2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring Review: Bigger On The Inside
– Montreal, Quebec
It's fair to say that for most of its life, the Subaru Forester has enjoyed a higher profile in Canada than in our much larger neighbour to the south, for one very good reason: the standard all-wheel drive that is a hallmark of its winter-friendly reputation. Now that we're a few year's into the compact SUV's most recent redesign, sales figures show that American buyers have finally caught up to what Canadians have known all along - that the Forester is the perfect companion for whatever life might throw your way, regardless of how nasty the weather might be outside.
For 2017 the Subaru Forester has undergone a series of mild updates aimed at keeping things fresh, but you'll have no trouble spotting the familiar upright shape of the sport-utility behind its revised grille and front bumper. New headlights are on offer, too, with LEDs making an appearance in higher trim levels, but not on the 2.5i Touring model that I drove, which sits just below the Limited. My tester did offer a new set of 17-inch rims compared to what was available the year before, as well as a rear spoiler and a new automatic braking feature that activates when reversing to keep you from backing into any obstacles.
Additional insulation and acoustically-treated glass work well to render the SUV more silent than in years past.
Interior improvements are harder to see, and in fact, even harder to hear, as Subaru has introduced a soundproofing regime inside the Forester that aims to quell the road and wind noise that some owners had complained about previously. Additional insulation and acoustically-treated glass work well to render the SUV more silent than in years past, and in fact engine noise is greatly reduced as compared to older models.
Also invisible? The changes that have been make to the 2017 Subaru Forester's entry-level, 2.5-litre 4-cylinder drivetrain. Specifically, those who order the continuously-variable automatic transmission see a boost in both city and combined fuel economy, with the latter rating showing as 8.4 L/100 km.
Output remains the same at 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, and if you select the 6-speed manual transmission like the one found in the vehicle I drove for a week, you don't get the same efficiency benefit as CVT customers do. Instead, you can enjoy the pleasure of shifting the Forester yourself, an experience that isn't exactly sporty, but is certainly a novelty in a world where even performance cars have largely abandoned the third pedal.
The 6-speed puts moderately more spring in the SUV's step.
Regardless of which transmission handles the gear shifting duties in the Forester, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is well-equipped to handle whatever demands may be placed upon it by traffic, passengers, or cargo. The 6-speed puts moderately more spring in the SUV's step, but if it's spirited acceleration that you're after you'd be much better served by the 250 horsepower available from the 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of twist available from the 2.0XT model's turbocharged 4-cylinder mill.
I never found myself lamenting a lack of giddy-up when cruising around town behind the wheel of the more modestly-powered Subaru Forester, and the 2.5i family of haulers are the ones most likely to be driven home from dealerships by Canadian buyers thanks to their more affordable price tags. With a starting ask of $25,995, mid-range models hover just above $30,000, which puts the Forester well in line with other all-wheel drive crossovers in its class. You also only pay a slight premium for four-wheel traction, with entry-level offerings like the Ford Escape undercutting the Subaru's base price by nearly $900, but only when found in front-wheel drive trim.
Subaru continues to leverage exceptional interior utility as its primary selling point.
Of course, almost every other compact SUV improves on the Forester's infotainment situation, which continues to be one of its weak spots. Combined with an interior design that is pleasant, but not inspiring, Subaru continues to leverage exceptional interior utility as its primary selling point once you've opened the door to the cabin. While the first and second rows are comfortable for adults and children alike, it's the enormous cargo capacity of the Subaru Forester that really catches the eye, with its box-like shape swallowing a class-leading level of gear. Keep in mind that you lose about 10 percent of the vehicle's utility should you rise to the Touring trim or higher, because the panoramic sunroof swallows that much volume to hide its opening mechanism and panels.
Still, the 2017 Subaru Forester isn't all that hampered by its lacklustre touchscreens and good, but not great interior materials. The rest of the SUV represents a near-perfect summation of what most Canadians are shopping for in an inexpensive, useful, and snow-friendly daily driver. That the Forester can haul just as much, if not more, as many of its larger mid-size rivals is one of the best kept secrets in the business - or it would have been, if this latest version of the crossover wasn't disappearing from the lot almost as quickly as Subaru can build it. In all likelihood, you won't even have to head down to your local dealer to scope out the latest Forester. Your neighbour probably already has one.
Photos: Benjamin Hunting