2018 Subaru Forester Review
Edmunds expert review
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
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.
Noise & vibration7.5
Ease of use5.0
Getting in/getting out8.0
Child safety seat accommodation5.5
Audio & navigation6.5
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.