks Beerboy, I thought I was taking crazy pills. Felt like I was the only one that absolutely cannot stand looking at the mismash of lines on the new Forester. To be honest, it looks more like a rehash of the Suzuki XL-7 than a new Subie.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Just purchased the ’13 Escape after the weeks of testing the Forester, Honda CX5.
    Really was close…as I loved the feel of utility and overall ability to actually see when driving.
    However…the fact that Subaru dealers are as rare as 4 leaf clovers and that your only chance of getting one equipted as YOU want it would mean waiting 12 to 14 weeks changed my mind.
    I LOVE the 20 ecoboost…just quiet as hell and fantastic power is always there.
    And although my very fav road drive was the CX5…like the Forester, the wind noise from the mirrors was a total distaction.
    The Escape is solid and steering very close to the Mazda.
    Plus Ford gave me soooo much money towards the car…it beat everything on total cost.

    The Honda? It drove like it was 10 years older than all the above. They had better update this thing soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to hear you found a winner.

      Honda updated the CR-V for 2012. They just didn’t put much effort into it. No full redesign before 2015 or even 2016.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The irony of you, the operator of True Delta, commending someone on the selection of an Escape, one of the worst vehicles as reported by True Delta, is priceless. Considering that the Escape still managed to finish in the basement after you changed the rules to ignore many of its most common failings brings home just how bad it really is. That you just said it was a winner in spite of its inescapable track record just reinforces what I suspected when you decried that dealer visits resolved with software updates don’t count as problems.

      • 0 avatar
        suspekt

        disagree.
        The sheetmetal is a clean-sheet redesign.

        They have the Earth Dream DI 2.4 and CVT transmission ready to go for the MMC. And extra 3-5mpg improvement is ready to go, they just dont need to go there right now. Let the Accord volume pay down the ED R&D costs and amortize them somewhat before trickling it down to the Civic and CRV. Makes perfect financial sense.

        Honda just doesnt need to rush ED Tech into the CRV because they have the engineering prowess to match the fuel efficiency of competitors sans troublesome turbo’s and direct injection.

        They are running a business not a charity. They don’t need to spend massive sums of capital rolling out cutting edge technology in an attempt to goose sales. If I were a shareholder of Honda stock, I would be happy with this prudent strategy. As a buyer, I am also happy because I am getting proven reliable technology and not being made into a guinea pig test bed for new technology.

        I am glad the Ford Eco-boost buyers are happy and they all deserve a quality vehicle with their hard earned dollars. I just hope the long-term ownership experience isnt soured by the stressed motors.

        The Honda ethos has always been somewhat counter to industry. You can hate it or embrace it. I for one, am a fan.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      “However…the fact that Subaru dealers are as rare as 4 leaf clovers”

      This is wholly dependent on where you live. Here in the PNW, they are everywhere.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Just purchased the ’13 Escape after the weeks of testing the Forester, Honda CX5.
    Really was close…as I loved the feel of utility and overall ability to actually see when driving.
    However…the fact that Subaru dealers are as rare as 4 leaf clovers and that your only chance of getting one equipted as YOU want it would mean waiting 12 to 14 weeks changed my mind.
    I LOVE the 2.0 ecoboost…just quiet as hell and fantastic power is always there.
    And although my very fav road drive was the CX5…like the Forester, the wind noise from the mirrors was a total distaction.
    The Escape is solid and steering very close to the Mazda.
    Plus Ford gave me soooo much money towards the car…it beat everything on total cost.

    The Honda? It drove like it was 10 years older than all the above. They had better update this thing soon.

    Oh..and a really great review and read. Just feels like a good old TTAC review.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    It’s really hard to talk about the Forester without talking about its ownership. They really do sell a lifestyle. If REI ever starts selling cars, the Forester would be their first offering. Subaru understands its customers, and hits the target. Forester owners want a smooth, lazy drive in the country, with extra clearance for the last two miles to the trailhead. And room for the dog, of course. They won’t think about the car itself very much, just where they’re going.

    Though I owned a Foz for seven years, I didn’t buy another. Last year, when I turned over the family fleet of two cars, the Forester didn’t offer the right mix of engines and transmissions to promise power and economy. If there had been a six-speed auto and a 2.0 turbo, I’d probably have bought it instead of my Tiguan. And liked it more, maybe– the Forester’s interior space and picture windows have always appealed. I’d prefer a more carlike stance, lower than a typical CUV.

