2017 Subaru Forester

2017 Subaru Forester Review

The Forester puts the "U" in SUV, with enhanced off-road ability and standard all-wheel drive.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Cameron Rogers
Edmunds Editor

Like many crossovers, the 2017 Subaru Forester offers a roomy cabin and good fuel economy. But it's also an adventurer, with a powerful optional turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and plenty of ground clearance for off-road excursions.

Though crossovers are all the rage now, the segment was a blip on the radar until about 20 years ago when vehicles such as the Subaru Forester came onto the scene to split the difference between family sedans and high-riding SUVs. Today's Forester has ridden that wave of popularity to become one of the best-selling vehicles in Subaru's lineup, and the changes to the 2017 model illustrate why. The upgrades range from mild but noticeable exterior styling revisions to newly available safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and reverse automatic braking. Extra sound-deadening measures have been added for more refined cruising, and the new Saddle Brown leather interior on the Touring trim adds a touch of luxury in this traditionally pragmatic segment.

At heart, however, this remains the same Forester that's been with us since 2014, which is generally a good thing. Most Foresters will be equipped with Subaru's continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which improves fuel economy significantly but might take some getting used to if you're used to a traditional automatic. Of course, every Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive — a Subaru hallmark — and if the base four-cylinder engine doesn't get your heart pumping, there's an optional turbocharged engine that produces the quickest acceleration in this class. We're also fans of the airy cabin and excellent visibility afforded by the Forester's large windows, and there's plenty of space for both people and cargo. Even though the crossover segment is thick with compelling choices, the 2017 Subaru Forester can stake a legitimate claim to leadership.



what's new

The 2017 Forester receives numerous updates, starting with wider feature availability, additional noise insulation and quicker steering response. The enhanced EyeSight safety system now has lane departure intervention and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Automatic high-beam headlight control is newly available, as are adaptive LED headlights and reverse automatic braking. Styling revisions include new headlights and taillights, plus a freshened grille and front end.

we recommend

The standard 2.5i is well equipped for its very reasonable price, but there's better value to be had for not much more. The next rung up the ladder is the 2.5i Premium, and it's a standout in the Forester lineup considering its feature content and price. You can certainly get additional luxuries if you want them, but we think the Premium represents the best bang for your buck. The turbocharged 2.0XT versions are pricey, but owners who drive on hilly or high-altitude terrain will appreciate the extra performance.




trim levels & features

The all-wheel-drive 2017 Subaru Forester is a five-seat small crossover SUV that offers a bit more off-road prowess than others in its class. Six trim levels are available: 2.5i, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring. The 2.5i models come with a 2.5-liter engine, while the more expensive 2.0XT models use a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. All-wheel drive is standard on every Forester. Subaru also offers a few option packages that help bridge the gaps between certain trim levels.

Like its name implies, the base 2.5i is powered by a 2.5-liter engine (170 horsepower, 174 pound-feet) matched to your choice of a six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Standard equipment highlights include 17-inch steel wheels, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, Bluetooth, a driver information display, a rearview camera, a 6.2-inch touchscreen with Subaru's Starlink technology interface, smartphone app integration and a four-speaker sound system.

Optional for the base 2.5i (with the CVT) is an Alloy Wheel package that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and automatic up/down front windows.

Those items come standard on the 2.5i Premium, which further adds rear privacy glass, a panoramic sunroof, a power driver seat, a rear armrest with cupholders, reclining rear seatbacks, automatic climate control, a larger 7-inch touchscreen, voice commands, Starlink Safety Plus telematics (emergency assistance, automatic collision notification and various remote services), and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

An All-Weather package (heated side mirrors and heated front seats) is standard if the manual transmission is specified, but it's an extra-cost option with the CVT. The All-Weather package opens the door to the EyeSight safety package, which adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. A version of this package is available with foglights and an adjustable-height power liftgate.

The 2.5i Limited comes with the All-Weather package, the CVT, foglights and a power liftgate. It further adds automatic headlights, an upgraded driver information display and leather upholstery.

