By on November 22, 2017

2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i

At this year’s L.A. Auto Show, Subaru will introduce the Ascent, a seven-passenger crossover that the brand is calling the “biggest yet” and “family-sized.” In a market awash with three-row machines, Subaru is one of the few brands not peddling a vehicle that will seat a shift of hockey players plus their driver.

Until then, let’s toss one of Subaru’s current nameplates, the Forester, under our Ace of Base microscope.

Unless one pops for a 2.0XT model, priced in the thirties, all Forester wagons come with the same engine. A 2.5-liter boxer-four lives between the fenders, making 170 horsepower and rated at 28 mpg on the highway. All-wheel drive is standard, of course, as is a manual transmission.

Gone are the days when Legacy and Outback drivers could row-their-own all the way to their active-lifestyle destination, thanks to aggressive fuel economy regs and a CVT which reliably boosts fuel economy by nearly 14 percent in these vehicles. Fortunately, the Exploding Galaxy has not stripped the Forester of its manual box. This is a large reason why I chose the Forester for today’s Ace of Base and not one of its similarly-sized showroom cousins.

The 2.5i trim, at $22,795, rides on 17-inch steelies providing a not insignificant 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Eagle-eyed shoppers can spot this base model on dealer lots by looking for its black side mirrors and lack of rear spoiler. The 2.5i is also the only Forester not to include a moonroof, but take it from this 6’6” human: it eats into headroom. You don’t need it.

A six-way manually adjustable seat wrapped in cloth greets the driver, along with a sensible dashboard layout and logical analog gauges. Audio controls pepper the tilt/telescope steering wheel, controlling an infotainment system bearing a 6.2-inch screen and rear-facing camera.

Ever the practical one, all Foresters have grocery bag hooks and underfloor storage in the cargo area. A bevy of airbags keep things pillowy in a crash. Discs perform braking duties at all four corners along with the usual suite of traction control assists and dynamic vehicle controls that mete out or rein in power as needed in hair-raising road conditions.

No fewer than seven different paint options are on offer, ranging from the milquetoast grayscale to interesting green, red, and blue. This is pleasing to the discerning Ace of Base customer who desires choice in the hue of their next new car. Infuriatingly, the only way to get a black interior is to spec Crystal Black or Ice Silver exterior paint.

The brand as a whole has never been stronger, now selling triple the number of cars annually it was in 2002. In that year, they sold the Legacy, Impreza, WRX, Outback, and Forester. Today, showrooms are filled with those machines plus the BRZ and Crosstrek. Tripling one’s sales while only adding two models (one of those being low-volume) speaks to the inroads Subaru has made in the minds of American shoppers.

The Forester’s styling doesn’t speak to this author, as I’ve always found it too tall and narrow. That is, of course, strictly subjective. Given the level of standard equipment, and the continued presence of a manual transmission, a base model Forester holds a good bit of appeal for someone seeking a capacious all-wheel drive machine not priced into the stratosphere.

[Image: Subaru]

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65 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i...”


  • avatar
    felix

    No driving impressions?

    Did you not drive the car or was the experience really that forgettable?

    • 0 avatar
      CaddyDaddy

      We already know what the driving impression is like. Noisy enough on the highway to be annoying after an hour, buzzy powerplant if required to do more than normal and a little embarrassing to discuss fuel mileage with people who drive similar makes. Oh ……and kind of uncomfortable.

      For a mountain town / snow country commuter, it’s a hell of a bargain. However, just like Tata’s Nano, very few people will purchase a low end car and will instead opt for a same price higher end used car. Just my thoughts.

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        Too bad your thoughts are not based on facts. I have a 2017 Forester stick shift and it’s a great car. If its stick shift action didn’t resemble a Mac truck stick shift with its clunkiness, it would have been an excellent car. I compare it to the last generation Acura TSX wagon which I also have. Noise level is the same overall and less of engine noise and tire noise, the ride is softer but not much more wallowy, and acceleration is softer which should be expected. It can hit 30 mpg on the highway. The only real “performance” limitation in the corners is the seat that’s kind of small and you’re not braced. So I haven’t pushed it hard enough to squeal the tires. I am not a small guy and have done 400 miles with many stops in a day with no trouble. This is the car you want in real life on real roads.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        ^^^^^Pretty has been thr same by the Japanese economy cuv’s for this decade.

  • avatar
    deanst

    What’s going on in the photo? Bad photoshopping?

