2019 Subaru Forester Keeps Styling Safe, Dumps Manual Transmission and XT Trim

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2019 subaru forester keeps styling safe dumps manual transmission and xt trim

The next-generation 2019 Subaru Forester, which debuted Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, looks mighty familiar. That’s because, despite the updated lines, the compact crossover retains the blocky, tall-greenhouse shape of its predecessors.

Subaru flirts with conformity, but never fully succumbs.

Now riding atop the Subaru Global Platform (shares with the Impreza and Crosstrek), the 2019 Forester offers a new trim level, a power boost for the stalwart 2.5-liter flat-four, and greater standard content — especially when it comes to driver assist technology. Unfortunately for brand purists, these standard driver’s aids have eliminated the manual transmission from the Forester lineup.

All Foresters now arrive with a Lineartronic continuously variable automatic. In the outgoing model, base 2.5i and 2.5 Premium models offered three-pedal fans a standard six-speed manual. So long to the row-your-own Forester, but let’s be honest — how many of these did you ever see with a stick?

Subaru’s desire to outfit all new models with standard EyeSight driver assist features could spell the end of manuals throughout the brand’s lineup. Manuals aren’t compatible with EyeSight, and Subaru doesn’t seem keen on making one that is. Still, it’s possible — even likely — that the next-gen WRX (or its beastlier STI brother) will see a reprieve.

Stepping back a few paces, the Forester adopts more pronounced wheel arches, LED headlights, and a C-shaped taillight pattern originated by the brand’s Viziv concept vehicles. All but the base trim come with LED foglights. The redesign is more pronounced if you look at it alongside the previous generation; clearly, Subaru’s designers walked a careful line between bringing the model in line with its stablemates and retaining as much of its previous character as possible.

For 2019, direct injection comes to the 2.5-liter boxer unit, pushing power levels up for the first time in ages. Output now stands at 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, up from 170 hp and 174 lb-ft. Grille shutters boosts highway fuel economy by 1 mpg (to 33 mpg) in Subaru’s estimate; we’ll see whether the EPA agrees. For around-town driving, auto start/stop is your constant companion.

Sad news: Disappearing from the lineup for the coming model year is the XT trim, which carefully hid its turbocharged 2.0-liter and surprising get-up-and-go beneath an unassuming, cop-friendly body. Pity, that.

Naturally, symmetrical all-wheel drive returns to get all those denizens of the Cascade and Green Mountain ranges to their jobs at the local college. Active torque vectoring, formerly seen only on hotter models, becomes standard fare, and all trims boast “intelligent” and “sport” SI-Drive engine modes for either fuel savings or added responsiveness. Automatic climate control joins the list of standard kit (dual-zone on Limited and Touring models)

The model’s dimensions grows along with the 2.5-liter’s compression. Wheelbase is up 1.4 inches, with the added length benefitting rear-seat passengers. Those occupants gain a wider door opening, and there’s two extra cubes of cargo space behind the rear seat. Subaru claims gains in hip, head, and shoulder room, regardless of seat, and the rear liftgate opening now stretches an extra 5.3 inches at its maximum point.

If cargo capacity tops a buyer’s list of concerns, there’s roof rails up top on all but the base 2.5i, but you’ll have to opt for the Sport or top-end Touring trim for tie-down hooks.

Sport — that’s a new addition to the Forester lineup. Positioned between Premium and Limited, Sport swaps the lesser trims’ 17-inch wheels for an 18-inch set, blacks out the grille, tacks on a rear spoiler, and adds orange trim to the underguards and roof rails. Orange stitching shows up in the Sport’s gray cabin, too. Presumably to make up for the loss of both the stick shift and turbo, Sport models join their Touring brethren in offering paddle shifters and seven faux gear ratios.

Like before, X-Mode with hill descent control is offered on all but the base model. This driver-selectable feature tailors the throttle, transmission, AWD system, brakes, and body roll nannies to handle a variety of driving surfaces. Shell out for Sport trim (or higher) and X-Drive adds snow/dirt and deep snow/mud settings.

While tech content varies by trim, all but base models gain an 8-inch touchscreen (it’s a 6.5-incher in the 2.5i). With EyeSight comes adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warning, as well as other safety features. You’ll spend more for reverse automatic braking and rear cross-traffic alert. Now, if keeping yourself and the car out of the weeds is truly priceless, Touring models gain DriverFocus facial recognition technology that keeps tabs on your level of alertness.

Pricing was not announced in New York Wednesday; we’ll have to wait until close to the model’s on-sale date.

[Images: Subaru]

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  • Stumpaster Stumpaster on Mar 29, 2018

    No stick shift = not getting another Subaru after I return my Forester from the lease. Too bad.

  • SubeeAltitudes SubeeAltitudes on Sep 18, 2019

    Wow. So much negativity towards Subaru. .. I get the overall collected angst about the beloved manual 5 & 6 speed transmission. I’ve been the very happy, proud owner of not one, or two, but THREE Foresters & one Outback. ALL stood the test of not only time, but living off the grid in the extreme, challenging winters of New England. My daily trek to work covers both the Green & White Mountains, & 2:00am starts, so need a vehicle that works as hard as I do. My Subaru Foresters have gotten me not only to work, but from coast to coast of our gorgeous country. I have 10 good friends, two my mechanics of 20+ years (who introduced me to my First & Second Subaru), who all own Subarus. Four Foresters, one brand new! & it is incredible (though I like my manual), three Outbacks, two Imprezas & one CrossTrek. They all live active lives & drive everyday. My lead mechanic was a race car driver & I trust any recommendation he makes. He works on high price tag vehicles & owns a few jaw-dropping ones, but also knows practicality. Subaru makes a really good line to choose from. I will always own one, or two, or... I appreciate reliability & trusted design. & yeah, I like their ads & I have more dogs than cars, so applause to Subaru for choosing to actually relate to their consumers. Have a fine, Subee day!!

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