Subaru owners have no problem telling their favorite automaker what they like and dislike. I’m guessing they had a few thoughts about the Forester during its redesign. They likely told designers not to stray too far from a shape that’s worked for several generations. Update the infotainment system and elevate interior luxury. Go ahead and further refine the powertrain and chassis. And absolutely, keep it affordable. That’s exactly what happened with the redesigned 2019 Subaru Forester.
There’s more body and hood sculpting, but the Forester’s familiar upright command-of-the-trail presence remains. It’s more Land Rover than cute-ute. Our Limited grade model illuminates the road with LED headlamps and extra silverwork around the body to put a shine on it. The overall theme looks like a smaller version of the new full-size Ascent crossover, looking smart on 18” wheels and with ample 8.7” of ground clearance for real off-roading. Designers gave it a significant facelift without losing the soul within.
And, moving within reveals an interior that will please crossover owners very much. Heated front leather seats and a heated steering wheel add to the dual-zone automatic climate control’s inherent comfort while a power tailgate, rear air vents, and power panoramic moonroof add convenience. Tap around and you’ll notice lots of soft touch stitched coverings for the dash and doors – much of which has a pebbly texture for an added touch of class. Piano black finish on the center stack and faux aluminum on the dash further dignify the cabin.
Anybody who’s spent time in past Foresters will appreciate the upgrade in electronics. The infotainment screen, with proper tuning/volume knobs plus intuitive swipe capability, takes Subaru from one of the worst to among the best. Use it to command connected iThings through Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Wi-Fi hotspot. Harman Kardon’s 576-watt audio system pumps sweet tunes through nine speakers.
Safety is a long-time priority for Subaru, and the Forester goes further. The automaker’s twin-camera EyeSight crash avoidance system comes standard, offering forward collision mitigation, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise to the masses. Our vehicle also had blind spot, rear cross traffic alert, and reverse auto braking systems.
By far the biggest and most noticeable change to the Forester is its all-new architecture, which is shared with the Impreza, Crosstrek, and next-generation Outback. As with the other compact Subarus, the body structure is tomb solid while suspension is on-par with Audi. It’s able to glide over rough pavement without losing composure on twisty roads, and tuned for comfort, makes for pleasant long-distance touring. Selectable X-Mode configures the powertrain for varying terrain, allowing you to go further into the weeds than imagined. Torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive kicks it sharply around corners.
The new architecture is the perfect place to install a 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that delivers 182 horsepower and 176 lb.-ft. of torque to the standard all-wheel-drive system. It routes through a continuously variable transmission that is one of the best ones available, able to keep the engine in its ideal rev range without sounding like a scorned weedeater and enabling frugal fuel economy ratings of 26/33-MPG city/highway.
While most Subarus destined for domestic consumption are built in Indiana, this one is not. It comes from Japan, but we won’t hold that against a compact crossover that gives buyers what they want. A base price of $24,295 rises to $33,465 as-tested. Key competitors include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, GMC Terrain, and Nissan Rogue.
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2019 Subaru Forester Limited
Five-passenger, AWD Crossover
Powertrain: 2.5-liter H4, CVT auto trans
Output: 182hp/176 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Capability
Fuel economy: 26/33 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Gunma, Japan
Base/As-tested price: $24,295/$33,465