By on November 7, 2018

Until this model year, the Subaru Forester was a homely-looking beast, eminently practical but always looking like that kid in grade school whose slacks were too short. With its narrow body and tip-toe stance, the old Forester had the appearance of its pants cuffs stopping well above its ankles.

Subaru has fixed this for 2019, creating a crossover that doesn’t appear as if it’s about to get stuffed into a locker. The price has been kept at bay, too.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: it does hurt this quirky car-loving author that the Pleiades binned their turbocharged XT trim and manual transmission with this new model. Sure, there’s a chance for boost under the new Forester’s hood sometime in the future, but I do believe the stick shift is gone for good.

Nevertheless, Subaru’s effort in the cogless transmission arena is the lesser of all CVT evils, a unit that’s better than most others in the marketplace that drone on like a soon-to-be-retired high school civics teacher. The box is lashed to a 2.5-liter boxer four making 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. While this will not set the world on fire, it’s more than enough power to allow the Forester to get out of its own way. The 30-plus mpg highway mileage is a bonus.

As it’s a Subaru, all-wheel drive is standard in its $24,295 price, one of the cheaper ways for buyers who want a car with power going to all four corners. A big plus in my book is the inclusion of Subaru’s EyeSight safety technology as standard equipment on this base model. Packing adaptive cruise, pre-collision braking, and lane keeping, the brains and eyes of the system are tucked inside the car behind the rearview mirror. This reduces the chance of having to repair costly gear in a minor fender bender compared to cars which have these cameras and sensors on their snout.

It is not a barren wasteland or penalty box inside the 2019 Forester, given its level of standard kit. Automatic air conditioning, tilt/telescope wheel, a brace of USB ports, and sturdy cloth seats that will likely outlive the car itself are all part of the deal. A generous 35.4 cubes of storage await behind the rear seat, 76 cu.ft with it folded down. For comparison, the Mazda CX-9 (even though it’s a class larger) holds 14 cu.ft behind its third row, 38 behind its middle chairs, and 71 with everything folded down.

Despite its relatively low overall height compared to monster SUVs like the Suburban, the Forester has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, ensuring Fun Times(TM) when the snow flies. In fact, the Forester outstrips the Suburban’s ground clearance by nearly an inch. Remarkable undercar packaging is responsible for this feat.

Speaking of ground clearance, check out the type of rig Forester owners can build after a visit to LP Adventure up in Quebec. They’re already cranking out product for the 2019 Forester, and I confess to being utterly besotted by this black and red example shown here.

Take the money saved by selecting the base model and go buy some tall, knobby tires for your new Forester. Sure, its cuffs might still be above its ankles, but at least it has a cool pair of boots.

[Images: Subaru, LP Adventure]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments and feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and priced in American Dollars. Your dealer may sell for less.

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42 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Subaru Forester...”


  • avatar
    thornmark

    I like Subarus but the Forrester is so unattractive it could be a Toyota or Buick.

    But then again, Subarus have never been known for looks, just affordable AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      My Buick makes your car look like sh’t!

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Their AWD is just OK, not anything to brag about. Several winters ago, I pulled a Subaru Legacy out of a snowbank near Sunspot, NM, with our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4×4.

      Now THAT was REAL 4WD!

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “not anything to brag about” It’s a useful bit more capable than a lot of other crossover options, although in recent years my understanding is the newer automatic-equipped cars are sacrificing some of their capability for the sake of fuel economy, just less so than other manufacturers. They used to install limited slip rear diffs on a lot of their cars, that was part of it. The stick shifts have always been a 50/50 split fulltime system from what I know.

        EDIT: they still claim a default 60/40 front/rear split on the CVT cars, that’s actually kind of impressive.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          It’s still considered the best full time automatic AWD system on the market, don’t mind highdesertcat, he brags a lot ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          Advance_92

          I’m pretty sure the front wheel drive automatics (before the CVT) defaulted to 90% front, but responded pretty well when it needed to change. I only had manuals which were 50/50 other than the selectable center diff on the STI.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Hey guys, if any of you have driven an H4 Subaru with a CVT you should know that it is woefully under-powered and even with its asymmetrical 4WD cannot climb over railroad tracks in the wild (away from RR crossings).