    I like this engine’s new timing chain. The routine belt replacement on my Forester ran $1600, the most I’ve ever paid for that chore. Our Foz was trouble-free for the first 100,000 miles, but in the next 20K we had to spend nearly $4000 in it (TB and fuel system). Tired of the high oil usage, and really tired of the wind noise, I was glad to see it go.

    This is a good, fair review, but it doesn’t answer any of the points I just raised. It assumes too much prior knowledge about the new model. Those dry stats are available elsewhere, I suppose. But if anybody wants to share info about available powertrains, mpgs, and all that, I’m all ears.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      On a recent 300 mile rod trip at 75 mph in 90 degree high dewpoint air with the AC pumping, we got 31 mpg in our 2014 CVT Forester.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      “The routine belt replacement on my Forester ran $1600″

      I guess you got gold-embossed belts installed. My sister-in-law got hers done for $850, and that’s at the local sleazy dealership. That includes replacing tensioners and water pump.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    My mom, now a retired teacher, has been in Subarus since the early 80s. In the Rocky Mountain region, these have become very popular. By my count, she’s on her sixth Subaru wagon, and her current car is her second Forester. All have been largely trouble free, dependable, and quite capable in all weather conditions.

    The only gripe she and I both have is the Fuji Heavy rhythm section. At some point, usually early on in the ownership experience, a cha-cha-cha develops in the dash. It is joined soon after by a boom-boom in the tailgate. Ticka-ticka-ticka jumps in from the door panels or headliner, and soon, every road imperfection is celebrated with a carnival of rattles, thumps and bumps.

    One can turn the middling stereo up full blast to drown these all out. But usually, by my second hour in her Subaru, I’m pulled over to the side of the road, pulling open every cubby, tapping on door cards and pressing on dash joints, trying to find the offending rattles. To save you time, you can’t. Once developed, the rattle stays with you forever. Trips to the dealership offer no relief as technicians there have long since given up trying to excise Subarus of their rattles. Your advisor has already rehearsed his “They all do that” schpiel.

    In short, your Subaru will rattle. It will always rattle. If you can live with that, enjoy. Otherwise, choose something else.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      “Fuji Heavy Rhythm Section’ is priceless! I love it! Great writing throughout. You’ve filled me with trepidation for what may come. I have resigned myself to the agricultural rumba at idle. Am accustomed to the rhythm via light aircraft experience.

      Compared to the 2001 Mazda Tribute our 2014 forester replaced we’re now cosseted in relative sensory deprivation on the highway. Between the Tribute’s roaring factory Continental Contac meats and the boomy uninsulated cabin, a trip in that Tribute hollered out for noise canceling David Clarks. For its time it was a good vehicle. I can only hope they worked on the NVH in the years that followed. First yer curse? Marked improvement when we replaced the Continentals with Goodyear Forteras.

  • avatar
    mstover

    I was really looking forward to the new Forester. I’ve had only Subaru’s for the past 10 years…a outback 2.5i, two outback 2.5 XTs, a outback 3.6R, and I’ve bought my kids an Impreza and a Crosstrek. So, as my outback 2.5 XT is getting to the point where I need to replace it, the Forester XT looked perfect on paper. We live in the mountains outside of Denver so need horsepower to get up the hill. Then I saw it in person and gagged. There are several issues I was not all that happy about. One being the fact that the XT although it has a turbo has only a 2.0 liter engine…why not give it the extra kick with the 2.5? Mileage is the issue I’m sure, but give me that option. No manual in the turbo, why not…again, give me the option. They say the Forester was designed from the back to the front…I think they got to the drivers seat and just stopped trying. The inside looks just like my son’s Crosstrek. The pod up on the dash in the center looks like someone forgot all about it till the last day then simply threw a hard piece of non-matching plastic up there to shade the display. Then you get to the outside. They said they did away with the turbo hood scoop as they are trying to get older people excited about their cars and that looked too young, but instead on the XT they added in a fake front scoop for the brakes on either side…why? It’s by far the ugliest subaru out there now that they are killing off the Tribeca. After 10 years of going all Subaru I’m venturing out in another direction. My wife still loves her outback, but it’s like driving a boat for me. I wanted something smaller which is why the Forester looked like an option however now…MINI Countryman? At least it’s ugly in a cute way.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Give that 2.0 a try, mstover. The 2.0T in my Tiguan is a monster, responsive at all speeds– and that’s pulling a one-ton trailer at 10,000 feet. Unladen, it’s just a step behind my GTI, which uses the same dinky little engine. I feel your sad yearning for a manual, though.