Optional for the Limited is a package that bundles navigation with an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The Limited's EyeSight package includes the upgraded sound system, navigation, all features from the Premium's EyeSight package, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high-beam control and reverse automatic braking (to prevent collisions while backing up).

At the top of the 2.5i line is the 2.5i Touring with 18-inch alloy wheels, the adaptive LED headlights, upgraded side mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, the upgraded sound system and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. EyeSight is again optional on the Touring.

If you want more power, there's the Forester 2.0XT Premium. It has all the equipment of the 2.5i Premium plus a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (250 hp, 258 lb-ft) paired with a CVT. Other XT-specific features include 18-inch alloy wheels, larger brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, additional selectable driving modes, shift paddles, the All-Weather package and the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Note that the EyeSight package is not available on this model.

The 2.0XT Touring offers the same upgrades as the 2.5i Touring, and its EyeSight package includes the same features as with its non-turbocharged counterpart.

Auto-dimming mirrors are optional for all Foresters. All CVT-equipped Foresters can be ordered with a remote engine start feature.



trim tested

The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the  (turbo 2.0L flat-4 |  CVT automatic | AWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.5 / 5.0

Acceleration4.0 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.5 / 5.0
Drivability3.5 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort4.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.5 / 5.0
Climate control4.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use2.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position2.0 / 5.0
Roominess4.0 / 5.0
Visibility4.0 / 5.0
Quality3.5 / 5.0

Utility

3.5 / 5.0

Small-item storage4.0 / 5.0
Cargo space4.0 / 5.0

Technology

3.0 / 5.0

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration2.0 / 5.0
Driver aids4.0 / 5.0
Voice control3.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
Thanks in large part to the XT's 250 horsepower, the Forester is arguably the best-performing vehicle in this class. When combined with confident braking, on and off-road handling and multiple driving modes, the Forester is clearly a jack-of-all-trades.

Acceleration

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With 250 horsepower on tap, the Forester XT is definitely a quick SUV. Of the three driving modes (I, S and S#), S# is the most responsive, delivering immediate throttle response and rapid access to the turbo's ample power. The CVT "shifts" needlessly in every mode.

Braking

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Around town, the brakes are friendly and easy to modulate. There's ample stopping power from the surprisingly grippy tires but also a fair bit of dive. Disconcerting was the lack of response from the CVT after a panic stop, causing the car to creep and stumble for a few seconds before moving away.

Steering

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Around town, the brakes are friendly and easy to modulate. There's ample stopping power from the surprisingly grippy tires but also a fair bit of dive. Disconcerting was the lack of response from the CVT after a panic stop, causing the car to creep and stumble for a few seconds before moving away.

Handling

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Thanks to the surprisingly grippy tires, you might forget you're in a Forester until the considerable body roll sets in. Even with the hot motor, the XT is still an off-road-biased SUV. That said, you shouldn't shy away from twistier roads; the Forester can navigate them confidently.

Drivability

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Of the three drive modes (I, S and S#), S strikes the best balance for everyday driving. It allows quick access to the wide powerband without being too sensitive. The CVT works best when cruising and can become needlessly overactive to speed variations, even with the XT's broad engine powerband.

Off-road

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With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Forester easily has the edge over other SUVs in this class. The driver-selectable X-Mode includes hill descent control and the ability to shift power between the front and rear wheels to make the most of slippery surfaces.

Comfort

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The Forester's comfortable cabin and quiet ride make the case for taking this SUV out of the city and onto the open road. The ride is good across all surfaces, and most everyone will be able to find enough room and creature comforts to stay happy for hours at a time.

Seat comfort

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The seats in the Forester are broad, flat and fairly soft. With 10-way power adjustability, most drivers are sure to make themselves comfortable. Rear passengers have more than enough headroom and shoulder room, and the seat cushions are comfortable for longer trips.

