By on February 12, 2019

With the 2020 Legacy gaining improvements in the form of an optional turbocharged engine, many wonder how long it might be until the rest of Subaru’s mainstream fleet offers the manufacturer’s FA24 motor. The Ascent has it, and we already know the Outback gets it in 2020, but what about Subaru’s other volume models? What about the Crosstrek and Forester?

You’ll have to wait. Apparently, some of Subaru’s models are just too dang popular to receive turbo power. Is this a pathetic excuse or simply a grim reality the automaker must confront? Subaru, obviously, claims the latter and we’re inclined to agree, based on recent evidence. But there remains a silver lining; it probably won’t be this way forever. 

“You could argue, and some people do, that for the Crosstrek we should have a higher-performance engine in that car,” Tom Doll, Subaru’s North American president, told Motor Trend at the Chicago Auto Show. “But on the other hand, we’re selling as many as we can get. We haven’t really hit the top with the Crosstrek yet. Same thing for the new Forester. The new Forester is a sensational car, and it’s a home run, particularly the Sport model that you see over here. We just can’t stock it. I think both of those car lines have a 20-day supply or less.”

While Forester sales appear to have topped out around 175,000 annual units, Subaru claims this has more to do with its own ability to manufacture vehicles at a pace capable of matching demand. We recently noted the model’s U.S. supply issues, caused by more serious problems in Japan.

Forester deliveries exploded after the recession, with Subaru moving some 702,961 units in the United States over the past four years. While the Crosstrek can’t make the same claim, last year’s volume was nearly triple that of 2013 — the model’s first full year of production. Both are now volume leaders for a brand that, by all metrics, appears overstretched due to its overwhelming success in the market.

Doll fell short of saying it this bluntly, but the gist of the situation likely comes down to Subaru not wanting to spend development funds on two models it can’t even keep sufficiently stocked. However, that doesn’t fill in all of the holes to this plot. The Crosstrek isn’t woefully slow, but it’s never really in a rush, either. Were Subaru to offer it with a beefier engine, we envision increased volume and higher margins. But the Japanese automaker already does something like that with the Crosstrek’s hybrid variant, which the company openly acknowledges has limited availability on its commercial website.

Unfortunately, the model’s shortened quarter-mile time would only be noticeable to someone holding a stopwatch. You probably wouldn’t notice from the driver’s seat.

Image: Subaru

In the short term, it makes better sense to spend energy and cash on volume rather than performance. While a couple of models with alphanumeric names serve as an exception, most of Subaru’s fleet aims for enviable economy coupled with all-wheel drive and bolstered safety, all while remaining competitively priced. That’s why you see ads about how love is “What Makes a Subaru a Subaru” and not footage of its vehicles rip-roaring through city streets against a rock-and-roll soundtrack — like you do with Dodge.

However, Doll says Subaru hasn’t ruled turbocharging the two popular models. “In the future, if we need to hit additional volume targets or if the sales wane a little bit, as a way to try to get additional interest in the car, [we could] offer a higher-performance engine,” he said. “That’s quite possible.”

We suppose this means that, if you’re hoping to get a more-powerful Crosstrek or Forester, all you have to do is not buy one for a year or two. It worked for the Outback and Legacy. After a rough 2018 (longer for the sedan), Subaru planned to reintroduce both with the 2.4-liter boxer.

[Images: Subaru]

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21 Comments on “Subaru Crosstrek and Forester ‘Too Popular’ for Turbocharging...”

  • avatar

    Those free of the brain defect are capable of saying “fast enough”.

  • avatar

    I know it’s totally anecdotal but here in CO I see so many Forester XTs. I looked at them in my last car search and no dealers would budge at all on price and the specific vehicles I looked at were off the lot within days. I am really surprised Subaru didn’t bring it back for this generation.

  • avatar

    How is that a pathetic excuse not to ruin a car with a turbo? Nothing special about all these 1.5,2.0,3.0T engines, they just prove that desperate automakers that can’t afford to make appropriately sized N/A engines can foist crap on consumers.

  • avatar

    On YouTube (if you want a laugh) there’s “Sarah-n-Tuned” who has a Forester XT from the mandatory CVT years. It’s hilarious to hear that thing with a computer mod that makes it backfire and crackle like a manual model.

    Given that the WRX is just a little too funny looking for me the Forester XT was the only Subaru with any cred to me. We’ll see how the new Legacy XT turns out.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    2016 Forester owner here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Subaru of America is populated by a bunch of short-sighted American sales types. They like moving the metal when it sells itself but lose interest whenever things get a bit more complicated. As a result, there are a number of good Subaru models or variants that we don’t get in North America. It’s also why I don’t plan on buyng another Subaru – and I’ve owned three. All they have to offer me these days is Eyesight – and I’m not interested in that.

    • 0 avatar

      They also have lost sight of what built Subaru’s customer base to begin with. They need to either start filling niches others have abandoned, become more green, or both, or they’re going to start losing their reputation.