      It goes without saying that the new Forester is uglier. A sign of the tatted-out, overstimulated times we live in. All cars (certain luxury sports cars excepted) are getting uglier each year. Look at the Ford’s furious overstyling, with too many details to Focus on and no calm place for your eyes to Escape to. Look at the Nissan Puke, er, Juke… no, on second thought, don’t. Our roads are increasingly looking like Japanese comic books, just without the bright colors.

  • avatar
    fozone

    I’m a 4-time-subaru owner, from the 1980s until today, so i’d like to chime in here. I don’t see these things with rose-colored glasses, but they aren’t as crappy as they are made out to be in the Piston Slap thread yesterday.

    For those who have never owned one, the straight-up Truth About Subarus:

    1) They will never be as reliable as an Accord, CRV, or Honda lawn mower. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. They wont shed parts in the driveway like something French or Italian, but don’t expect to go 100k without something going wrong — most likely the CV boots, wheel bearings, or something equally dumb will bite the dust. The drivetrain should hold up, except….

    2) The head gasket issue. This is real, but not universal. Their old 2.2 engines were bulletproof but made the cars slow as molasses; when they bored it out to 2.5L, the problems started, and I think have remained until the end of the EJ series. Who knows about the new engine.

    Only one of mine has developed a head gasket leak, and it isn’t the type of explosive, leave-you-at-the-side-of-the-road condition. I’ve been nursing mine for the past 15k. When it pops, it’ll be about $1k to fix. This *does not* happen to everyone, but you hear a lot about it, because when it finally goes off for someone, it is an expensive pain in the ass to fix. Especially now that the engines are using timing chains, this issue will be come more painful. Frequently people would wait to do the HG when the timing belt was changed, this is no longer an option.

    3) Your mileage will be awful, don’t believe the sticker. I’ve never come close to EPA with mine, and I drive like a senile grandmother.

    4) You will have noise — lots of it, from many places. The buzzy flat-4, the wind, the driveshaft. It is part of the deal. There has never been a Subaru Brougham. I’ve been in Cobalts that felt more serene.

    5) AWD is great, but face it — not necessary for the majority of people where pavement is common. A good set of snows work just as well for most people (and in fact, in Vermont, most people who own Subies shod them with Nokian snows during the winter too.. there’s a reason for that. )

    That said —

    1) All subies (except the B9) are fun to drive, especially on gravel or dirt.

    2) The visibility is awesome. Not Honda-Prelude-in-the-80s-Fighter-Jet awesome, but the closest thing you are going to get in 2013. If this matters to you, Subaru is one of your only choices. It is one of the reasons I’m probably going to buy another.

    3) The lack of super-high-tech built-in satnav systems, and old school radios/knobs gets lampooned in the automotive press, but if you keep your car for a long time it is a blessing, not a curse. Get a beanbag friction mount for your phone and use the Aux jack. You will always have a state-of-the-art system.

    4) If you think you want a trailer hitch (ie, for rear-mounted bike racks or towing), negotiate it as part of the deal when buying the car. In order to install the OEM hitch, you have to drop the exhaust — it is a major (read: expensive) pain in the ass. So get the dealer to do it for you up-front, save yourself $800.

    5) Don’t go nuts optioning the cars up — they can actually be a decent buy when “adequately” equipped but start going crazy with the check boxes and they quickly become a bad deal.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the write-up. I’ve only owned one and already gone through a few issues.

      I have an 05 STi (written about here: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-i-just-heard-what/ )that outside of a few issues (valve spring 10k, a suspension part, and 2 rear differential temp sensors, blown 20a fuse) has been pretty reliable.

      The big PITA for me is the banjo bolt filter that needs to be checked at oil change.

      My gas mileage has been surprisingly good (2013 – 23.21mpg mixed, 19.16mpg low, 24.43mpg high over the last 24 refuels), but then again most of my commuting is “highway”. The car is rated 16/22. I typically shift around 2k.

      It has some rattles & squeaks but most cars I’ve driven have that.