        But they are great for on-road stability in snow and ice as long as they do not have to dig themselves out of a snow bank or ditch.

        Subies are very popular in my mountainous area but the biggest complaint I have heard is that they are under-powered.

        Unless you get an H6 version.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Until this model year, the Subaru Forester was a homely-looking beast”

    Um, it’s still pretty homely and now without the turbo and stick it’s pretty dull as well

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yes no Subaru Forester XT makes me:

      “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to this Car Brand!”

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Yeah I was going to say, it still looks like a facelift of the 2009 model. The looks of the Forester have only had one major shift in its existence, between 08 and 09 when it turned into a real crossover from its pseudo-wagon origins.

      Plus now it’s lost the enthusiast cred it used to have

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yeah, I thought the author was just being sarcastic? What exactly makes it look “better?” Honestly I prefer the previous generation’s styling, but I don’t find this latest generation brutally ugly either. Just more nonsensical fluff that’s become the “new” TTAC’s norm?

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        No joke. This 2019 model seems to have one noticeable styling change – matte black trim around the wheel wells. Wooooooo hoooooo.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Yup. This thing is still homely AF, and still begging to be stuffed in a locker.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    again, i have mentioned the reviews on the AWD of the forester.
    if, as some claim, it doesn’t pull itself out of places, why?
    some say the trans refused to hurt itself and limits the power if necessary.
    so is the forester, and most subarus, really only good as urban cowboy use?

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      It seems to have the same problem as many other crossovers across the board, from Jeep Patriots/Renegades, Nissans with CVTs, Honda/Toyota, etc. Put them on enough of an incline at the engine will just sit there droning, without enough power being sent to the rear wheels to power the car up (or to even produce wheelspin). I suppose it’s a combination of not enough torque manipulation given the gear ratios, and on most of them, limiting how much power can be sent to the rear axle in interests of preserving the rear diff. Aggressive traction control can also play a role in reducing engine power as it prioritizes minimization of wheel spin, which can cost momentum and cause one of these to bog down even in fairly benign looking situations.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        The classic problem is a diagonal ditch on a steep incline. I wish car test reviews included that situation.

        • 0 avatar
          ACCvsBig10

          carquestion and tflcar on youtube does that. Supposedly the Mitsubishi cvt made it up steep hill where others would fail

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            well, i hear that the mitsubishi is one of the better awd designs.
            seems like this is a lotta this and little of that when it comes to getting a decent all-around awd you can trust.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          An old Audi with its Torsen Quattro system and an early implementation of brake-based traction control (EDL in Audi-speak) is rather impressive:

          youtu.be/_LSAliEXTMY

          • 0 avatar
            cimarron typeR

            my old 90q 5spd V6 could lock its center diff with a button on the dash. Still the most capable deep snow passenger car I’ve ever owned. Part of it was not having any traction control system at all, which allowed full powahh at my discretion

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Just swapped my A4 to meaty snow tires last night, now I’m the sicko that’s praying for snow.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Forester has a pretty unique combination of long roof racks that have a gap in them to pass a rope through, and the height of the roof rack. This means that one person can place a kayak on the Forester on 2x4s crossbars and tie it down to the existing roof rails. Even Outback doesn’t have this.

    • 0 avatar
      maui_zaui

      Outbacks below the “Touring” trim have integrated crossbars built into the roof racks. We have a 2015 Limited and I love that feature. Unfold when you need the crossbars, fold them back in when you don’t. No installation required. Yes, they don’t have the gaps you mentioned, but I probably would use an actual kayak carrier/rack versus tied down 2×4’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Stumpaster

        Thing is, with 2x4s I was able to lay two big kayaks side by side instead of using J-cradles. Must more stable on the road. Just saying that it has more utility in this one feature than many other SUVs small and big.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    Does anyone know if a standard sized human being can fit in this things 3rd row?

