2018 Subaru Forester

2018 Subaru Forester Review

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

A roomy cabin and good fuel economy make the 2018 Subaru Forester a solid choice for a compact SUV. But it's the standard all-wheel drive, powerful optional turbocharged engine and high ground clearance for off-road adventuring that set the Forester apart from the pack.

One year after receiving significant upgrades in styling, cabin comfort and safety aids, the Forester carries over into 2018 with only minor changes. Most notable is the new 2.5i Black Edition, which adds a black-out finish on wheels, body trim and grille and extends into the cabin with black cloth upholstery and black gloss dashboard trim.

Last year's update included features such as blind-spot monitoring and reverse automatic braking, enhanced sound deadening for a quieter cabin, and interior options such as Saddle Brown leather that help make the Forester more competitive in its class.

What hasn't changed, however, are the qualities that have made the Forester a top pick since its last major overhaul in 2014, and indeed since its introduction 20 years ago: standard all-wheel drive, extra ground clearance, a spacious cabin with excellent outward visibility, a large and versatile cargo area, and an optional turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Many Foresters come equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which improves fuel economy, but you can still order a classic six-speed manual for controlling your own shifts. The Forester returns between 24 and 28 mpg combined, depending on which engine and transmission you choose.

Although the compact crossover segment is rich with compelling choices, the Forester stakes a legitimate claim to leadership.



what's new

For 2018, the Forester offers a new Black Edition trim package that adds black-finished wheels, body trim and grille. The interior also receives black cloth upholstery and black gloss dashboard trim. Limited trim levels also get a new cargo area cover, while Touring trims now include Subaru's EyeSight safety systems as standard along with automatic high beams and reverse automatic braking.

we recommend

The standard 2.5i is well equipped for a very reasonable price, but we think it's worth stepping up to the 2.5i Premium. It offers a sunroof and improved seats and media interface, among other conveniences. You can get other luxuries, but we think the Premium offers the best value.




trim levels & features

The all-wheel-drive 2018 Subaru Forester is a five-seat compact crossover 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 smaller but more powerful 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.

As its name implies, the base 2.5i is powered by a 2.5-liter engine (170 horsepower, 174 pound-feet) matched to a six-speed manual or optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Standard equipment includes 17-inch steel wheels, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 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 a panoramic sunroof, power driver seat, reclining rear seats, automatic climate control, 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 with heated front seats and heated side mirrors comes standard on Premium trims with a manual transmission, but it's an extra-cost option on CVT models. The All-Weather package opens the door to the EyeSight safety package, however, 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. These options aren't available for manual transmission models.

The 2.5i Premium Black Edition bridges the Premium and Limited trims with 18-inch black-finish wheels, a black grille and exterior trim, and black cloth upholstery. The Black Edition also adds the CVT and All-Weather package as standard equipment, as well as X-Mode enhanced off-road traction, hill descent control, automatic and adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam control and foglights.

The 2.5i Limited builds on the Black Edition features with a power liftgate, leather upholstery, an upgraded driver information display and a cargo area cover. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and 17-inch wheels are also standard.

Optional for the Limited is a technology 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, 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, an upgraded sound system, navigation and one-touch folding rear seatbacks. The EyeSight package is also standard. Black or Saddle Brown perforated leather upholstery is optional.

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 a 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 adds a power liftgate with adjustable height settings.

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



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our Full Test of the 2017 Subaru Forester XT (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. Combined with confident braking, precise on- and off-road handling and multiple driving modes, the Forester is one of the best in its class.

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 easy to modulate. There's ample stopping power from the surprisingly grippy tires but also a fair bit of dive.

Steering

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The electrically assisted steering offers decent feel and accuracy, but nothing more. The steering response is aided by various chassis reinforcements and stiffer spring rates compared to a standard Forester.

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 don't need to shy away from twistier roads as the Forester can navigate them confidently.

Drivability

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Of the three modes (I, S and S#), S strikes the best balance for everyday driving as it allows quick access to the wide powerband without being too touchy. The CVT does its best work when there's little variation in speed, but it becomes needlessly fussy even with the XT's broad 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 conquer 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 well controlled 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 can find a comfortable position. Rear-seat passengers have more than enough head- and shoulder room, and the seat cushions are comfortable for longer trips.

Ride comfort

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Combined with a more off-road-biased suspension and taller sidewalls, the Forester offers a smooth and relaxed ride over most surfaces. The trade-off lies in noticeable body roll that is more pronounced compared to most of its competitors.

Noise & vibration

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Road and wind noise is 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, easy to use and 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. An overload of screens and redundant menus, along with an unusually high seating position, are the biggest 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 touchscreen, 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 can't be lowered to a position that makes most drivers happy. Because of that, the dashboard and all of its controls, as well as the steering wheel, sit quite low, 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 occupants, with plenty of head- 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 also good visibility out the sides and rear 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 surfaces 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 headroom for day-to-day items, there's also no shortage of space for larger bags, groceries or camping gear. But all that practicality does come at the expense of room for larger child 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. 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 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 in terms of both 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 last year.

Audio & navigation

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The new, high-resolution 7-inch LCD center display's graphics are much improved and easy to understand, and the unit 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 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 radar 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.