By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 7.4
Fully redesigned last year, the 2015 Subaru Forester boasts good fuel economy, advanced safety features, and numerous structural and chassis enhancements that help this 4th-generation model stand out. Where the Subaru Forester continues to one up rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape in the competitive compact SUV segment is with its standard all-wheel drive, a trait that helps the Forester remain sure-footed no matter the terrain or weather. Available nicely equipped even in lower trims or in higher-end form with a turbocharged engine and leather interior, the 2015 Forester is a smart choice for a range of buyers and a winner among our 10 Best SUVs Under $25,000.
For those who require all-wheel drive for slick, low-traction environments, the 2015 Subaru Forester is almost the default choice in the compact-SUV segment. It's also a good choice for those seeking an extra measure of safety, reliability and resale value in their 5-passenger SUV.
If your priorities include expressive styling, a pillow-soft ride, the most sophisticated telematics/infotainment system – or you simply need a 3-row SUV with greater towing capacity – you'll have to look beyond the Forester to one of its rivals or something larger like a Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot.
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A rearview camera now comes on base 2015 Forester models, making it standard across the board. Turbocharged XT models now include the All-Weather Package, and 2.5i Premium models equipped with a manual transmission receive a standard moonroof. Navigation becomes optional instead of standard in higher trims.
Driving Impressions With its rigid central structure, wide track, lengthened wheelbase, and Subaru's signature Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the new Forester SUV is a good performer on road or off. This new generation's...... 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. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) on automatic models aids fuel efficiency but may take some getting used to. It also tends to make the Forester lurch from a stop, which is irritating in stop-and-go traffic. Tauter underpinnings on 2.0XT turbo models add sportiness with minimal impact on ride compliance, while the tri-mode SI-Drive feature 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.
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.
EYESIGHT DRIVER ASSIST SYSTEM
This optional system bundles advanced features such as adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning (but not blind-spot monitoring, a safety feature that isn't available – at least for now – in the Forester).
This new-generation Forester has an expanded and well-appointed SUV cabin that is quieter and more comfortable than ever. Soft-touch surfaces lend a premium feel, and the seats offer improved support and have been repositioned to grant better visibility. Larger, wider-opening doors ease entry and exit, and legroom in the 60/40 rear bench is good, even for adults. When cargo takes precedence, the backs fold near-flat to stretch stow space from 34.4 to 74.7 cubic feet. The liftgate, which is power-activated on Limited/Touring models, simplifies loading and unloading.Exterior
Several years ago the Forester made the leap from a quasi-wagon to a larger, more traditional SUV. In its latest generation the Forester keeps its tall and robust looks but adds contemporary flair. All models except the very base 2.5i have roof racks that add functional and visual appeal, and all boast an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance that makes the Forester a favorite in snowy locales. Turbocharged XT models 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 version is shod with 225/60 rubber on either 17-inch styled-steel or alloy rims. Ample and well-laid-out windows create good outward visibility.
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. New this year, the 2.5i also gets a backup camera and color multi-function display. The 2.5i Premium gains a moonroof and enhanced 6-speaker audio with HD Radio. Key gains on the 2.5i Limited include the CVT, leather, reclining rear seatbacks, automatic climate control, and a power liftgate. Moving up to the Touring trim brings electroluminescent gauges, keyless access and start, harman/kardon premium audio with satellite radio, and dual-zone climate control.
Most extras on the 2015 Forester come by climbing trims. Major options for the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium models include a CVT automatic transmission in place of the 6-speed manual, while the 2.5i Premium, like Forester models above it, can be had with voice-activated navigation and the EyeSight Driver Assist System. Also available on that tier (and standard with those above it) is an All-Weather Package with heated seats and side mirrors. Those seeking the more powerful turbocharged engine can have it in XT trims of the 2015 Forester, while accessories across the range include a trailer hitch, remote engine starter, and heavy-duty roof cargo basket.
The 2015 Forester offers two 4-cylinder "boxer" engines. The majority of models use a naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 2.5-liter that makes 170 horsepower and can be backed by a 6-speed manual transmission or the Lineartronic CVT automatic. Forester 2.0XT SUVs offer more power thanks to a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter engine. Though smaller, the turbocharged 4-cylinder develops 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission for the turbocharged engine is a High-Torque Lineartronic CVT with multi-mode SI-Drive that can emulate six or eight virtual gear ratios. Towing capacity for both models is limited to a rather light 1,500 pound. Models with the 2.5-liter engine can run on regular, 87 octane gasoline, while turbocharged Foresters require 91 octane (with 93 octane recommended).
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
The 2015 Subaru Forester has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at just over $23,000 for a base 2.5i model with manual transmission. Most buyers will opt for an automatic transmission, which lifts that base price to $24,000. A top-line 2.5i model arrives with a roughly $31,000 price tag, while the turbocharged 2.0XT model begins around $29,000. A top-line 2.0XT Touring model with navigation and the EyeSight system can reach about $36,000. At these prices, the Subaru Forester is comparable to compact-SUV rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Chevrolet Equinox. Less-expensive alternatives include the Nissan Rogue Select – a carryover version of the former model – and the smaller Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Starting at just over $22,000, the Mazda CX-5 is also a value player. Resale value is a strong point for Subarus in general, and the Forester in particular is predicted to hold its value better than most rivals.