By on March 28, 2018

Image: Subaru

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.

Image Subaru

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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48 Comments on “2019 Subaru Forester Keeps Styling Safe, Dumps Manual Transmission and XT Trim...”

  • avatar

    Grille shutters and a constant stop/start system? Here we go, down Too Complicated Avenue.

    • 0 avatar

      CAFE off-cycle credits. They have little choice.

      Manual should be on the list of off-cycle credits. Oh well. Bye manual. Missed opportunity for the manufacturers.

  • avatar

    Impressive. What will Subaru drivers do with all that extra torque? /s

  • avatar

    Blah. I don’t get how sales continue to improve over at Subaru with such design (or lack of) A little effort and they could maybe steal some sales from consumers with a pulse. I guess boring has worked for some companies before, there is a market for it, but eventually you will completely tap the elderly pet owner and urban hipster faux outdoorsmen demographics.

    • 0 avatar

      > I guess boring has worked for some companies before

      What some call boring, others call tasteful. To each their own. Consider that this will get cross-shopped against a CR-V, one will still look reasonable in 8 years time, and the other will look like a bygone fad.

    • 0 avatar

      they probably saw honda snake-tongue taillights and decided to slap it on at the last moment.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I truly think “looks” are the last thing on the minds of the Subaru demographic – ability and reliability in adverse conditions are probably a top priority.

      Although I have a previous gen “aardvark” Outback, the Forrester was very tempting because of the open sight lines and pano sunroof. Glad to see both are carrying over to the new gen.

  • avatar
    John Scott

    Glad I bought my 2017 Forester last year – I’ve driven my daughters’ CVT model and I much prefer my 6MT. What some call “lack of design” I call “simple and honest design”. Why add frou-frou details that don’t add any utility? As far as fun to drive what’s not to like about feathering the clutch in 3rd gear while sliding all four wheels then dialing in a bit of opposite lock? Yeah, easier to do on a bit of gravel, snow or wet pavement so a little more power would be nice. After the warranty runs out maybe it’s time for turbo, tuner, and shocks/springs!

  • avatar

    I am sure it will sell well.

    However, it seems Subaru is working very hard to keep me out of their dealerships.

  • avatar

    Well, any chance of me considering a Forester is now dead.

    Subaru’s base engines are pokey. They should have boosted the output of the XT for a few years before killing it, but oh well.

  • avatar

    I loved what Subaru was doing with the Forester with the XT trim and the powerful engines…. 10 years ago.

    This is vehicular tryptophan.

  • avatar

    Now I’ve got to decide if I want to drive my current 2013 Forester 5MT into the ground, look for a deal on a leftover 2018 Forester 6MT, or look at a Golf Sportwagon 4 Motion 6MT.

    At least in Canada, the Golf Sportwagon is available with 4 Motion and 6MT across all trim levels. Might be a hard sell with my wife after watching “Dirty Money” on Netflix, especially considering she mostly drives the Forester, and would be the main driver of any replacement…

    • 0 avatar

      Get the Sportwagon. It will seem like a Ferrari compared to the Subi

    • 0 avatar
      John Scott

      The 2018 Forester is pretty much the same as my 2017 – if you like your ‘13 Forester I think you’ll like the current version. When I was shopping for a new car last year it came down to a Forester or Sportwagon. I couldn’t find a 6MT 4 Motion to test drive so I drove an auto 4 Motion and a manual Sportwagon. No doubt about it – the VW is more fun to drive, but I liked: lower purchase price, increased utility, big sunroof, and availability (I was ready to buy – not wait and the Forester I wanted was on the lot) of the Forester. I know shifting my own gears uses a little more fuel than an auto/CVT but I don’t care, it’s way more fun. If I had an urban commute or lived in Pittsburgh or San Francisco maybe I’d feel different. But I don’t have any commute and live in the middle of nowhere.

      • 0 avatar

        “I know shifting my own gears uses a little more fuel than an auto/CVT but I don’t care, it’s way more fun.”

        How do you know that? Don’t believe the EPA’s lies!

        Anyway, I wouldn’t trust that the VW’s AWD is capable of anything but understeer unless I did a winter test drive myself. The Subaru’s MT AWD system is fully mechanical and will always do exactly what it’s told.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Am I reading it correctly in that you can’t turn off the stop/start?

    • 0 avatar

      GM has inflicted that on its customers as well.

      I don’t think I could bring myself to buy a vehicle where you can’t turn it off. I don’t think it’s safe, and I value my family far more than saving a few drops of gas every time I get to a stop sign.

