Subaru Forester: As lovable as ever

  • Article by: BARRY SPYKER , Miami Herald
  • Updated: December 20, 2013 - 11:08 PM

The compact SUV is bigger inside and out, but it hasn’t abandoned its roots: functionality and practicality.

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The 2014 Subaru Forester is the fourth generation of the crossover.

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For those who don’t already know, the Subaru Forester has a loyalist following matched only by Corvette and Porsche.

I mean these folks, often outdoorsy types, have a website where they chronicle their Forester’s life in text and pictures as they modify or customize their Subarus over the years. They post and boast more than I did with my son and daughter.

You Subie owners know of what I speak.

Here’s the good news: The 2014 Forester, the fourth generation of this all-wheel-driver, hasn’t abandoned its roots. It has and does everything Forester is famous for — it just does most of it even better this year.

It is bigger in nearly every dimension, is better sculpted in front and rear, offers even greater ground clearance — at 8.7 inches — for better dirt-road drives to the hiking trails and kayaking spots. And it even has more room inside for the paddles, backpacks and tents.

Plus, you can get to the lakes and mountains cheaper with Forester’s improved fuel economy — credit a new continuously variable transmission, or CVT, that replaces the aging four-speed automatic.

Forester’s restyled interior is perhaps the greatest improvement. First off, it’s easier to get in there, with bigger and wider-opening doors. But it’s also quieter, prettier and more comfortable with redesigned seats that are more supportive and positioned to offer better views of the outdoors.

The rear-seat area is roomier this year so it’s easy to take along another adult couple or friends on your adventure. Legroom back there has been extended more than 3 inches and the rear floor is flat so there’s no driveshaft bulge to rob back-seaters of foot space.

Fold the back seats down and cargo space expands from 34 to 74.7 cubic feet, about 6 cubic feet more than last year.

Getting the gear — or groceries — back there is easier, too, with a larger liftgate, which is power activated on the upscale models.

Slightly wider, taller and longer, the new Forester posts a more striking stance. Even sharper looking is the 2.0XT, which gets a bolder front, rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels.

Forester’s power comes in two flavors — both of them 4-cylinder “boxer” engines. The base is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that generates 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard this year, replacing last year’s 5-speed. A CVT is optional.

But better performance is available with the 2.0-liter turbocharged version — modified from the Subaru BRZ — which is standard on the 2.0XT model. The 2.0 knocks out 250 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque. You have to go with the high-torque CVT here but you won’t regret it when it comes to performance — or fuel economy: It is one of the better CTVs and is EPA-rated at 23 mpg city, 28 highway.

The turbo also offers instant gratification with better 0-60 times: Rather than the 2.5’s 9.0 second, the 2.0 turbo gets you to 60 in a swift 6.3 seconds — exceptional for this crossover segment.

The 2.0 Touring and Limited trims also have an X-mode which enhances engine and tranny response, plus boosts the AWD system for improved traction on dirt or gravel roads.

You’ll find the Forester also is perfectly happy and composed on drives to soccer practice or the grocery store. It is stable, handles responsibly though not exceptionally in the corners. The AWD system, offered in two versions, is effective at keeping the Forester well poised on and off the main road, and in reducing side-to-side motion.

The electrically boosted steering is less than sharp, but is competent. Braking is smooth and efficient.

  • 2014 Subaru Forester

    Base price: $22,820

    Price as tested: $32,995

    Prices include destination charge.

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