By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.0
The Subaru Forester's reputation wasn't formed on good looks, but on its solid reliability, practical nature and rugged utility. Sound nerdy? Maybe, but that tall greenhouse offers excellent visibility in all directions, and its roomy rear seat and cargo area are two features sometimes lacking in this class. However, the 2017 Subaru Forester has gone to finishing school. Sporting a new nose with LED-accented headlights, an upgraded and quieter interior, and luxurious interior trim packages, the 2017 Forester is shedding the pocket protector for a dash of style. Yet upgrades to the EyeSight driver-assist system, torque vectoring for the turbo model, and improved fuel economy are practical updates that will keep the Forester competitive against the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and many others.
For 2017 the Subaru Forester offers up an all-wheel-drive, fuel-efficient, 5-passenger compact SUV with a plethora of available safety equipment. It's also surprisingly good off-road and has an excellent reliability record. This year, it's even a little bit of a looker.
Despite the visual upgrades, the Forester still offers more practicality than pulchritude. And despite a turbo engine that makes the Forester genuinely quick, those looking for more zip should maybe check out options like the Ford Escape, which trades some practicality for pizazz.
KBB Expert Ratings
Turbocharged Forester models get a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system for better traction, while Forester models with the 2.5-liter engine and CVT get better fuel economy. The EyeSight driver-assist system gets more accurate color cameras, plus blind-spot monitoring is now available, and the interior is both more refined and quieter on the highway.
The 2017 Subaru Forester is one of an increasingly rare breed that is equally adept on-road and off-road. The all-wheel-drive system, which now includes torque vectoring on turbo models, makes...
... the most of the engine's torque to help deliver smooth and even power delivery regardless of conditions. Regardless of model, that power is delivered through a continuously variable automatic transmission that helps keep fuel economy near the top of the class, but is unfortunately a little sloppy-feeling from a dead stop. But it's a minor hiccup in an otherwise solid drivetrain. The suspension blends comfort and control without sacrificing either, with minimal body roll in corners, but with enough suspension travel to absorb big bumps when taking that less beaten path. The electrically assisted power steering feels precise, and if you want extra power, the XT turbo models are downright quick, getting to 60 mph in about six seconds.
X-MODE WITH HILL DESCENT CONTROL
The X-Mode button on the dash of Limited, Touring and XT models burnishes the Forester's off-road reputation. Press it, and the car will optimize control of the throttle, AWD, stability and traction control and Hill Descent Control to maximize the Forester’s low-speed on- and off-road potential.
EYESIGHT DRIVER-ASSIST SYSTEM
Improved this year, the available EyeSight system uses two color cameras to view the world ahead, allowing advanced safety features such as pre-collision braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and more.
With thicker glass, an acoustic windshield, new door seals and additional sound deadening under the floor, the 2017 Subaru Forester promises to be notably quieter than its predecessor. Soft-touch surfaces already helped make the Forester feel upscale, and the newly upgraded interior on the Forester Touring models ups that ante considerably. They add some refinement to an interior design that was already excellent thanks to its generous visibility and sensible design. And we mean sensible: The doors open wide, there's good rear-seat legroom even for adults, and there's a ton of cargo space behind the rear seats.
Subtle refinements to the exterior distinguish the 2017 Forester from its predecessor. The sleeker headlights incorporate Subaru's C-shaped LED motif, and the hexagonal grille is also new. The rear lights also accent the C shape. The headlights receive a functional upgrade, with new adaptive headlights that turn with the steering wheel to give better visibility at night. This all adds to the Forester's already strong attributes. It rides 8.7 inches off the ground, ground clearance that makes it especially good for snowy climates. Turbocharged XT models get a unique front end and a rear roof spoiler, plus 18-inch wheels.
The base model Forester 2.5i comes standard with all-wheel drive, as well as features you'd expect in a modern car, such as power windows and door locks, air conditioning, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, 6.2-inch Starlink touch-screen audio, variable wipers, 6-speed manual transmission, a rearview camera and color multifunction display. Move up to Premium and you get a panoramic sunroof and alloy wheels, while Limited models also get leather upholstery, automatic climate control and a power liftgate. Touring models get the new interior, plus a heated steering wheel, keyless ignition, an audio upgrade and dual-zone climate control.
The CVT is optional on base and Premium models, and from Premium and above you can get the EyeSight driver-assist system, which now includes blind-spot detection and rear cross-path warning. Limited and above can be equipped with the navigation system. Premium models can now be ordered with the power liftgate as well. Touring models come very nicely equipped, with pretty much everything except the navigation system and EyeSight. Then there are the turbocharged XT models, which come in Premium and Touring models. About the only difference is that XT Premium models are available with the navigation system.
Two engines are available for prospective Forester buyers, both of which are 4-cylinder “boxer” engines. Most Foresters come with a non-turbo 2.5-liter that makes 170 horsepower, backed by either 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. This smaller engine develops 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, routing it to all four wheels through a High-Torque Lineartronic CVT with multi-mode SI-Drive that can emulate six or eight virtual gear ratios. Neither model is particularly well-suited for towing, rated at only 1,500 pounds. The standard 2.5-liter engine can run on regular, 87-octane gasoline, while turbocharged Foresters require at least 91 octane, with 93 octane preferred.
170 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
174 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (manual), 26/32 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged boxer-4
250 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/27 mpg
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i with the manual transmission is just under $23,500 including the $875 destination fee. The CVT automatic adds $1,000. The top-level Touring model with the non-turbo engine rings in at just over $30,000, not including any options. Want the turbo? A 2.0XT Premium -- the least expensive version -- starts at about $30,200, while the Touring version is about $35,200. Options add up, but not tremendously, and even a fully loaded 2.0XT Touring will stay less than $37,000. That all compares nicely with the rest of the class, including the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevrolet Equinox. Less expensive alternatives include the Mazda CX-5, no slouch itself. Check our Fair Purchase Price to see what folks in your area paid for the Forester. Resale value for the Forester is predicted to be better than most rivals.