2019 Subaru Forester Touring Review - Slow, Safe, and Steady

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2019 Subaru Forester Touring Fast Facts

2.5-liter horizontally-opposed "boxer" four-cylinder (182 hp @ 5,800 rpm, 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm)
Continuously-variable automatic transmission with seven-speed manual mode, all-wheel drive
26 city / 33 highway / 29 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)
9.0 city, 7.2 highway, 8.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$34,295 (U.S) / $32,995 (Canada)
As Tested
$35,270 (U.S.) / $35,099 (Canada)
Prices include $975 destination charge in the United States and $1,825 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 subaru forester touring review slow safe and steady

Subaru has a dual reputation. Car people know it as the company that gives us WRX and STi (and a good chunk of the BRZ/Toyota FT 86 partnership), while the rest of the world thinks of the brand as one that puts out a lot of wagon-esque crossovers that appeal to granola types, academics, and families that prioritize safety but aren’t in a Volvo tax bracket.

The Forester Touring definitely fits in to that latter stereotype. And that’s not a pejorative – it’s okay to embrace what one does best.

For the Forester, that means serving as a solid if not spectacular commuting wagon that’s road-trip ready.

By coincidence, I happened to have the Forester during a weekend I’d planned a short trip with an overnight stay. A trip that would require hauling the usual snacks and such and luggage for two. Oh, and at least one case of a certain type of beer sold only in Wisconsin would be coming back across state lines with us. It was like Smokey and the Bandit, but no truckers, no Firebirds, and actions that were completely legal.

That’s the kind of drive the Forester excels at – it swallowed up the cargo with plenty of room to spare and provided long-haul comfort from Chicago to east-central Cheeseland and back.

Not all was well. The 2.5-liter “boxer” four is a bit underpowered here, with just 182 ponies and 176 lb-ft of torque on hand. At least the continuously-variable automatic is inoffensive in its operation.

Standard all-wheel-drive probably doesn’t help with acceleration, given the extra weight and driveline losses endemic to such systems, but Subaru’s safety reputation is staked in part to the availability of AWD across so much of its model lineup.

[Get Subaru Forester pricing here!]

Don’t expect enthusiastic handling here, either, though the steering is just fine for commuting and longer drives. The ride is on the firm side, but not punishing.

Subaru is proud of its EyeSight safety system, standard on the Forester. The system can alert the driver when it detects fatigue or distraction, but it needs work – it beeped at me at times when my eyes were firmly on the road, and other times, I intentionally let my eyes wander or looked down briefly (when it was as safe as possible to do so, of course – think empty highway with no cars around) and it didn’t activate. I suspect it will work better at some point down the road, and the driver-recognition ability (EyeSight can recognize who’s driving and set mirrors and climate settings accordingly) is a fine idea. For now, though, you’re best served using your own self-discipline.

My test Forester came well equipped, since it was a top-trim Touring. In fact, there’s no available options packages – just a few accessories. Standard equipment included EyeSight, rear spoiler, roof rails, fog lamps, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, navigation, dual USB ports, satellite radio, Bluetooth, keyless entry and starting, power tailgate, leather seats, heated front and rear seats, and heated steering wheel. That totaled $35,270 with destination fee.

The Forester isn’t the world’s sexiest tall wagon, thanks to a mish-mash of curves and soft angles and a boxy, snub nose. Inside, the buttons and graphics look like a bit like those pretend dashboards kids played with in the ‘80s, but I give Subie credit for integrating the infotainment screen.

Not that anyone expects the Forester to be sexy. You don’t buy this for sex, speed, or sport. You buy it to load up with gear, and you expect it to be comfortable, and should the worst happen, safe.

I’ll let the IIHS determine that last bit – we’re not equipped to crash-test cars around here. Comfort and utility, though, were on hand in spades.

Gliding along in the mainstream ain’t so bad sometimes.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Join the conversation
5 of 70 comments
  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on May 19, 2020

    TURBO TURBO TURBO! Subaru - where's the damn turbo!

    • See 2 previous
    • FreedMike FreedMike on May 20, 2020

      @PrincipalDan I think the last-gen model was available with a turbo. Not anymore.

  • Tabaplar Tabaplar on May 20, 2020

    I've read widely varying opinions on the ride quality of this generation of Forester. From firm but ok (as suggested here), to excellent/ extremely comfortable. I test drove one briefly when they first came out in late 2018, at low speeds in an urban environment, and thought it was well-isolated and well-controlled but not plush (not as comfortable as a previous generation Outback, driven elsewhere on suburban roads). Curious if anyone has personal experience in a wider range of conditions; country roads, state routes, highways, cobblestones, etc.?

  • Jkross22 This might just be me, but the times that I've driven an EV, I use the brake regen paddles to quell my inner MT/control freak nature.
  • Randy in rocklin I had a 82 733 at one time. It was an awesome car. Good power and great handling. Smooth shifting and ride.
  • Jkross22 Gavin Newsom may not be aware of the fiscal problems of the state he leads, as his focus is on criticizing other states. It's actually better that he has someone shining a laser light on a map so he can stop making things worse here. Just lace his hair gel with some catnip and have him hit himself trying to get to it. Things in LA are getting so bad that even the leftists and progressives are showing up to LA city council meetings with mirrors to protest, well, everything - gas prices, the homeless pandemic, the house pricing pandemic, the crime pandemic. It shocked the City Council that their subjects dare attempt to ask for accountability. The Council president insisted that people with mirrors be escorted out, lest the council be reminded of their incompetence and hubris. That being said, there is no connection being made between the way LA subjects vote and the results it yields. Never underestimate the stupidity of the typical CA voter. The state is a basketcase but voters keep electing the same retreads every time.
  • ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
  • DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.