    • 0 avatar
      John Scott

      I’m on the same page. Drove my daughter’s CVT and Eyesight equipped Forester – even with all the safety gizmos turned off the goofy CVT took all the fun out of driving. My MT Forester is a hoot in the snow on back roads, especially with the ESC switched off.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I have a 2017 Crosstrek, my 3rd Subaru and MY LAST. I have spent more money on repairs in the last 22 months than in the past 20 years on other autos I have owned. Why just this past Monday morning needed to get towed as on rear passenger side 4 studs broke. Lucky I was able to get to side of Interstate before the wheel fell off. I know the studs were fine on Sunday afternoon when I washed the vehicle. Subaru may be building a nicely styled auto, etc but they surely have forgotten that things like bulbs, brake pads, tires, etc also are part of what makes for quality. Example: took the car for an oil change at 6000 miles as recommended. Needed to replace brake pads as one side totally gone, 2 headlight bulbs gone and was told that the tires were wearing down fast. This coming from a mechanic I have used for the past 10 years. He was willing to show me the tire depth, brake pad, etc as he pulled them off the car, so I know I was not being told a lie. Since 2 radiators, 2 compressors, and the list goes on and on, worst is bushings seem to last about 3 months. What does the dealer say, nothing other than things should not wear out like that. As for Subaru Corporate, they have NEVER written in response to any of my letters.

  • avatar

    I got a Crosstrek in November. It is a great daily urban vehicle. Beyond good, really. I got a loaded premium trim, with eyesight. We also have a Toyota, a Genesis and a Porsche in the garage. The Crosstrek is a great small car that I don’t mind driving at all, has supple and compliant ride – luxurious ride quality, the driver assist works really well. I love this car.
    Now I will admit that if my commute required longer stints on the highway at 70mph plus I’d probably complain a little about the engine. That is true. But for my urban commute at 45-55 mph it is perfect, nimble and the mileage per gallon does not hurt.

  • avatar

    This is a bit too bad. It is also a bit extra shocking to me since Subaru sells so well in the Rockies, where loss of engine power at higher altitude makes a turbo extra nice.

    On the flip, Subaru drivers are the slowest on the planet. So either A) a turbo would help get them up to the posted speed limit or B) be a complete waste of extra power for these drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      I once drove my VW Pickup (Rabbit style) from Portland to Kansas City. Ha! That thing had so little power going across the high altitude areas of Wyoming that it was laughable. I can’t imagine owning a Crosstrek or Outback at 6 or 7 thousand feet above sea level. I test drove a Cross here in KC and the thing had zero guts taking an on ramp in flat terrain. Reminded me of my old Vanagon camper. Well, not that bad, but given how tapped out it felt at our elevation (1000 ft), I would think it would be pretty bad 5k feet farther up.

      Yeah, I get the AWD thing but I’m shocked they sell so well in CO as well.

  • avatar

    20 or 30 horsepower is about the only thing keeping me from going down the street and buying a Crosstrek. Buy hey, if they are selling every one they build with the weak sauce engine, why bother going after my business? I probably wouldn’t, either. Someone who doesn’t care about power at all will buy the one I passed on.

  • avatar

    I had a 2013 Impreza hatchback, basically a lowered Crosstrek, and I wondered why Subaru didn’t offer the 2.5L.

    They don’t even need a turbo in the Crosstrek, just plop the 2.5L in there. It’s not that hard, development costs would be minimal, and it would make customers happy. It’s not that they can’t do it, they’re just being a-holes and they don’t care.

    I might even buy one again if they did that…and fixed the oil consumption issues.

  • avatar

    And if they can’t keep up with demand on their bread and butter vehicles, to the extent that they won’t improve them, why in the hell do they waste time and resources on the BRZ?

  • avatar

    A few points. First, Subaru did offer the Forester with a turbo for a few years, as others have mentioned. Apparently it didn’t sell well enough to keep around for the new generation. Plus, having recently bought a CPO 2016 Forester, I think the power is sufficient given the vehicle’s purpose. The CVT is programmed to allow lots of punch off the line, and it has enough power for the highway. Would I like more? Sure, but it works.

    Despite this, I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen broader application of turbo engines in Subaru’s U.S. lineup, because a few years ago they developed a 1.6T for JDM models that would seem ideal for the Crosstrek and possibly Forester. It would compete directly against Honda’s successful 1.5T. Since this engine is on hand, the initial development costs shouldn’t be too high. (For a while, I harbored some hope that we’d see a tuned version of the 1.6T in the BRZ, but we all know how that’s gone.)

    • 0 avatar

      I would have bought an Impreza instead of my Civic hatch if it weren’t for the anemic powertrain in the Subaru and the amazing one in the Civic. I’ve been waiting for them to replace the 2.0 with the 1.6T ever since I heard about it. Doesn’t look like they care.

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