By on March 14, 2018

If there’s a great way to piss off Subaru buyers, the quirky Japanese brand hasn’t thought of it yet. Few automakers can boast of Subaru-like annual sales increases, and even fewer can say their customers are more likely to stick with the brand at trade-in time. Actually, only one brand can say that.

Subaru holds the distinction of actually seeing its U.S. sales rise during the recession, and from 2008 to 2017, volume rose by more than 245 percent. One of the models contributing to its success is the unassuming but remarkably capable Forester — a boxy, upright compact crossover with a tall greenhouse and an interior larger than its outside appearance would suggest.

Screwing up the next-generation Forester, which debuts later this month as a 2019 model, could hurt Subaru badly. No surprise, it looks like the automaker is choosing to play it safe.

We’ll see the whole thing at the New York Auto Show on March 28th, but for now, all we have to go on is a taillight and corner of the new model’s liftgate seen in this teaser photo. The shape of the rear glass doesn’t diverge much from the fourth-gen model, which went on sale in early 2013.

Modern, C-shaped taillights mimic those seen on recent Viziv-badged concept cars, signalling the model’s adoption of Subaru’s new design language. Unlike other models, however, the backup lights are located below the taillights, not nestled in the nook of the “c.”

Like we’ve seen with the recently introduced Impreza and its Crosstrek sibling, Subarus are quickly leaving the brand’s chunky styling in the past. It seems the Forester, which grows ever-so-slightly smoother with each generation, is continuing in this direction, but won’t make the mistake of turning into an anonymous blob. (The model moves onto the Subaru Global Platform, shared by those smaller models, for 2019.) Fewer cutouts, and perhaps a flowing line or two could be in the cards. In the photo, the crossover’s fenders, beltline, and tumblehome appear remarkably similar to the current version.

Powertrain information isn’t available, but it’s safe to expect the return of a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four and a turbocharged uplevel engine, each hooked to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. Previous top-flight Foresters borrowed a 2.0-liter unit, but the new Ascent’s blown 2.4-liter makes for an interesting possibility. Base-model purists had best hope Subaru isn’t planning a manual transmission cull.

While the automaker continues to see stellar sales growth, the Forester appears to have peaked. After climbing every year since 2011, Forester sales in the U.S. dropped by six-tenths of a percent in 2017. In February, the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year sales declines, the Forester fell 9.2 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. Over the first two months of 2018, U.S. volume fell 12.4 percent (It’s possible that anticipation of a new model plays into these numbers.)

We’ll have all the details on the 2019 Subaru Forester after it premieres on March 28th.

[Images: Subaru]

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18 Comments on “2019 Subaru Forester Bound for New York, Needs to Keep the Sales Magic Alive...”

  • avatar

    I think buyers receive a free “coexist” bumper-sticker if they spring for the rustproofing.

  • avatar

    I argue they’re going more chunky in the looks department. Compare a 2012 Outback to a new one. More square grille, front end, lamps front and rear, and a stronger shoulder line.

  • avatar

    Those drooping rear control arms don’t do the clearance any good.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Although eye-catching, this design turns out not to be a concern in practice. Riding the between the tracks becomes a habit pretty soon. The poor break-over or ramp angle gets you first.

      • 0 avatar

        There are times when there is no alternative to driving in deep icy ruts or ruts in gravel roads. And sometimes you have to bypass rocks close to the wheels. Older Foresters and Outbacks had those control arms tucked up pretty well flush with the rest of the undercarriage.

  • avatar

    There’s zero question about what the volume configuration will be: pretty much the same as today’s, just with standard EyeSight and a bit more interior refinement.

    My question is whether either the manual or the turbo will survive. If I had to bet, I’d bet the manual dies but the turbo lives on for another generation. The turbo cars are pricey and probably generate some nice profit.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Subaru holds the distinction of actually seeing its U.S. sales rise during the recession, and from 2008 to 2017, volume rose by more than 245 percent.”

    That’s because of love, and the fear of dying without symmetrical AWD to save you from Bad Things. They’re geniuses.

    • 0 avatar

      Marketing geniuses, indeed – though I find the advertising repulsive, using puppy dogs and little children and “love” to overcome many years of catastrophic head gasket failures, then excessive oil consumption, and, more recently, CVT durability concerns (with transmission warranty extensions to 100k miles).

  • avatar

    Subaru doesn’t even have to introduce a better design- they just have to avoid screwing up the one they have.

  • avatar

    I’m driving my 2006 Forester until they come out with something better looking than the current bland funky blob. I hope this is it because I’m starting to leak oil. The old one feels lighter on its feet and more responsive to drive than the current model. I doubt that will change in 2019…

  • avatar

    Subaru’s brand identity is safety, security, good feelings, being a responsible citizen, disconnecting from the modern world in an outdoorsy manner, cute dogs ordering at the drive-thru, feeling good because Charity X got a donation when you bought the car, etc. As long as they stick to this formula any minor design changes to their vehicles between generations won’t matter.

  • avatar

    They haven’t thought of a way to piss off buyers? So we’re just going to ignore the way SOA handles engine replacements for cars that burn through their oil and destroy themselves? There are a lot of Subaru owners out there who are a little more than pissed off. And if C-shaped tail lights like the ones everyone is using now is Subaru’s way of venturing into daring design, uh, keep it.

  • avatar

    Hopefully they keep the manual AND make it less clunky than a Mack truck shifter.

  • avatar

    Wow, there’s a lot of snark aimed at Subaru. FWIW, we’ve take my wife’s Forester deep into Death Valley, down 60 miles of unpaved deeply washboarded trails a couple times. I should see if we can get one of Subaru’s bumper badges for that…

    But looking forward to seeing what the 2019 Forester looks like. I sprung for the 2017 Impreza after VW’s Dieselgate. If she hadn’t had a Forester, I’d have probably gone for that, but I didn’t want to be one of those freak families that have two of the same damn vehicle. But starting to think, what the hell, why not get another?

  • avatar

    Well these will soon be clogging the roads in my neck of the woods driving 25 in a 35 with me stuck behind them.

    Oh boy I can’t wait.

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