      I’m not sure I’d buy another due to gas mileage. My average price this year for 93 is $4.07 and stations have moved to a $0.40-$0.50 spread on premium over 87.

    • 0 avatar

      I liked your reply and I think it covered some of the points that make people like this car over others. In Brazil Subaru has been “in and out” a couple of times, and lately they’ve been back in, but they’re an extremely rare sight. Talking to some people who own them, they seem to share your experience and swear by them. Ultimately owners here buy more of the cars than the trucks. People seem to like the drive and power, but economy sucks and reliability is iffy. In terms of design, most people who like them, like them in spite of the design.

      BTW, if you want to be straight talker and speak the “truth” it hurts your credibility mightily to write a blanket generalization like you did on French and Italians cars.

      Thanks for the informative posts anyways.

      • 0 avatar
        fozone

        Sorry Marcelo — I forgot the site has an international audience. In the US, French and Italian cars have an atrocious reputation.

        So bad, in fact, that virtually all of them (save the exotics) were forced to exit the market long ago. I have no idea what they are like these days, reliability-wise.

        But every car person of a certain age here in the US will have mental images of a Le Car or X1/9 shedding parts and leaking various fluids onto a driveway.

        Perhaps Fiat’s return will change this?

        • 0 avatar

          Hey no need to apologize for sure. I was just pointing something out that struck me as odd in na otherwise very well written response. It probably does have to do with our diferente backgrounds so probably yeah, na American reader would find nothing wrong with what you wrote.

          I apologize too if I came off as harsh there.

        • 0 avatar
          Beerboy12

          It helps to keep in mind that Fiat (Italian) now owns Chrysler and Renault (French) owns Nissan. I would say that has to give some indication of what’s changed over the last 20 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Wraith

      “3) Your mileage will be awful, don’t believe the sticker. I’ve never come close to EPA with mine, and I drive like a senile grandmother.”

      This hasn’t been the case for me. For my average commute (short trips, lots of gravel), I get EPA combined or better in all but the worst winter driving. On longer trips, in good weather, it’s not hard to make or beat the highway figure.

      But I know there have been some complaints about the new Impreza and Crosstrek not making EPA figures w/ the CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Cons 1-4 are significant, tangible problems that are hard for me to overlook. Pros 1-5 don’t even come close to making up for them, especially since 4 really isn’t a pro and 3 and 5 are true for nearly every competitor. I guess Subarus aren’t for me!

    • 0 avatar
      M. Ellis

      My mom is on her 3rd Subie, a fully optioned out Legacy Outback. (Really, it has more options than she needs, but she wanted the rear view camera badly enough to get the upgraded stuff to get it.)

      She lives in Colorado. Every November the snow tires go on the car. In late April or early May they come off. She’s driven thousands of miles (if not tens of thousands) up in the mountains, in conditions including whiteout blizzards, mud season, and so on. She doesn’t take it off road, but getting to my uncle’s ranch very nearly qualifies at some times of the year. Her Subies have never let her down.

      And yes, they have all the drawbacks listed: they rattle a bit, they’re noisy on the road (especially with a ski rack on the roof), and they don’t get fantastic mileage. And the new Subie is because she had the head gasket issue on the old one just about the time she was thinking of replacing it anyway.

      At the moment I’m considering a new vehicle for myself, and with mom’s first granddaughter on the way, a Forester has that combination of room, practicality, safety, and winter competence that vaults it up in the lists.

    • 0 avatar
      truenorth

      These are very good observations. I’ll just pass along that a local guy installed a Curt hitch on my 2013 under $300. It attaches to the frame, too, not the bumper (?!?) FWIW. I hope the electronics on the 2014 are more up to date than my car. I rented a Ford Escape with all the options and it’s like Windows7 compared with MS-DOS.

    • 0 avatar
      chperry@ieee.org

      My wife is on her second Subaru. The first was a Legacy wagon (late 90s). She drive it 10 or 11 years, and well over 100k miles with NO problems. Of course at 90k we had to have the timing belt, and every possible oil seal, changed as expected. Subies do tend to weep oil when they age. She now has a 2007 B9 with 98k on it. Again, zero problems other than the 90k service. No timing belt on this one (chain) but plenty of oil seals to change to stop leaks. I have no doubt her next car will be another Subaru. She still loves her car. Her only complaint, after seeing me use Synch in my F250 for hands free on the cell, she hates that her car is not hands free capable.

