Completely redesigned for 2014, Subaru's compact Forester is almost the same size outside but is roomier inside and has numerous interior and feature upgrades, including some optional high-tech active-safety features. The 2.0XT version introduces a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The Forester's competitors include the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, among others.
The new Forester is 1.4 inches longer, 1.3 inches taller and 0.6 inches wider than the previous generation, with a wheelbase stretched 0.9 inches. The new styling is reserved, though the new 2.0XT is bolder, with a different front bumper and a more aggressive mesh grille as well as slick-looking 18-inch alloy wheels in place of the standard 17s. The LED running lights are distinctive. Elements like body-colored side mirrors and rear spoiler come on the higher trim levels, starting with the Premium. In ascending order, the base-model trims are 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited and 2.5i Touring. The 2.0XT comes in Premium and Touring versions only.
The Forester's interior volume has increased to 113.1 cubic feet from 108 in 2012 (or, in models with the moonroof, 107.8 up from 102 cubic feet). The seat height has been raised 1.1 inches, yet the car's beltline remains relatively low for this class, improving visibility. The Forester has little touches like a center armrest and head restraints that adjust forward and back.
The center floor hump is lower than the previous generation's. In the higher trim levels, the 60/40-split backseat reclines and is also spring-loaded to fold down at the pull of a switch on either side of the cargo area.
Standard features include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, auto-on headlights, a rear window wiper and washer, and remote keyless entry. The AM/FM/CD stereo includes a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity and streaming-audio capability.
Under the Hood
Powering the base 2014 Forester 2.5i is the same 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder from the 2013 model. It maintains the same power figures of 170 horsepower and 174 pounds-feet of torque. It can be teamed to a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. As always, the Forester has standard all-wheel drive, though the system paired with automatic transmissions is more sophisticated and unobtrusive.
More significant is a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that powers the 2.0XT. It puts out 250 hp and 258 pounds-feet of torque, a significant jump from the outgoing 2.5-liter turbo's 224 hp and 226 pounds-feet of torque. It comes only with a high-torque-specific CVT with the ability for drivers to shift in manual modes for six or eight different speeds. Though it has a sportier suspension than the 2.5i, the XT also includes hill descent control, an off-roading technology. The Forester's 8.7 inches of ground clearance is above average.
Subaru's early internal mileage estimates for the 2.5i are 22/29 mpg city/highway (manual) and 24/32 mpg (automatic), and the 2.0XT is estimated at 23/28 mpg. The EPA will determine final numbers.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes and an electronic stability system, as required by law. New features for 2014 are anti-whiplash front seats and a driver's knee airbag. Frontal airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags and side curtains with a rollover sensor are all included.
A backup camera is standard on all but the base 2.5i level. Late to the party with some features, Subaru has piled on a bunch of camera-based active safety options under the name EyeSight driver assist. It comprises precollision braking, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
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