  • avatar
    gtem

    “…a CVT which reliably…”

    There’s a joke to be made there :p

  • avatar
    cicero1

    first generation was one of the ugliest things ever put on 4 wheels. current one is not as bad but still not good looking at all.

    as for the “photo” – looks like all the windows were shattered.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ll say the exact opposite, the gen 1, and the refresh that ran through ’02 IIRC were really handsome and purposeful looking little “trucklets” with fun accessories like a factory front bushguard and massive fog lights.

      • 0 avatar
        swiftfox4

        Agree. I had a 2002 that was reliable, went 347,000 miles, enough acceleration for highway commuting to DC and AWD for snow trips. I’d rate it behind the TDI Golf that I purchased as my next car. And it did not look like a toaster with wheels like the first gen Forester.

  • avatar
    NN

    Got to be one of the best all around vehicles available for that price

  • avatar
    redapple

    Guys – Help me.

    I m thinking of pulling the trigger on this or a CRV EX (with all the safety goodies).

    To compare apples to apples the subie would need the all weather option and Eyesight on a Premium model. That brings the price to a higher point than the CRV EX.

    Subie quality???? Anybody KNOW which way to lean?

    • 0 avatar
      Akhil Malhotra

      Sit in them and decide on comfort.

      We looked at the CR-V, CX-5, and Forester for my wife. Ended up with a ’17 2.0 XT Touring because she felt comfortable driving and seeing out of it (she’s tiny), the turbo has good power (2.5 felt a little gutless), and is well spec’d (especially the Touring). We opted out of Eyesight etc. (my philosophy is if you need nannies, you’re not paying attention).

      I don’t know what you mean by the All-Weather option. The Subaru features AWD standard (it’s optional on the CR-V, depending on trim level, I believe).

      Honda has marginally better quality and definitely better reliability (source: owned Honda Civic and Fit), but the Subaru feels well screwed together (I believe they’re made in Japan, whereas the CR-V might be assembled in the US, but don’t quote me on that).

      You may pay more for a Subaru as they hold their resale value well (even better than Honda). but, you might get a good financing deal or, if you shop around (paging Tom McParland), you could do well.

      Good luck!

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Well, the Forester doesn’t have a turbo at all unless you get into the top 2.0 litre XT trim. However, it has a CVT.

      The CR-V now has a new 1.5 turbo engine and a CVT and Honda’s reliability apparently isn’t what it once was.

      So maybe buy a CR-V at Carmax with the Doug De Muro warranty?

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      I find the Subaru snow traction better than the Honda’s. The nose of the Honda tends to fidget left and right in slippery conditions. The Honda is a tad safer with a slightly lower rollover risk and better passenger rating. If you are a long term owner the Subaru should be less expensive to repair. I guess I didn’t really help much at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Test drive one. Properly maintained they’ll last as well as any Toyota. My parents still have an 06 and my father (a long time Honda owner) still revs the crap out of it.

      Then again, maybe the older car had better seats…

    • 0 avatar
      Ryannosaurus

      Drive both of them (more than just the 5 minutes with a salesman) and sleep on it. Let your subconscious mind go to work and then go with your gut. Both cars are very good, no fatal flaw with either. So just pick out the one that YOU like best.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Either is a good choice I think. The CRV definitely has the edge in powertrain refinement/power/delivery (not considering the Subie 2.0 turbo here), and refinement on the road in general as well. I love the greenhouse of the Subaru and despite them going farther and farther down the MPG-optimization road, I suspect Subaru’s AWD system still has it on Honda’s. I’d rather have a CRV on a long road trip or even day to day. But if I lived in a place where there were many outdoors opportunities and fun fire roads to explore, then the Subaru would be the easy choice.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Go drive both of them.

      Seriously, ass-in-seat is the way to make that call, not asking randos (even vaguely informed randos) about “quality”.

      (“I had a Subaru 20 years ago and it was great, buy the Forester! Hondas kill transmissions!!!”

      “Hondas are even better than Toyotas! My first car was a Civic!! Subarus all break and blow up engines because I heard that and gaskets or something!”)

  • avatar
    make_light

    My ’16 XT is a great car, and likely even better after the update last year, but has one huge problem. The seat is terrible. Short and hard, the bottom cushion barely covers my butt. It’s such a shame, because otherwise the car fits my lanky 6’2″ frame perfectly, and the seating position is ideal for me. Alas, I’ll be trading it in next year since the seat makes any drive over an hour miserable.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      My wife’s Aunt said the same thing about her 2016 2.5l. Said thr seat is horrible and I would add that ear plugs should be required on our old 2012 Forester for any highway drives over a half an hour.