      It is true that the mileage is not great. But the peace of mind when it rains and the roads get slick is worth it. I am not sure what mix they use for asphalt here in east TN, but I think it has slime in it. When it rains, the roads are SLICK.

  • avatar
    Slocum

    The Forester and Outback are almost the same vehicle with a different shape (taller & shorter vs longer and lower). Same interior volume, same drive-train, almost the same curb weight and MPG. Even the difference in price is deceptive — when comparably equipped, they’re less than $1000 apart.

    In most countries, they also have the same tow rating — but not in the U.S. Here the Forester is rated only for 1500# vs 2500# for the Outback, so we bought a 2014 Outback and didn’t even consider a Forester. There’s really nothing else out there with the same combination of fuel-efficiency and tow rating (and certainly not also with 4WD).

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Interesting how the Forester has lost capability over the years. My ’04 was rated for a 2400 lb load. The engine was up to that, barely, but the suspension wasn’t. If Subaru still uses a MacPherson strut rear suspension, you’re limited to not much more than 100 lbs of tongue weight before Saggy Butt Syndrome occurs.

      I drove a new Outback while the Foz was spent days at the dealer for repair. It handled like its name should have begun with “S.S. …”

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Outback is longer, wider, heavier, and thirstier. Outback offers a 3.6l engine option.

      • 0 avatar
        Slocum

        Eh, not really. Curb weights for 2014 (both with 2.5 and CVT) are 3366 vs 3459 (less than 100# difference), MPG ratings are 24/32 vs 24/30. The Forester is taller, the Outback longer, but cargo volumes with seats down are almost the same 74.7 vs 71.3 (the new Forester is actually larger). And yes, the Outback offers the 3.6 as the performance option while the Forester offers the turbo.

        • 0 avatar
          Skink

          Really. I’m correct on each and every count. Sure, it’s close. And the Forester has more cargo volume. 2 mpg better highway with the Forester. Greater frontal area for the Forester, yet better fuel economy.

          List price, equipped the same, option for option, the Forester is less expensive. on the MSRP.

          Still, based on the above good reasons, one can buy a 2013 Outback for a lot less money than a 2014 Forester.

          In the summer of 2014, the 2014 Forester will be a current model year car. The 2013 Outback for sale today will be a year old.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            Outback has better materials and feel than a Forester, as it’s based on the Legacy and the Forester is based on the Impreza.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            The Outback/Legacy was cheapened up for 2010, it was too expensive to make. Now that the Forester has been plushed up a bit they are pretty much the same in interior quality.

            LOL at the “Impreza vs Legacy” you might think they are different…but slide under there and you’ll see it is based on the same platform, the Impreza has been a SWB Legacy since 08. Suspension arms, sway bars, subframes, entire drivetrain, strut bodies, shocks…it all swaps between Impreza/Legacy/Forester/Outback. Subaru uses subframe spacers and plays with struts and arms to tune geometry for the different ride heights.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      If you work on them you would see they are pretty much the same underneath, same suspension pretty much the same platform, all based on the 08 Impreza which was based on the 05 Legacy. This is the basis of everything that Subaru builds, even the BRZ is using same subframe/suspension design, with backwards WRX arms up front and the same rear suspension design as all the other Subarus. They get a lot of mileage out of their platform.

      With Forester/Outback you are pretty much picking the size/equipment/drivetrain you like best.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Do you reviewers get paid per metaphor? Do you get paid more if they are obscure, mixed, rude, or worse?

  • avatar
    Wraith

    Any thoughts on driver’s seat comfort, bolstering, and position? I test drove the Forester and Crosstrek some months back and wished the seats had a little more side support. Maybe it was partially due to the higher driving position; I’m used to my Legacy (08), so going to a crossover would be a change in that respect. I think I liked the seats in the CX-5 better.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      On a related note, back in the old days, Subaru used this awesome soft ‘mouse fur’ material on their seats — it was plush and typically a vulgar hue — blue, red, etc.

      And it was *wonderful*, absurdly comfortable stuff.

      Over the past couple of decades the materials that they’ve chosen have gotten stiffer or lost its ‘pile’ altogether — resembling something of a cloth, but not (cost-cutting? changing fashion?)

