2019 Subaru Forester Review


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2019 Subaru Forester Overview

Since Subaru first appeared in America 50 years ago, its popularity continues to soar. Much of that glory has been tied to the Forester, which--even in a market full of compact other crossovers--manages to stand out with its heritage upright styling, emphasis on fuel economy, clever packaging, and standard all-wheel-drive. For 2019, Subaru debuts a brand-new generation of the Forester, and it’s a measured improvement over its successful predecessor in every way.

Styling on the 2019 model is definitely an evolution of the outgoing body style. Differences to the front end include an updated version of the brand’s hexagonal grille with active shutters behind its slats, a squared-off bumper, and standard LED headlights with the familiar Subaru C-shaped signatures. Across the sides, the wheel flares have been enhanced, and there are now prominent shoulder lines that sweep upward and wrap around the rear pillars. At the rear end, body-colored trim cuts neatly across both tail-lights, giving them a unique irregular shape. Naturally, the Forester retains matte silver underguards on every side and an abundance of matte black plastic designed to protect it from rock chips and other road detritus. With a tall greenhouse and large windows, it also retains a level of exterior visibility that many competitors sorely lack.

Thanks to the brand-new architecture, the Forester’s dimensions are enlarged in a few key categories. The wheelbase is up to 105.1 inches, up from 103.9, manifesting in a 1.4-inch legroom increase for rear passengers. Headroom, hip and shoulder room are also up for all passengers. And as far as cargo space, it now measures 76.1 cubic feet with the 60/40 split-folding seats lowered, an increase of 1.4. Those seats are able to fold down flatter than before, and the rear liftgate now has a maximum opening of 51.2, an improvement of 5.3 inches, creating a truly square, commodious cargo hold. Subaru even says that it’s possible to fit a standard golf bag in the Forester’s rear without tilting it.

Subaru will offer the Forester in the same Base, Premium, Limited and Touring trims, plus a new Sport trim. Included on the Base are 17-inch steel wheels, automatic climate control, an electronic parking brake and a 6.5-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Premiums get 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, and a panoramic sunroof. Keyless access and start, a power liftgate, and heated seats are optional.

The Sport builds upon the Premium and carries unique exterior themes: a gloss black grille, 18-inch black wheels, black underguards with orange accents and roof rails, and a special gray interior with orange accent stitching.

Limiteds add 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control and keyless access and start.

The Touring tops out the range with a 10-way power driver’s seat, an 8-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and 2-position memory for the side mirrors, along with plenty of added safety tech.

All Foresters are powered by the latest generation of Subaru’s 2.5-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder “Boxer” engine. Fitted with direct fuel injection, a higher compression ratio, and a long list of optimization technologies, it now delivers 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque, increases of 12 and 2 respectively. The manual transmission option is now gone, leaving the sole option, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which connects the engine to all four wheels, with paddle shifters and a manual mode on Sport and Touring trims that offers 7 preset gear ratios. Nothing has been mentioned about an uplevel engine option like the turbocharged one available for the 2018 and earlier Forester, but such an option may appear later.

Active torque-vectoring technology, seen on performance cars like the WRX and WRX STI, is now standard across the Forester range. So is Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE), which lets drivers select between Intelligent, Sport, and—on Sport models—Sport Sharp driving modes. X-Mode with hill-descent control also makes its return on Premium, Sport, Touring, and Limited trims, allowing drivers to press a button and have the car control all aspects of its powertrain, including the distribution of power between the front and rear axles, to optimize traction on slippery roads. And Sport, Touring, and Limited trims get an enhanced version of X-Mode with Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes.

Safety, always a primary focus of the Subaru brand, isn’t neglected on the Forester. The brand’s full EyeSight package is standard across the range, which includes a reversing camera, pre- collision warning, electronic emergency braking, automatic cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and sway warning. Standard trailer assist monitors trailer sway during towing and brakes individual wheels in order to mitigate it. Sport, Limited and Touring trims get automatic high-beams, while Limited and Touring versions add adaptive headlights. Optional features include blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic detection and reverse automatic braking; the latter will automatically apply the brakes if an obstacle is detected while reversing.

It’s clear that Subaru didn’t want to mess with a good thing in terms of the 2019 Forester, so it is more or less the same basic format with significant improvements in all categories. This should please the brand’s loyal customer base as well as those looking for a compact crossover with the utmost durability, safety and utility.


Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.

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