By Eric Peters- What do most people buy a Subaru Forester for? Not for speed — so there’s less of that for 2019. But there is more mileage. And more room for cargo and people.
It has more capability for less money than its competitors. Forester buyers are very interested in those things.
What It Is
The Forester is Subaru’s medium-size crossover — and one of the best-selling crossovers in its class. That’s probably because it is the only crossover in its class that comes standard with all-wheel drive and costs less than rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 — which offer all-wheel drive at extra cost and still cost more even without it.
The Soobie also comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight suite of driver safety assists and almost nine inches of ground clearance — a snow-day feature not offered at all in rivals.
Prices start at $24,295 and run to $34,295 for a top-of-the-line Touring trim, which comes standard with voice-activated climate control; heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel and seats; a 576 watt premium Harman Kardon audio rig; and an upgraded/higher-resolution 8-inch LCD touch screen with the latest version of Subaru’s Starlink navigation system and apps.
The 2019 Forester has been completely redesigned.
It’s longer, wider and roomier than before.
There are 1.4 inches more legroom in the back and almost 10 cubic feet more total cargo capacity with the back seats folded down.
The cargo opening is wider, too — by 5.3 inches — and the load floor is lower.
The new Forester also gets an updated version of the 2.5-liter engine that was standard equipment in last year’s Forester, as well as a bevy of new tech features including a technologically amazing DriverFocus system that uses some kind of facial recognition system to scan/identify and remember a driver’s face. It watches you to make sure you are watching the road.
It has more of the things people who buy Foresters are looking for.
It’s equipped with all-wheel drive for less than rivals charge for being front-wheel-drive-equipped.
What’s Not So Good
Though it still costs less to start than its less-well-equipped rivals, it costs more than it used to — about $500 more than last year’s model.
Under the Hood
Regardless of trim, every 2019 Forester now comes standard with Subaru’s 2.5-liter horizontally opposed Boxer engine — up 12 horsepower from last year to 182.
A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is the only available transmission.
Subaru’s torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system is also standard. It’s a more advanced system than the AWD systems used in most competitor models because it can route torque side to side rather than just front to back.
It’s similar to the system used in high-performance Subarus like the WRX and gives both a traction and stability advantage, by correcting for understeer or oversteer when cornering.
On the Road
The Forester may not get there first — it needs about 9.6 seconds to get to 60 mph — but it will almost certainly get there eventually, regardless of the weather. Or the road.
Its winning combination of clearance and a very capable AWD system (with X Mode, you get driver-selectable terrain programs for snow, dirt and mud) make it almost unstoppable.
Of course, a truck-based four-wheel-drive SUV could deal with such conditions just as well. But then you’d be driving a 4WD SUV. These are too much for some people — and too thirsty. Good luck finding a 4WD SUV that can get 30-something mpg on the highway like the Forester.
If this Soobie has a weakness, it is passing power. There isn’t much.
You can make the Forester feel and sound a little quicker via the Subaru Intelligent Drive system, or SI-Drive system, which is standard in all trims. Selecting S dials up a sharper throttle response and kicks the CVT automatic into a lower range (there are no gears in a CVT).
This works like pressing the overdrive lockout button in cars with conventional automatics.
At the Curb
The ’19 Forester looks so much like the ’18 Forester (Why mess with what people like?) that you have to park the old next to the new to tell the difference — or get inside.
There are 39.4 inches of back-seat legroom now versus 38 inches previously. Cargo capacity has also been upped, both behind the second row (35.4 cubic feet now versus 31.5 before) as well as with the seats folded flat (76.1 cubic feet for the ’19 versus 68.5 cubic feet for the ’18).
The Forester now has more cargo room than both of its main rivals, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V, which max out at 73.4 cubic feet and 75.8 cubic feet, respectively.
But the most functionally significant dimensional change for the better is probably the wider-opening cargo area. You’ve got an additional 5.3 inches of latitude to work with when the liftgate’s up — which should be helpful when you’re trying to get something large and unwieldy home from Lowe’s or Home Depot.
The new Forester offers in-car Wi-Fi, and there’s a new Sport trim, which adds a third, more aggressive Sport Sharp mode to the driver-selectable SI-Drive system, gloss-black exterior trim and dark-grey interior specific to this variant.
The Bottom Line
Subaru didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. It just made the Forester better.