      Subaru — if you are listening — bring back mouse fur. Your cars are already marching to the beat of a different drummer, why not go whole-hog?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        A number of car companies used that plush mouse fur in their seats. I like it, but now you’ll get pilloried in the automotive press if you use it.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      The seats in the CX-5 are very comfortable. I thought the front seats in the Forester good but, as you point out, lacking in side bolstering. Not a big deal here, but in the XT more noticeable.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      We’ve found the 2014 Forester Limited driver’s seat to be firm and comfortable. It has electric adjustable lumbar support, which is helpful. In general I’ve always found power seats to be helpful on long drives, in that I fiddle with the settings. Sometimes ‘different’ feels more comfortable for a while.

    • 0 avatar
      Speedygreg7

      My car has the same seats as your 08. I find the width a lateral support of the seat bottom and seat back to be very good for my size and the type of car. However, I find the bottom cushion too short.

      The 14 Forester in comparison has the worst seats I have found in any current vehicle 20-35k. They have very small bolsters on the back rest and are flat on the very short feeling bottom cushion. They are chairs, not seats. I actually took a tape measure to the dealer and found the Impreza/Crosstrek seats to be 1 inch longer in the bottom cushion. It makes a huge difference.

      Of course, seat comfort is highly subjective and YMMV, but as a strong Subaru fan I was lloking forward to the Forseter XT as my next vehicle. Those seats, and the door mounted mirrors/small quarter windows ruined it for me.

      Now, if you could mount BRZ seats in the Forester and mount them 2-3″ lower than the lowest position in the Forseter, I could get used to the mirrors.

  • avatar

    Great review, Brendan. Be thankful that the tested car didn’t have the optional nav. The nav interface isn’t as dated. But it is nearly unusable. Just one knob, for volume. Everything else is via the worst touchscreen yet.

    • 0 avatar
      Wraith

      Yes, the stereo interface you get with the Forester’s Nav is pretty bad. Maybe it’s something you can get used to, doing more with the wheel controls than by touch. Would have preferred a smaller nav/audio screen with physical buttons/knobs for audio controls.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        which is why when shopping for a CUV recently I absolutely refused all the nav and whatever else electronic I could get later as aftermarket.
        I am so weary of these systems being attached to costly packages and then out of date within a few years.
        Nothin worse than sitting in a fantastic classic and seeing a cassett player!
        And getting a $200 dollar letter from Lincoln every other year for my nav map update pisses me off.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Subaru runs about 5 years behind in interior electronics. They just added auto up window a couple years ago. Radios are very basic, usually adapted from outdated aftermarket tech, old one was Kenwood, now Pioneer. On the other hand the enthusiasts love it, easy to slide the DIN size radio out and put in whatever the latest hot thing is.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        Funny about auto-up windows, my first Subaru, a winter beater ’88 GL Turbo wagon with air suspension ‘n evrythang, had auto-up driver’s window. Plus a reasonable interior and entirely unreasonable rust protection. Hello road down there under the carpet! They must have lost the box of double throw switches somewhere in the FHI factory when the Legacy first came out.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          Even more interesting, Subaru was first to do those auto-up windows…but those were a simpler variety, Subaru got sued over them for safety reasons and then removed them from their cars. Now auto-up windows are a more sophisticated variety that is less likely to take out your child. Subaru is just now getting around to putting them in their cars, and only on the driver’s window at that.

  • avatar
    7402

    We test drove every vehicle in this size category early this year and it came down to two: the Subaru Forester or the BMW X3. We really like both, despite them being so different in target market, price, and personality.

    The trick with the Forester is to buy relatively low-spec (I’m thinking a “Premium” with the manual transmission and no sunroof) where you are getting A LOT of car for the money. The problem with the X3 is that it offers no value proposition anywhere in its price range. At the bottom end you have a car with vinyl (pleather, whatever) seats, no sunroof, no back-up camera (?), etc., so it will be worth nothing at resale time since the market for used (pseudo)luxury vehicles requires high option content. At the high end of the X3’s price range it almost makes more sense to buy an X5. So, the main problem with the X3 is that, while you get more car than the Forester, it is not very much car for the money you have to spend.

    We love Hondas and own two as I write this. The 2013 CR-V had one fatal flaw that drove us from the showroom: the lumbar support in the front passenger seat. I’m tall and my wife is short, and we were both experienced pain during and after a 10-minute ride in that passenger seat. The support is not adjustable, so there is no work around. Some flaws are deal breakers. Seriously, Honda, please fix that one thing . . . .

