By Bob Nagy
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
Fully redesigned, the 2014 Subaru Forester enters its 4th generation the beneficiary of a comprehensive improvement program that makes this mainstay of the automaker's lineup an even more attractive choice in one of today's hottest segments. Available in several naturally aspirated (2.5i) and turbocharged (2.0XT ) trim grades, each with standard all-wheel drive (AWD), this compact 5-passenger SUV complements a new sense of style and refinement with numerous structural and chassis enhancements, more fuel-efficient powertrains, greater passenger/cargo space and significant new tech touches. Collectively, they help bolster the 2014 Forester's performance, safety and overall desirability in ways that should serve it well against key rivals like the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4. That's why we named the Subaru Forester one of the 10 Best SUVs Under $25,000 for 2014.
Building on its well-established reputation for capability, reliability, practicality and longevity, the new Forester now delivers even more comfort and convenience while offering the added benefit of standard fuel-efficient all-wheel drive – and does it at an outstanding price point.
Buyers desiring a vehicle with more expressive styling, a pillow-soft ride, the flashiest telematics/infotainment system – or anyone needing a larger 3-row SUV with greater towing capacity – will still have to look beyond the new Forester to find their ideal travel mate.
KBB Expert Ratings
Redesigned from the ground up, the 2014 Forester raises its practical and personable character to an even higher level, gaining a new sense of style, more space, additional refinement, better performance and improved fuel economy.
Driving Impressions Boasting a stronger, more rigid central structure, wider track dimensions, longer wheelbase and a retuned suspension to complement Subaru's signature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the 2014 Forester deports itself most impressively...... and predictably on or off road. New, more efficient electrically-boosted power steering provides more positive feedback while the revamped chassis does an admirable job of keeping body roll in check under hard cornering. Tauter underpinnings on 2.0XT models add extra sportiness with minimal impact on ride compliance while the tri-mode SI-Drive feature on the turbo-spec CVT allows one to better exploit the 80-horsepower advantage this engine has over the one in its naturally aspirated 2.5i sibling – an edge that helps trim the 2.0XT's 0-60 mph times from 9.3 to 6.3 seconds. The X-Mode feature on upline Forester variants provides its own kind of multi-terrain confidence boost on slick paved roads or in the dirt at speeds up to 25 mph.
LINEARTRONIC CVT TRANSMISSION
Optional on 2.5i/2.5i Premium models and standard on all other Foresters, Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable automatic (CVT) comes in two forms. While both contribute to significant fuel economy gains, the 2.0XT's uprated unit includes paddle shifters and Subaru's multi-mode (Intelligent/Sport/Sport Sharp) SI-Drive that can emulate both a 6-speed and 8-speed automatic.
X-MODE WITH HILL DESCENT CONTROL
Standard on 2.5i Limited and all higher-level Forester models, Subaru's new driver-selectable X-Mode integrates and optimizes operation of the throttle, transmission, AWD, Vehicle Dynamic Control, and Hill Descent Control systems to enhance the Forester's low-speed operational capabilities on inclines and when negotiating various low-friction surfaces.
Impressively expanded, well-finished and well-appointed, the Forester's restyled passenger cabin is quieter and more comfortable than ever with lots more soft-touch surfaces as well as redesigned seats that offer improved support and have been repositioned to afford better sightlines. Larger, wider-opening doors ease access/egress for people and legroom in the 60/40 rear bench has been increased by a huge 3.1 inches. When cargo takes precedence, the backs now fold even flatter to stretch stow space from 34.4 to 74.7 cubic feet – a 9-percent overall increase. The larger liftgate, which is power-activated on Limited/Touring models, simplifies the loading and unloading process.Exterior
Still unmistakably Subaru, the Gen IV remake endows the 2014 Forester with more contemporary character. The visual recasting is most evident in 2.0XT models that feature a bolder front fascia treatment and subtle rear roof spoiler, and wrap 225/55 all-season tires around 18-inch alloy wheels where the 2.5i contingent is shod with 225/60 rubber on either 17-inch styled-steel or alloy rims. Slightly longer, wider and taller than the 2013 Forester, this latest iteration also has a more planted appearance thanks to wider track dimensions and nearly an inch more wheelbase. All models also provide an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
Progressing through its model hierarchy richens the Forester's equipment mix, but even the 2.5i features a full array of power assists, air conditioning, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, and variable wipers. The 2.5i Premium gains a rear-vision camera, an enhanced audio system and the All-Weather Package (manual only) or panoramic power moonroof (CVT only). Key gains on the 2.5i Limited model include the Lineartronic CVT, leather upholstery, reclining rear seatbacks, automatic climate control, and a power liftgate. Moving up to Touring brings electroluminescent gauges, a touch-screen navigation system, a 440-watt harman/kardon premium audio with SiriusXM Satellite Radio/Nav Traffic, dual-zone climate control, and more.
Modestly scaled, the roster of Forester extras is based on model/trim levels. The Lineartronic CVT is available on the 2.5i/2.5i Premium, while the 2.5i Premium with CVT also can be had with the All-Weather Package (standard on Foresters with the 6-speed manual transmission). Both the 2.5i Premium and Limited offer a touch-screen navigation system with 6.1-inch display, HD radio, Satellite Radio, NavTraffic, and more. Touring-level 2.5i/2.0XT models can be fitted with the Driver Assist Technology Package that adds the EyeSight System (Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Braking, and Vehicle Lane Departure Warning), plus Keyless Access/Start and high-intensity-discharge headlights.
The 2014 Forester offers two 4-cylinder "boxer" engines. Naturally aspirated, the carryover, PZEV-clean 170-horsepower/2.5-liter can be backed by a new 6-speed manual transmission that replaces the current 5-speed or a new efficiency-boosting Lineartronic CVT automatic from the Impreza. Forester 2.0XT models get a new turbocharged, direct-injected engine derived from the flat-4 used in the Subaru BRZ. Here, it develops 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, way up from the 225/226 output figures in the 2.5-liter turbo used in the 2013 Forester. The sole transmission for the turbocharged engine is a new High-Torque Lineartronic CVT with multi-mode SI-Drive that can emulate six or eight virtual gear ratios. All versions of the 2014 Forester boast significant fuel-economy gains over 2013 models and have a 1,500-pound tow rating.
2.5-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
170 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (manual), 24/32 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter horizontally-opposed turbocharged 4-cylinder
250 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 mpg
On sale in March, the 2014 Subaru Forester has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $23,000 for an entry-level 2.5i variant with a top-line naturally-aspirated 2.5i Touring model opening just over $30,800. The turbocharged side of the family sees the Forester 2.0XT Premium starting around $28,900 and the range-topping 2.0XT Touring commencing closer to $33,900. Adding the EyeSight + Keyless Access & Start Package to either Forester Touring variant raises its sticker by $2,400. All of those figures reflect significant advantages compared to most of the Forester's primary segment competitors – in some cases, undercutting even comparably equipped front-drive versions of those rivals. While Kelley Blue Book has not yet issued residual value ratings for the 2014 Forester, this Subaru SUV has historically ranked at or near the top of its category and there's no reason to expect the new and improved version won't continue to carry on that tradition.