  • avatar
    brettc

    A friend has a 2014 Forester base, although she does have the CVT. It’s a very plain and thirsty vehicle.

    I had to pull a window air conditioner out of it last weekend so I backed my Sportwagen up to it to transfer it so I could take it to the dump. I opened the hatch on the Forester (which is a taller car) and couldn’t believe how limited the hatch opening was when it was fully open. I thought a strut was bad, but it wouldn’t move up any further. I had to duck so I didn’t hit my head on it, which is not the case on my wagon.

    I don’t get the Subaru love amongst people here in the Northeast, except that Subaru has some good ad agencies that know how to exploit fears for profit.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I’d buy a WRX version in a heartbeat.

    Simple, a little raw, AWD, fairly priced.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    My girlfriend has had one of these for the past year, with a 6-speed no less. One great thing about the Forester is the visibility out of the thing… it makes you realize how horrible most other cars’ bunker-like windows are. The manual makes it more engaging to drive than the CVT, the back seats are cavernous, and it is a fairly quiet highway cruiser with a decent ride. It is pretty boring to look at inside and out, though, the seats are hard, and the light gray cloth will stain if you look at it funny. But, for the price of the base model it offers a lot of capability and the resale values are totally nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      “resale values are totally nuts.”?

      2017 Forester and Equinox AWD are $21-22K, 2012, or 5 years later under 70,000 miles, they are both $13K on cars.com. So much for the wive’s tale.

      • 0 avatar
        Akhil Malhotra

        We looked at used Foresters and the delta between a 2-year old and a new was insignificant (buying someone else’s problems versus taking the depreciation hit) enough that we ended up buying new.

        The $21k 2017 Foresters you’re looking at are probably Ace of Base models that may be rarely available at dealers. We found they tend to stock Premium and Touring models, primarily the 2.5L.

      • 0 avatar
        JaredN

        The 2012 dropped in value because there was a massive improvement in the 2014’s. Huge fuel economy jump for just one thing.

        2 year old models sell for damn near as much as you can get a new one for.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          I think you are missing the point of the cash on the hood of $6,000-10,000 is going to exceed any publishsd residual value or you guys looking through rose colored glass like Jack B thinking Accord is any different everything else.

          I looked again on cars.com and as posted above the dealership advertised prices are within $1,000. Well 2015 Forester under 30,000 miles is $13K while the Equinox AWD is $1,000 more at $14K.

          Unless you leave your town of one Subaru and one Honda dealerships it sounds like you are sucked into being a lemming if you think Forester holds it value better than everyone else. Even Edmunds residuals values and money are with each other. Sounds like your dealership is the one to profit in the end.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Norm, why must you pollute every thread that mentions resale value with your Equinox-insecurities? I’d honestly take a Subaru and its wheel bearing issues and other build quality ‘nuances’ over a Equinox that lunches its timing chain by 100k miles. I think my brother’s seen 3 of those now. That and the rusty door panels. What a travesty.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Not everyone wants to keep a car long enough to see 100,000 miles in it.

          Put differently: I’ll hypothesize that a Corolla would easily go 200,000 miles, but the thought of being stuck driving that turd for the 10-15 years it’d take to prove my thesis holds absolutely zero appeal to me.

          And I know plenty of folks who’ve had issues with their Subarus.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “Not everyone wants to keep a car long enough to see 100,000 miles in it.”

            And I DEFINITELY wouldn’t want an Equinox of that vintage past the warranty period. You’re absolutely right, Subaru drivers wouldn’t be casting stones either. You’d be aghast if you saw the running costs for my brother’s friend’s ’09 Forester that he bought 2 years ago with 97k miles. It surely must have been abused in its former life. Wheel bearing replacement on 3 of 4 wheels, the obligatory EJ25 head gasket replacement (were starting to weep externally), and the cherry on top was the clutch giving out while he was on a road trip in Montana. It also had a horrible water intrusion issue where the floorboards would fill up with an inch of water. No traces of serious accidents mind you, the issue was traced to a factory defect. Again, no idea how the previous owner just dealt with that.

            Having said that, that experience seems to be a bit of an exception in just how bad it was.