    Also, the Ford Escape, which is generally very well executed, has a very punishing back seat, a situation not resolvable at any spec level. The Mercedes GLK suffers much from being too obviously the cheap car in a luxury line up. The Toyota RAV4 just feels cheap in every trim level. The Acura RDX does not justify the cost delta over the Honda CR-V. The Lexus RX drives like an ungainly beast, though it has its charms.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      That’s an interesting list of comparisons, a list that I might have for various reasons. Can I ask why no Tiguan? It would be on my list along with the others

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Because it’s not cheap and Japanese? That’s the two criteria that seem to draw CUV drivers like ants to a picnic.

      • 0 avatar
        JD321

        Tiguan is of lower value…The next one should be competitive.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheatridger

          “Lower value?” Is that another way of saying “higher priced?”

          The Tiguan my wife bought instead is very quick, roomy, quiet and well-finished, with cool but useful options like adaptive HID lights. It isn’t awkwardly ugly, like a CRV, or fiendishly overstyled, like an Escape. The other day, I took it around a fast corner and actually forgot I wasn’t driving my other car, a GTI. It’s proven to be a far more capable trailer tow car than the old Forester was.

          If the Tiguan ever actually became “competitive,” how awesome would that be?

  • avatar
    Dan

    I really like the previous gen Forester except for its horrid powertrain. I’ve borrowed a family member’s 09 (not turbo) several times for ski trips and come away every time thinking about buying one. The visibility and open cabin are a joy, it eats up bad roads, there’s a whole catalog of WRX suspension bits to make it suck less on good roads.

    That’s always fallen apart for two reasons.

    1. The decent powertrain runs upper twenties while everything else about the car stays the same hard, cheap and noisy that it is in the base model at 20 flat. (Which is hard, cheap and noisy even by 20K standards because it’s built in Japan with expensive yen to sell here for cheap USD.)

    2. It’s a Subaru. Coexist with the gay whales to free cop killers.

    This update doesn’t address either. The base powertrain sucks less than it did before but it’s too slow to get new car money from me. The turbo adds a CVT which nobody wanted, takes a step closer to $30,000, and adds

    3. Ridiculous looking overstyling on the chin gills, 18″ wheels, hatch spoiler, chrome fog light surrounds (for $33,000, for $29,000 it’s black plastic filler and you don’t even get fogs), chrome sills, etc.

    For that kind of money Subaru has a better car in the same showroom in the Outback. Nevermind the rest of the market.

  • avatar
    moawdtsi

    I know this is an old video, but in looking at other vehicles, I always ask, will they climb? Will the new CR-V do any better?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7dVFY5CxT0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    I have a legacy like the one at the end of the video above. Climbing rollers with only one wheel having traction!

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I will add one last thing.

    I dont buy new so I am not a good judge of how to allocate hard earned dollars on a a brand new appliance (all cars are appliances, some are just shinier).

    Therefore, I am very harsh on new cars as they have to do something very significant for me to consider torching money on insta-depreciation.

    1. Be reliable outside of warranty
    2. Hold resale value so I can get out with minimal loss
    3. Be fuel efficient to preserve cash-flow.
    4. Be with in my means to pay cash up front. If I can’t afford it in cash… It is outside of my means

    Having said this, I dont think the Forrester does any of this for me so I therefore cannot endorse it.

    If I need to go deep into the mountains for a day-trip, I can rent an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      Google Subaru resale value…they are on all sorts of lists of “best resale value” they actually rate pretty well.

      Of course that is a double edge sword if you don’t buy new. Used Subarus don’t seem like a very god deal to me due to the high prices.

  • avatar
    ccbc

    To me, Subaru is going out. After two Impreza at the same time (a 2006 and 2008, both NA), I quickly conclude that the mechanical quality goes in the opposite direction of what I really want.

    The 2006 Impreza has those frameless windows, such a better handling and reputation compared to the 2008.

    However, I’m still unsure about the best replacement. It will probably be a very common car, like the new Mazda 3. No AWD for the winter, but I really give up to Subaru. And to me, other electronic AWD aren’t the same as mechanical AWD from Subaru. Even the better-than-average X-drive from BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      I feel the much the same, though I owned an 09 WRX. The suspension design was easily superior to the decades old design on the previous gen. But even so, Subaru seems to be messing with the enthusiasts…the STI hasn’t added any performance or power for years, on the other hand rolling out the widebody WRX for 2011 was a masterstroke and sales are great. The performance versions of the Legacy and Forester are pretty much gone, the current and last gen XT Forester seems to be just a powerful engine not the exciting drive the old one was.