    • 0 avatar

      We are investigating this omission right now, and have inquired with Subaru.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Good luck getting an answer from Subaru of America, Corey. I have found that I can never get a real answer out of them. Always the official promotional line.

      • 0 avatar
        pale ghost

        Was at NYC auto show yesterday and inquired about ability to turn off stop/start. You can but you have to do it every time you get in and start the car – it won’t ‘remember’. They had 3 on display and you could get in them. I saw the button to turn it off. I liked the car but wish they offered the turbo.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do these systems have to be so agressive?

      If they only activied after idling for like 60 seconds it wouldn’t be so bad, but the ones I’ve experienced turn off at quick traffic lights, stop signs, and when parking. It’s terrible.

  • avatar

    The city of Boulder, Colorado just declared a holiday in honor of this new Subaru.

  • avatar

    Good God. Mazda finally adds power and Subaru is getting rid of theirs.

    I could appreciate the forester but the base engine stinks. And now no turbo.

    Couldn’t really care about the manual in this car. With a body like that who could have fun even with a stick.

    Sales will probably double.

  • avatar

    As odd as it sounds, Subaru’s Engineers and Product Planners have only one primary goal- not to piss off the current customer base. When you’re as successful as Subaru has been at catering to their market, the worst thing they could do is something totally different.

  • avatar

    Well, I m glad they kept the TALL windows/low beltline. Last of the dying breed.

    I hope you can turn off the start/stop. That is the 1 reason I didnt consider a GM product 3 months ago when I bought a 2018 Forester. My sister has a 2017 Caddy XT5 with start/stop. With a year of driving under her belt, she still hates it.

    Did subaru fix the seat.?? On mine, the seat bottom is too short and too narrow. Not sure if this will make me hate the car yet.

  • avatar

    I just had a chance to drive the current generation in Colorado last week. While I haven’t been a huge fan of Subaru lately, I was actually quite impressed with the Forrester. Overall it had nice site lines, good space utilization, and best of all that Turbo 2.0 engine had some great pickup. It felt like a relative sports car compared to the CX-5 we also had in our group (especially at higher altitudes). Too bad they are getting rid of it…it’s the one thing that made me think there may be a Subaru in my future at some point.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree wholeheartedly. The big windows and visibility, combined with the turbo are the way to go. A very well rounded vehicle with enough power to scoot but can also carry a lot of people or cargo in comfort.

      Had a 2010 XT, now have a 2018 XT – just not the same vehicle without the big increase in hp and torque from the turbo engine. Both times I looked at the non-turbo and quickly decided that was not going to work.

      I do think they will lose customers – I am not interested in the base engine vehicle at all.

      Acura RDX will be a natural alternative.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    The most welcome improvement is to the interior door trim. Stupid pull handles precluded the use of the armrest.

  • avatar

    Surprised the business case for the XT didn’t pencil out. Those cars have high transaction prices and their owners aren’t going to be interested in a downgrade to the 2.5. Probably time for XT owners to move over to the Acura RDX now that it has SH-AWD, or maybe to try to stretch into a MKC 2.3T.

    As for the manual buyers… in this segment, they’re SOL. The lack of manual guarantees that my boss, owner of two straight manual Foresters who puts on around 20k miles a year despite living 4 miles from work, won’t be back. She’ll probably just try to keep her 2015 manual Forester running forever.

    • 0 avatar

      Not SOL if they buy a MINI COUNTRYMAN, which has manuals available across all trims, and unlike Subaru, is highly customizable, and believe it or not, MINI is more reliable these days, at least according to JD Power. Also, in a MINI, you don’t feel like the lemming you do in a Subie.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably best that Subaru knows it can’t do luxury and it prices with a boxer engine like the 2.0T in line fours as a $26K Chevy Equinox has one.

  • avatar

    A low take rate is the real reason behind the manual drop. Ford has adaptive cruise control and barke assist available with manual transmissions. I would be surprised if Subaru didn’t keep an STI manual option around regardless of the vehicle having eye sight or not.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    ‘Pedestrian Safety’ has destroyed vehicle design.

  • avatar

    More torques! Two whole foot pounds!

  • avatar

    Sad news; almost as sad as when Toyota dropped the 3.5 from the Rav4 – almost.
    If I would have ever purchased one of these, it would have only been the XT trim: a lifted and boosted WRX-as-SUV as I’ve heard it described. Oh well…

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Think any of the lovers of the MT Forrester going to buy a Crosstrek with a manual, now that the platform is shared?

  • avatar

    Another slice of mediocrity from Subaru. Just watch that the extra 2 LBS FT of torque don’t rip your head off.

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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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