UPDATE: You can now read our first review of the 2019 Subaru Forester

  • All-new, fifth-generation Forester is roomier, feature-filled
  • Turbo engine option gone, boxer engine and standard all-wheel drive remain
  • Set to arrive in the second half of the year
  • Prices likely to continue to start around $24,000


Subaru unveiled an all-new Forester at the New York International Auto show, adding another fully revamped contender into the red-hot compact crossover SUV segment. The 2019 Subaru Forester marks the fifth generation of this small SUV, and it arrives in conjunction with the also-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 to take on the 2018 Honda CR-V, itself all-new just a year ago.

The new Subaru Forester will continue to stand out from its rivals in ways both expected–all versions will have all-wheel drive (AWD) standard, for instance–and unexpected, such as with leading-edge technology that flags distracted driving.

Five Trims, impressive safety features

The all-new 2019 Subaru Forester SUV will be available in five trims: standard, Premium, Limited, Touring, and the new Sport model. Among the characteristics that help the Forester stand apart from rivals is that every single model includes a strong suite of active safety and driver-assistance features. Known as EyeSight, the system bundles automatic emergency braking that will apply the brakes if a collision appears imminent, along with adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. While such features are available in other small SUVs, they usually cost extra or are only available on higher trims.

One feature in the system that so far is not available on any other rival is Lead Vehicle Start Alert. Also found on other Subarus, it alerts the driver that a traffic light has turned green and yet they haven’t pulled forward.

Subaru aims to further alleviate the issue of distracted driving in the new Forester with the DriverFocus safety technology. Debuting on the Touring model, the Subaru’s new system works with the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. But where EyeSight has cameras that look to the outside of the vehicle to monitor the road ahead, DriverFocus looks inward at the driver. It uses facial recognition software to spot signs of fatigue or driver distraction, and can recognize up to five different drivers and remember their presets for seat position, climate control, infotainment settings and more.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Larger, plusher interior

The latest crop of small SUVs continues to push the boundaries of both amenities and interior space, and the 2-row/5-passenger Forester is set to be among the tops in its class. Even base models come with creature comforts like automatic climate control and an infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration as standard. Standard models come with a 6.5-inch multimedia touchscreen system, while the higher trims use an 8-inch system with or without built-in navigation.

The 2019 Forester Touring model is the most loaded model to date, with amenities like 10-way power driver’s seat, 8-way power front passenger seat, heated steering wheel and heated front and rear seats.

The new Forester, now built on Subaru’s Global Platform architecture, has also improved its already impressive interior dimensions. Rear-seat legroom has increased 1.4 inches to 39.4 inches of stretch-out room. Then there’s the cargo area. With the rear seats folded, it now boasts 76.1 cubic feet of cargo capacity, a 1.9 cubic-foot improvement and a figure that now puts it slightly above the until-now segment-leading Honda CR-V.

Moreover, the rear cargo bay’s opening width has grown by 5.3 inches over the past model. At 51.3 inches in width, Subaru says a full-size golf bag can be loaded sidewise without tilting it. For added convenience, a power tailgate is standard on Limited and Touring models and available as an option on Premium and Sport variants.

If the roomier new Forester still isn't enough SUV for you, check out its new big brother, the 2019 Subaru Ascent.

More power, better all-weather traction

As is now expected of a Subaru, the 2019 Forester comes with all-wheel drive (AWD). Further benefiting the new Forester is standard active torque vectoring, which works in conjunction with the AWD system to enable optimal traction on a wide range of roads and surfaces.

All models except the base Forester will include the X-Mode system with hill-descent control that optimizes the engine, transmission, brakes and AWD system when traversing slippery surfaces or steep inclines. On Sport, Limited and Touring versions a new dual-mode X-Mode system has two additional settings: Snow/Dirt, and Deep Snow/Mud.

Powering the new fifth-generation Subaru Forester is an updated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder flat (or boxer) engine. The revised power plant now makes 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque, vs 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque for the previous model. All models will again use a CVT, or continuously variable transmission to enhance fuel efficiency. Subaru predicts the 2019 Forester will get up to 33 mpg in highway driving. As with more and more new cars, the all-new Forester will utilize an auto start/stop system to eke out more fuel savings.

Also: Check out the latest news from the New York Auto Show

No turbo option

If you’re a longtime Forester fan, this is the point where you might notice something significant in the missing column. That would be a turbo engine. The 2019 Subaru Forester will arrive without one, Subaru officials explaining there just isn’t enough demand to warrant the option.

Subaru is introducing a new Sport variant that aims to add some zest. Building on the Premium trim, the 2019 Forester Sport has an edgier appearance thanks to a unique grill with darkened frame, black-finish wheels, rear roof spoiler and black underguards. Though it uses the same engine and has the same power output as the other trims, the new model features a Sport Sharp drive mode, along with steering wheel-mounted paddles that allow manual shifting through seven simulated gears.

The 2019 Subaru Forester is set to go on sale later this year. Pricing, which currently ranges from around $23,700 to $37,000, will be announced closer to the on-sale date.


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