      You give Subaru AWD too much credit. The only “mechanical” AWD is the manual trans, which other than a viscous center diff has VDC as its traction aid (actually superior to the old rear VLSD). The automatic versions are electronic clutch pack driven just like every other system. There is too much made of tiny differences that don’t matter, great Subaru marketing!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        ’13 FXT owner here. The AWD system is electronically controlled, but still gives very different results from those of the competition. The reason is the 60/40 default front/rear torque split (vs. 100/0 in every other competitive CUV). This pays big dividends both on dry roads (where it helps the chassis manage the turbo torque surprisingly well) and in the wet/snow/mud (where you don’t have to wait for the computer to have at least some traction in the back when the front slips).

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          True agreed there, Subaru has been on the “proactive” clutch AWD system much longer, though they used to be 90/10 split. Haldex is just getting to that now.

          And of course the manual trans is a 50/50 split since it uses a diff which is nice.

          • 0 avatar
            CelticPete

            Subaru buyers wouldn’t think of buying either but on the low end the CX-5, and Cherokee are pretty tough competition for that. The Cherokee is going to have a 9 speed transaxle and a nice V6. The CX now has a respectable 2.5 liter and a pretty nice transmission.

            On the high end a lot of the German makes are competitive like the X3 and a lot of Audis. The Audi’s have the best AWD with the automatic (not counting the Haldex A3, TT).

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            My feeling on the whole thing is for what most owners are using it for, snow storm or maybe a down a dirt road once…any of the systems are going to be just fine. Everything else is just for bragging rights.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        I probably won’t buy a Subaru for my next vehicle, because although the MPT automatic has been 60/40 since the ’99 model year, this electronic crap braking one wheel or another to simulate LSD action doesn’t do it for me. And rowing a Subie manual reminds me of what life must have been like for galley slaves back in Roman times – torture. The MPT (multi-plate transfer) clutch is better than the instant on crap in Fords and Hondas, and has the ability to he slapped on behind any transmission for cheap. But that’s about it. Quattro it is not.

        Subaru did make one superior AWD tranny. In manual form it’s in the STI. In automatic form it’s now limited to the Legacy/Outback 3.6l 6 cylinder model. I have it in my ’08 Legacy GT, a planetary gear center diff with an electronically controlled lsd clutch around it as well. Coupled with rear LSD and electronic wheel VDC as well, it tends to always move in low traction situations. You have to do really silly things in snow to get the traction control light to even flicker on the dash. That’s when all the mechanical stuff finally throws up its hands in despair.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          I have had a couple of the Subarus, 09 WRX MT, OBXT 5EAT right now. Both work great in the snow. The STI 6MT and DCCD is a different animal altogether, but I guess the 5EAT system is the closest you can get. Honestly the 5MT and its AWD system is ancient and very basic but viscous works well.

          You overstate the need for the rear VLSD and underestimate the VDC. The viscous unit in the Subaru R160 is super weak it transfers very little torque per rpm. On the other hand the VDC can brake a wheel which transfers a lot of torque (even better with the Forester X-mode) as well as working on the front axle as well as rear. It is a typical car guy feeling to like the mechanical system, but Subaru removed the VLSD because it isn’t needed with the VDC.

  • avatar
    Skink

    Brendan, you can change that analog clock display to numerical display if it’s that vexing, like cursive.

    Try finding your way out of the wilderness with an analog display wristwatch. Never mind. There’s an app for that.

  • avatar
    modemjunki

    Our secondhand ’02 Forester S Premium is one of the ones that has a drinking problem. Not very much, about a quart of coolant between oil changes.

    Since I work on it myself, I would say the cost of ownership is pretty fair. And despite the fact the the previous owner simply abused it the vehicle has held up well. All of the switchgear and components work.

    But when the head gasket finally goes, it will probably be the end of it. I’m not up for putting in a new engine.

  • avatar
    AustinOski

    “Yes, my spur-of-the-moment durability experiment probably caused it, but the mild rattle issuing from somewhere in the dashboard…”

    After a few drives? Oy vey.

    Hence my love for our 124 Wagon (and the 124 sedans we’ve had).


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