        • 0 avatar
          22_RE_Speedwagon

          He’s talking about the Equinox, not the Travesty. The Travesty has three rows.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          The fact is the so-called Japanese residuals is a falacy when you look at the whole picture of a purchase. The incentives of the domestics align with the monetary chest thumping from the Japanese owners residuals.

          Oh, we have reliability you say. All cars are reliable today.

          So with the same cost to own and repair, what do the Japanese have to offer besides a placebo?

  • avatar
    redapple

    Forester comments:

    Thirsty
    Noisy>?
    short seat
    Great Visibility
    Great Resale.
    Oil consumption???

    No comments on the CRV EX- Perfectly forgettable perfection?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Cr-v awd is $27k for the 1.5t, or $24 for the old 2.4. Honda is just too expensive!

    • 0 avatar
      Akhil Malhotra

      Oil consumption issues were on the 2.5L in the past. I read they’ve fixed that issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      redapple, i think of the Honda and Subie as having different personalities. Imagine them in their ‘natural’ habitat… Honda is the vehicle of suburban bliss, while the Subie is more of a weekend adventurer that handles the week ok. I personally would not be caught dead in a Subaru, but as to your quest, what is it that you need the vehicle to do best for you?

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      My ex-wife has a CR-V EX. Slam the front door shut and it resonates like an empty tin can similar to Honda products of years past. Then try the door on a Forrester. A rather normal-sounding thunk as with most cars built since 1990.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I haven’t driven one of these, but I’ve checked one out at a dealer. It isn’t for me (I don’t think any Subaru except for a WRX would be), but the view out of this vehicle is AMAZING – the seating position is high, and there’s a ton of glass area. Probably explains why it’s so popular with female drivers (or at least that’s my perception of female drivers).

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My 5 foot nothing sister-in-law traded a Tiguan for a brand new Forester. Maybe that was the appeal, although Subaru also has a certain cachet among educated moneyed chi-chi crowd in New Mexico.

    • 0 avatar
      Akhil Malhotra

      Yup. Exactly this. My wife is barely 5′ and she was immediately comfortable in this.

      We test-drove a CX-5, Outback, CR-V, and HR-V prior.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      My 5’3″ wife loved the view out of our FXT. (Not so much the consistently high CO and particulate emissions from the EJ255, and their habit of getting into the cabin.)

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    If the XT still had a manual trans the Forester would still be on my lust list. That was a grownups WRX.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    My sister and her husband used to drive Jeep Libertys, one from each generation. They have been replaced with stripped down little Subarus. My sister’s is even the dark red color like the one in the pic. Steel wheels, no deep tint glass, bland gray cloth. Yuck.

    My wife detests her ’16 CR-V EX and will likely get a VW Alltrack or Sportwagen when the lease is up. I asked her about looking at Subaru and she absolutely wouldn’t even consider it, largely because she said everyone would think she is a lesbian. She’s not a car person but has seen enough rainbow stickers and Hilary stickers on Subarus to know that it doesn’t fit her self-image.

    My sister and her husband are the family’s resident far-left liberals too, so I guess they fit that part of the stereotype…

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      That last Forester I really took notice of was a lowered XT getting gas at Costco. A large mid 30s gentleman with a “WagonMasterz” sticker in the window. Don’t forget the tuner crowd.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      It has been written about before.

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/05/priceonomics-details-subarus-lesbian-marketing-love-affair/

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Solution: Move to Oregon or Colorado, where Subarus are just normal cars, not statements.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Oh, they’re statements here in Colorado, all right…but it’s a statement that more people make than in, say, Mississippi.

        And I’ve seen a surprising number of folks flying conservative political messages on their Subarus (and Priuses) around here as well.

  • avatar
    JaredN

    Typo: Combined fuel economy is 28. Highway is 32. Assuming CVT.

    Look, I sell the things- they are not the flashiest, but people buy them, even the base model here, allll dayyyy lonnnng. 99.9999% of people are A-OK with the normal 170hp motor and CVT.

    The AWD system will spank a CR-V’s (speaking from experience, I had a CRV for a year). Visibility is better, safety is better.

    The Forester needs a new radio setup to get the Android Auto/Apple Carplay that the other Subarus got finally, but those other Subaru models got it in their 2018 mid-cycle refresh or their new debut for 2018, so the Forester won’t get that stuff til the redesign.

    2017 brought noticeable but unannounced NVH improvements for this car. It’s not noticeably louder than a CR-V or RAV-4. It is sportier in handling than those two as well. 2014+ generation is wayyyy quieter and smoother than the 2009-12 generation.