Ride comfort

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With a more off-road-biased suspension and tires with taller sidewalls, the Forester offers a smooth and relaxed ride over most surfaces. The trade-off lies in the body roll, which can be surprising and is more than you'll get from most of its competitors.

Noise & vibration

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Road and wind noise is sufficiently low at all speeds, and the Forester XT has the makings of a good long-distance cruiser. Over broken pavement most vibrations are well-damped, but the unique buzz from the four-cylinder engine can't be totally eliminated from the steering wheel and pedals.

Climate control

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Simple rotary controls are clear and easy to use, and they're a welcome find in this very menu-driven interior. Ventilation is straightforward and adequate for cooling the large and airy cabin.

Interior

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There's nothing exceptional about the Forester's interior, but it shows the efforts Subaru has made to bring this SUV up to par with its competition. The overload of screens and redundant menus, along with an unusually high seating position, are the only real marks against it.

Ease of use

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Only the climate controls and a few of the buttons on the steering wheel are straightforward. Between the two multifunction and center touchscreens, there's redundant information, mismatched graphics and too many menus that generally distract the driver.

Getting in/getting out

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Wide-opening doors make getting in and out of the Forester easy, and thanks to the generous ground clearance, stepping into a seat is one fluid motion. The back seats are just as easy to access, and this would be a good car for people with limited mobility.

Driving position

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The driver's seat is almost uncomfortably high and cannot be lowered to a position that feels more natural for driving. All the dashboard controls, as well as the steering wheel, sit quite low in relation, giving you the feeling that you're perched on top of the car rather than seated in it.

Roominess

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There's good space inside the Forester for both the front and rear seat occupants, with plenty of headroom and shoulder room to spare. Even the massive sunroof doesn't impinge on headroom.

Visibility

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The somewhat awkward high seating position does lend itself to a confident view of the road. There's good visibility out the sides and rear as well thanks to the Forester's tall greenhouse. The side rearview mirrors are generous and helpful in tight quarters.

Quality

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Though some of the materials could be a bit nicer, most of the surfaces that fall to hand are soft-touch and nicely grained. The Forester feels solid and well-built even if the doors feel a little thin. The level of fit and finish is high, and the leather seats are of good quality.

Utility

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Practicality is definitely one of the Forester's strong suits. With plenty of room for day-to-day items, there's also no shortage of space for larger bags, groceries or camping gear. But all that practicality comes at the expense of accommodating larger car seats.

Small-item storage

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With generous door pockets front and rear, there's plenty of room for larger drinks and small items for all passengers. The center console storage is more than adequate for cellphones and sunglasses.

Cargo space

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There's generous cargo space with the seats up, and with the seats down the Forester can swallow a lot of gear. It's unfortunate that with the seats folded, the load floor isn't completely flat; otherwise it would be hard to fault. A power-operated liftgate is available.

Child safety seat accommodation

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Contrary to the space adults may find in the back seat, there's not much room for larger car seats to fit behind either one of the front seats without moving them forward a considerable amount. LATCH anchors are clearly labeled.

Towing

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Like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, the Forester is rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds. A similarly equipped Ford Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

Technology

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Though the new center display is a welcome step forward for Subaru both in terms of resolution and usability, the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a big disappointment. Subaru's own suite of safety features is very comprehensive and has improved since the previous year.

Audio & navigation

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The new, high-resolution 7-inch touchscreen display's graphics are much improved and easy to understand; the touchscreen responds quickly to inputs. Volume and tuning knobs are also welcome features. The 440-watt, eight-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is more loud than it is refined.

Smartphone integration

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Critically, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not supported. Bluetooth connectivity is simple enough, but we did experience some intermittent issues with Bluetooth audio not being recognized

Driver aids

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An updated version of Subaru's EyeSight includes adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking and blind-spot detection. Headlights that steer with the front wheels are also standard in Touring trim.

Voice control

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Android phone users will have to manage with Subaru's standard voice controls, but Apple users can take advantage of Siri Eyes Free for better voice control over the infotainment system.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

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.