Ace of Base: 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.
Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.
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