    I realize in some parts of the country people are like “why though” when considering buying a Forester, but I’m in Pennsylvania which isn’t exactly a snowy state and for the 9 years I’ve been selling them, our biggest problem has always been having enough cars to sell.

    People (myself included) buy Subarus without giving a single feck about how there past cars had leaky head gaskets, or ate wheel bearings and lightbulbs for lunch, or that short-lived but real oil burning situation with the first of the new generation motor. There are distinct reasons to freaking love these cars even with their faults.

    Full-disclosure: I just bought a ’17 Golf SportWagen with 4Motion and DSG. Traded in a ’16 WRX Premium 6MT when I couldn’t deal with sedan life anymore.
    I love Subarus but I felt like playing with fire. No but seriously, I wanted a wagon, NOT a tall SUV, and for base Outback money I got a smaller, more fun-handling car, with all the amenities I wanted. Bring the Levorg here and I’ll be a Subaru driver again. But I still know and love the value and direction of this brand.

  • avatar
    JaredN

    Also, the base model is 99% equipped with the Alloy Wheel Value Package which gives you alloy wheels (duh), roof rails, and auto up/down passenger window… unless you get a stick shift.

    Which makes me think that my prior comment about the fuel economy was mistaken, in that you seem to be quoting the stick shift. However, most of them are the automatic like I just described, and that is what most buyers will go for, because it’s noticeably (like, seriously) faster than the stick shift, and gets better fuel economy.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The Premium version is more available, usually has bigger discounts, and is a better value. These are winter activity cars and you really want heated seats and roof rails. And the wheels don’t scream “I’m cheap!”

  • avatar
    Speedygreg7

    I cannot see this vehicle as anything other that a penalty box. Its seats are absolutely awful (short with zero bolstering) and it screams cheap. Plus, as a two time Subaru owner, I know this car will get very expensive to own at 70,000 miles. If you must Subaru, I think the Impreza is a better choice. The premium level 2017 Outback I test drove was not impressive in the least, either.

    We decided to keep our old car.

    The Outback has supposedly been upgraded a bit for 2018. We will give it another chance because the size and shape is perfect for our needs, but I’m not too optimistic.

  • avatar
    John Scott

    My 2017 Forester Premium 6MT has been a great car so far. 10K trouble-free miles, average 31MPG to date. I looked for this specific configuration – gets you heated seats, the nice looking alloy wheels, huge sunroof (my 6’3″ son could wear anything short of a ten gallon hat so I don’t know how you could want much more head room even with the sunroof) and the “traditional” style Subaru all wheel drive. Solid handling, good ride, plenty of room , yeah, more power would be a plus but there’s plenty for the way I drive – with four adults aboard there’s no worries keeping up with traffic on Ohio interstates. I have a strange amount of affection for my Forester though calling it “love” would be a stretch. So far it’s been the most satisfying car for the money I’ve owned in nearly 40 years of automotive ownership. We’ll see how it goes as the miles add up….

  • avatar
    turf3

    Well, we tried a ’16 Forester and a ’16 Outback, decided to buy the Outback because it’s just a little cushier and more car-like, but we both really really liked the way the Forester drove. By the way, mixed driving returns well over 25 mpg and highway over 30 with the Outback which is mechanically identical to the Forester. The EPA mileage ratings are either the best in its class, or the second best. It has been many years since Subaru four wheel drive came with a big fuel mileage penalty.

    Current data seem to indicate that any reliability issues with earlier models have been addressed (only time will tell whether addressing them has completely eliminated them, or whether there are others).

    It is not a sports car or sports sedan, and if you drive it like one and expect it to respond like one, you are not using good sense.

    It is one of the three vehicles of this type you can see out of. The other two are the same year model Outback and the VW Tiguan. I really enjoyed driving the Tiguan but I am more afraid of buying a VW with their reliability record than a Subaru with their reliability record. I will resist buying a car I can’t see out of as long as I can.

    Frankly I don’t give a rat’s behind what kind of “lesbian crunchy granola flannel wearer” image some people have decided to assign to Subaru. I am too old to care about that. I am male, so clearly not lesbian, I like granola, rarely wear flannel. Also know how to shoot, favorite dog is a poodle, know how to tie a necktie (three different ways), and carry a set of political beliefs that would curl your hair.

    I do not want to drive a school bus, thus the three row SUVs have zero appeal for me. Not interested in paying for size, weight, and poor fuel economy that I don’t need.

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