Vehicle Overview Although the 2017 Subaru Forester doesn't represent a full redesign, Subaru has introduced a number of changes aimed at keeping this crossover fresh. For one thing, we're down a "Con" from last year thanks to the newly available blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, while the optional EyeSight safety package adds upgraded cameras for improved accuracy as well as — except on the Premium trim — reverse automatic braking and adaptive LED headlights with auto high beams. For another, all Foresters are treated to mild but noticeable exterior styling revisions, along with extra sound-deadening measures for more refined cruising. You can even specify a "Saddle Brown" leather interior on the Touring trim, a nod to the growing demand for 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 CVT, which improves fuel economy significantly but might take some getting used to if you're coming from 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.
If you're shopping for a small crossover SUV, the question isn't what's wrong with the 2017 Forester, because the answer is "not much." Rather, it's a question of priorities. The Honda CR-V is exceptionally well-rounded and always a perennial favorite with consumers. It's a similar story with the Toyota RAV4, though its fuel economy isn't quite as good. If you want a sportier driving experience, the Mazda CX-5 remains our top pick, while the new 2017 Kia Sportage delivers distinctive style, good value and a comparable two-engine lineup. But with its various upgrades this year, the 2017 Subaru Forester can stake a legitimate claim to leadership, even with such distinguished rivals to consider.
Performance and MPG All 2017 Subaru Foresters come standard with all-wheel drive. The 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring and all 2.0XT models have an additional driver-selectable mode that optimizes various functions to improve traction on slippery surfaces. These models also include hill descent control.
The 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard for the 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims, with a CVT optional. The higher trims are CVT only.
The EPA rates CVT-equipped 2.5i models at 28 mpg combined (26 city/32 highway), slightly improved for 2017 and laudable numbers indeed for an all-wheel-drive crossover. The manual transmission is a bit less fuel-efficient. In Edmunds testing, a CVT-equipped Forester 2.5i Limited accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, which is about average for a base-engine AWD crossover in this segment.
Stronger performance is available if you choose the 2.0XT. Its standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder churns out 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and comes only with the CVT. In Edmunds testing, a Forester 2.0XT Touring accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is exceptionally quick for this type of vehicle. The 2.0XT also looks good on the fuel economy front at an EPA-estimated 25 mpg combined (23 city/27 highway), but our test vehicle struggled to match these numbers in real-world driving. The other downside is that the 2.0XT can tow just 1,500 pounds — same as the base Forester.
Safety Antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a rearview camera are standard on all 2017 Subaru Foresters. An upgraded traction control system (X-Mode) with hill descent control is standard on all CVT-equipped models for 2017. Additionally, the 2017 2.0XT Touring with EyeSight inherits an advanced active torque-vectoring system from the high-performance Subaru WRX and WRX STI, promising more neutral and accurate handling in corners.
The Starlink Safety and Security telematics system, which is standard for most Foresters, includes emergency assistance, automatic collision notification and various remote services (door unlocking, vehicle location services, stolen vehicle recovery and alarm notification).
The EyeSight safety package is offered on all but the base Forester, but it comes in a couple different permutations. When added to the 2.5i Premium model, its safety items include a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and intervention, forward collision warning and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking. When added to the 2.5i Limited or 2.0XT Touring, it also includes reverse automatic braking (to prevent collisions while backing up).
In Edmunds brake testing, a Forester 2.0XT stopped from 60 mph in 119 feet, a good number for this class. A Forester 2.5i made this same stop in 126 feet, which is a little longer than average.
Additional Information The 2017 Subaru Forester isn't all-new, but it is freshly tweaked to remain attractive in an increasingly crowded marketplace for compact crossover SUVs. And a few of those changes may just be significant to sway your purchase choice.
First among the tweaks is the newly available blind-spot monitoring system that was notably absent from the option sheet last year. Beyond looking out at the blind spots, the system also includes rear cross-traffic alert. The optional EyeSight safety package fortifies all that with an improved camera and adds reverse automatic braking and adaptive LED headlights (with automatic high beams). Of course, all this can vary by trim level, so use Edmunds.com's purchasing tools to optimize the Forester for your needs.
Although this is fundamentally the same Forester that was introduced for 2014, the styling has been refined for 2017. The nose has been redesigned with a new bumper cover framing a new hexagonal grille, and the headlights now feature a black inner bezel and distinctive C-shaped illuminated element. And the wheels are new too.
The interior itself is now muffled by additional sound-deadening material, and there's a Saddle Brown leather interior option on the Touring model. Even in this most utilitarian of market segments, buyers demand the option of some indulgent luxury. Your dogs will love Saddle Brown leather, right?
Always a solid performer supported by Subaru's reputation for long-lasting quality, the Forester can be tailored to practically any taste. As is true with most of Subaru's lineup (the BRZ sports coupe is the only exception), it's available only with all-wheel drive, but there are two engine choices. The base engine is a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat-four with horizontally opposed cylinders ? just like in an old VW Bug or new Porsche Boxster. Amazingly Subaru still offers this engine with a six-speed manual transmission, but most Foresters will be equipped continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.