  • avatar
    jh26036

    This is a very nice buy at the sticker price, actual transaction price is likely another $2k+ less. Author didn’t mention Apple CarPlay / Android Auto are standard on all Foresters. The only downside about the base model is you can’t option it with the all-weather package. That’s really all it needs. Selling a Subaru in the northeast (or any snow climate) without heated mirrors is downright irresponsible. I can overlook heated seats even though I much prefer to have them.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’m inclined to agree. Give me a base forester on steelies but with the heated mirrors and seats (and some longer seat cushions) and it’s hard to find fault for an all around utilitarian ride for someone that occasionally explores seasonal roads and such. I’m still slightly leery of truly long term ownership of one, but the high resale allows a pattern of buying new, driving up to 70k miles or so and reselling. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll be a happy repeat Subaru owner.

      • 0 avatar
        ThirdOwner

        >Give me a base forester

        Does this mean you have not purchased the doctor car yet? (I’ve been away from the forum until recently).

        What are reports on the Grand Cherokee reliability? It was on your list a while back.

        I’m seeing ’11-12 GX460 selling for the about the same money as 4Runners of the same vintage. Except with lower mileage and, often, with a Lexus dealership service history. Those would be 15 year vehicles, not 5 year vehicles like this Forester.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Hey ThirdOwner! No (new) car purchases yet, but we do have a baby on the way so I finally have a reason (and timeline) to think more seriously rather than endless strategizing. We’re actually leaning towards the minivan route, just need to decide if we want to get something nice-ish/new-ish (lightly used Sienna or Pacifica), or slightly cheaper and older but still newish (Grand Caravan or 2nd gen Sedona), or nice and well broken-in and in the $5k bracket (3rd gen Odyssey or 2nd gen Sienna with 150k-ish miles). Part of the decision is whether we sell my wife’s Camry and get the nicer van, or if I give up one of my steeds (beater A4 Quattro or beloved but rarely-used 4runner) to get the cheaper van option. She’s going to start pulling in some big bucks next year once she starts working, but neither of us is necessarily chomping at the bit for some kind of glitzy lifestyle upgrade. I will say I test drove a ex-rental 2017 Armada SV and just about fell in love. I always see GXs in traffic and admire them from a far as well. But we’re prioritizing interior space (baby plus two larger dogs for weekend trips to inlaws) at the moment, it’ll be some time before we’re back into our outdoor activities that warrant a legit SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            ThirdOwner

            >but we do have a baby on the way

            Good job!

            >We’re actually leaning towards the minivan route

            Having a child is a life-changing event, for the better. Get a newer van and don’t look back. There will be time for cars again later.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    None of the photos show them, but look under the back end of recent Foresters and Outbacks and you can see the rear control arms have much less than 8.7″ clearance. Usually approach, departure and breakover angles are more important, but the arms can be a problem in deep ruts.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      i have often wondered why this is never discussed when talking ground clearance.
      if the hardware hits the rock, who cares if the muffler cleared!?

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I don’t see how Subaru’s rear IRS is notably more intrusive than any other crossover’s. For really low hanging IRS, check out the rear of a mid-2000s Explorer or Expedition (2nd gen and up). The standout difference in the class of compact crossovers is that Subaru is still at 8.7 inches of clearance, whereas the Rav4 and CRV have dropped to less than 7. That’s a noticeable difference off the beaten path.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Throwing BFG mud tires on Subarus and vintage 911s is all the rage these days.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The OEM tires they put on most models take away much of the advantage of their AWD system

    I had a 2012 Legacy.

  • avatar
    redapple

    My 18 Forester has Yokohama Geolandar tires from the factory.
    These are highly rated dual purpose tires.

  • avatar
    Rengaw

    Subaru’s are as thick as flies on watermelon where I live on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. For good reason. We have rough roads, both paved and unpaved going back into the mountains. The Forester enthusiasts don’t hesitate in turning on to these bad roads for an entertaining ride. The Subaru suspensions do shine at taking much of the roughness out of your drive. It isn’t just a cult club, they are purposeful.

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