Subaru Product Line Manager Todd Hill sits shotgun as we barrel down a barren wash road somewhere within the Sonoran desert. Our field of view is expansive, thanks to a few of the many changes implemented in the design of the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester.
Pushing the narrower A-pillars forward while pulling the side mirrors back on the doors creates a solariumlike cockpit, from which our chaperone-turned-co-driver, Todd, can attentively scan the dusty road ahead. It doesn't feel very treacherous, as this new Forester features a revised all-wheel-drive system and reprogrammed Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) setup that keeps our slip angles in check and our wheels on the road.
This makes Todd happy, and more importantly, will likely make Forester buyers even happier. Long known for its all-weather capability, the 2014 Subaru Forester is a further refinement of a smart package that's well tailored to the average crossover buyer.
Handles the Dirt as Well as the Road As our next stopover peers into view, we learn that we could've navigated here entirely on pavement. Subaru instead saw it opportune to drive over miles of roughly maintained, washboard-sectioned dirt road. In most cases, this is exactly the type of road most crossovers in this segment would avoid, but not this Forester.
With a new body shell that's 50 percent stiffer than before, this new Forester maintains the 8.7 inches of ground clearance found in the outgoing model. That's still more than a 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The rest of the suspension is similar to the previous model, so there are MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in back. Together, the setup allows the Forester to not only survive this road, it actually makes it fun.
Our all-season tires soon transition from dirt to driveway as we arrive unscathed at a private racetrack facility to further test the Forester's new chops. A Subaru Forester at a racetrack? It's not an obvious combination, but Subaru thinks the Forester is nimble enough these days to impress us even on a twisty piece of tarmac.
Two New Transmissions, One New Engine The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine carries over from last year's model. It generates 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque while the vehicle itself weighs an extra 50 pounds or so depending on the model.
Last year's transmissions, however, get chucked in favor of a new six-speed manual in lieu of the five-speed and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of the four-speed automatic, both of which provide a most welcome gain in fuel efficiency. The six-speed (22 city/29 highway) finds an extra 2 mpg in both EPA-estimated city and highway tests, while the CVT (24 city/32 highway) trounces the old slushbox with gains of 3 and 5 mpg respectively.
In more exciting news, the Forester XT model now sports an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that develops 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This is the same basic engine used in the Subaru BRZ sports car, where it makes 200 hp. Subaru redesigned the fuel injection (it's solely direct, rather than a combination of direct and port injection), lowered the compression ratio a notch (10.6:1) and added a twin-scroll turbocharger, good for 17.1 psi of boost when maximum power is summoned.
This results in Subaru's highest specific engine output for the U.S. market (125.1 hp/liter) and it's channeled through an internally reinforced, high-torque CVT (23 city/28 highway), and a CVT only. The power figures are achieved on the recommended 93-octane fuel, though Subaru notes that 87 octane will work fine if you're OK with a 10 percent reduction in power.
Ready To Handle Any Kind of Road As we blow past our bright orange STI pace car following the sighting lap, speed builds quickly and quietly, with light acceleration oscillations from the CVT riding the turbo engine's torque curve. Bury the throttle to pass and the CVT kick-down will come in a half second at best. Do this in Manual mode and it won't come at all.
The base Forester's six-speed manual still makes business sense from a cost standpoint, but for the majority of future Forester buyers, the CVT is most efficient and best suited to overall functionality. Highest mpg figures aside, the quick, flexible nature of the CVT allows engineers to capitalize on Subaru's electronically controlled, continuously variable transfer clutch, supplanting the six-speed's passive, viscous-locking center coupling.
With the mild road feedback transmitted through an energy-saving electronic power steering rack, we know in our hearts that the production run of Foresters will probably never see a racetrack. However, the decent cornering balance, combined with the way the brakes endured 40-something turns tells us that this Forester isn't likely to disappoint on a highway on-ramp.
Cabin Updates The Touring model we're in features a 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation screen with an additional color LCD above it. Though resolution on the main screen isn't stellar, the system features the latest suite of smartphone-integrating apps, even one called Aha that will text-to-speech the news feeds of any forsaken Facebook junkies.
The smaller LCD is used to display information for the climate controls, fuel mileage and a fun-over-function AWD animation. Lastly, it also doubles as a rearview camera feed, a feature that is now standard on all but base models of the Forester. The rest of the interior remains delightfully simple considering how much technology is buried with the controls.
The Forester's exterior footprint expands marginally in every direction, which proves more noticeable inside than out. Rear legroom is up 3.7 inches over the last model, a substantial increase that makes it far more livable in back than before. With the rear seats folded, there are now 74.7 cubic feet of cargo space, an increase of 6.4 cubic feet over its predecessor.
Value Priced With a base price of $22,820, the new 2014 Subaru Forester costs slightly less than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but still more than the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. Factor in the Forester's standard all-wheel drive and the equation tilts further in favor of the Subaru.
Look beyond the Forester's obvious all-weather credentials and it still stacks up well in the segment. Whether it's passenger space, cargo room or the latest features, this Forester has all the bases covered. And that includes performance if you opt for the XT, an option that not all of its competitors offer.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Is the 2014 Subaru Forester a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2014 Subaru Forester and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2014 Forester featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
How do people like the 2014 Subaru Forester? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2014 Subaru Forester and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2014 Forester 4.1 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2014 Forester.
Review I've had my '14 Forester in the Limited trim model and I've been delighted. So many things people have already noted are true: the terrific visibility, the great mileage, the quality of the interior features, the quiet and stable ride. I've noticed, too, that it has a nimble feel, with a very tight turning radius. Responsive steering, perfectly adequate acceleration with the CVT normally aspirated engine. I'm happy with the sound system--I went for the tweeter upgrade--and I like the all weather package, power lift gate and leather which are standard on the Limited.
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Is the 2014 Subaru Forester safe? The 2014 Subaru Forester earned a 5-star overall safety rating from NHTSA and "GOOD" ratings from the IIHS in the following caregories: Side Impact Test, Roof Strength Test, Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint, IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results, Moderate Overlap Front Test Results, and a JD POWER overall quality rating of 2.0 out of 5. Among Edmunds' many tools and resources for finding your perfect car are detailed safety ratings and analysis from NHTSA, IIHS, and JD Power, including overall ratings, frontal barrier crash ratings, side impact tests and crash ratings, rollover test results, roof strength tests, rear crash protection and head restraint ratings, side barrier ratings, combined side barrier and pole ratings, and more.
What options are available on the 2014 Subaru Forester?
Available Subaru Forester 2014 Submodel Types: SUV, Wagon