As practical as it looks.
2017 Subaru Forester Subaru Forester 2017 3.5 1.0 5.0
Overview: It’s hip to be square. Witness the 2017 Subaru Forester ; short of Mercedes-Benz’s ancient G-class. you’ll be hard-pressed to find a vehicle with a blockier shape in today’s automotive market. Although the Forester’s 34 cubic feet of cargo room behind its rear seats may not lead its class (the 2017 Honda CR-V offers 39 cubes), the compact crossover’s boxy aesthetic allows owners to exploit the available space more easily. Unlike a number of sleeker competitors, the Forester requires no cargo-carrying compromises be made in response to a sloping roofline or an angled hatch eating into the available vertical space.
Like every Forester before it, the 2017 model comes standard with all-wheel drive. It is offered in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.0XT Premium, 2.5i Touring, and 2.0XT Touring. The 2.5i models are equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four engine that produces 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, while 2.0XT versions rely on a turbocharged 2.0-liter flat-four with 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.5i and 2.5i Premium models. All others use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) as standard. Notably, CVT-equipped 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, and 2.5i Touring models all see their 2017 EPA fuel-economy ratings rise to 26 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, up from 24/31 mpg.
For this review, we drove a 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring. Its as-tested price of $36,765 included a $1595 package that added LED headlights, a reverse automatic-braking system, navigation, and Subaru’s EyeSight bundle of safety features (pre-collision braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning).
What’s New: The Subaru Forester enters 2017 with a host of mid-cycle changes. the most noticeable of which are to its exterior. A new grille, front fascia, and headlight design highlight changes to the front of the car, while redesigned taillights are now illuminated by LEDs. Almost all trim levels—save for the base 2.5i—wear new wheels, too. A standard rear spoiler and optional power rear liftgate trickle down from higher-end models to the 2.5i Premium. Inside, things remain mostly the same; however, keen eyes will notice an updated steering wheel as well as an available Saddle Brown interior color in the top-of-the-line Forester Touring.
Harder to spot are changes to the Forester’s optional EyeSight safety system. Available on 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, and 2.0XT Touring trims, EyeSight’s windshield-header-mounted color cameras now have a wider and longer field of vision. Opting for EyeSight on Limited and Touring models also brings to the table automatic high-beam headlights and reverse-automatic-braking, the latter of which can automatically stop the vehicle if it detects an imminent collision while reversing. Meanwhile, Forester Limited and Touring models now come standard with a blind-spot monitor, as do Premium trims equipped with EyeSight. Swiveling LED headlights are newly available and come standard on the Touring, as well as the Limited when optioned with EyeSight. The Touring models also benefit from the addition of a heated steering wheel.
Additionally, Subaru added a quicker steering ratio and more soundproofing to the 2017 Forester. Thicker glass, an acoustically laminated windshield, added insulation, and improved door seals all help block exterior noise from the cabin. Finally, the Forester 2.0XT Touring, when equipped with EyeSight, now includes a brake-based torque-vectoring system.
What We Like: The 2017 Subaru Forester wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s nothing more or less than what it promises to be. A comfortable ride, an elevated seating position, standard all-wheel drive, and available state-of-the-art safety technology provide Subaru’s compact crossover with the characteristics sought by customers shopping this class. If you can swing the extra costs for the initial purchase and fuel, opt for the more powerful 2.0XT. You won’t regret it. The vehicle we drove had ample power, and the Subaru Intelligent Drive mode selector, standard on the 2.0XT, allows three stages of adjustment to the throttle mapping and computer programming to tame the worst offenses of the CVT. Also, efforts toward better noise suppression have paid off with a quiet cabin at freeway speeds.
What We Don’t Like: Subaru’s CVT is prone to drone when paired with the 2.5-liter engine. For those choosing that engine, we’d recommend the manual transmission; however, doing so means forgoing safety options such as EyeSight and blind-spot monitoring. While Subaru’s latest multimedia systems, updated for 2016, are ergonomically sound and easy to use, the Forester continues to lack Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration, and the graphic presentation looks dated. When the fourth-generation model was introduced for 2014, the Forester finished third in a comparison test against the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda CX-5, and subsequent updates, while significant, have barely kept pace with newer arrivals in this fast-changing market segment. Even in the 2.0XT trim with this year’s quicker steering and active torque vectoring, the Forester’s handling and general driving experience wind up feeling dull and less sophisticated than many competitors, including the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape, and the Mazda CX-5.
Verdict: There are better compact crossovers, but the Forester’s combination of features and pricing makes for strong sales.