2014 Subaru Forester: Preview Drive

November 14, 2012
The Subaru Forester, at last, fits into the mainstream.

And before you pass judgment, we think that’s a good thing.

The Forester has a well-established reputation for being a good all-weather vehicle that’s rugged, responsive, and surprisingly versatile—albeit a little quirky and lacking on the details compared to some small crossovers. Enter the redesigned, third-generation 2014 Subaru Forester, which gets a higher, more SUV-like seating position, a higher hoodline, an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, and a special off-road aid called X Mode. It’s also adopted redesigned seating, for better comfort front and back, improved cabin materials and refinement, and luxury convenience items like Harmon Kardon audio, adaptive cruise control, and a power liftgate.

And as we found out with some time behind the wheel of prototype mules for the 2014 Forester at Subaru’s proving grounds in Japan, the new model holds true to everything that the Forester already is, only with a lot more sophistication.

The Forester was already well on its way to hitting its stride with the crossover-vehicle mainstream. The current third-generation model, which was introduced for 2008, made a jump in size and has much better ride quality than the previous version. And it’s surged to a sales rate of 80,000 a year in the U.S., with Forester making up about a quarter of Subaru’s U.S. sales.

Some major remodeling inside

Although the new Forester is basically the same size as the outgoing version, seating in the new Forester has been completely redesigned and rethought. To start, Subaru pushed the dash five inches forward and downward, while nudging the front and rear seats slightly upward; meanwhile side sills are lowered, the center driveline hump is lowered, all the seats have been re-contoured, and the rear seatbacks now fold closer to a fully flat position. The net effect, considering this model’s improved ride quality, too, is that the new Forester is one of the most comfortable crossovers this size for adults.

But it’s the new Forester’s so-called X Mode system that expands the Forester’s crossover potential even more. Engaged by a button at less than 25 mph, the system functions as a very precise e-diff, managing torque from left to right as the all-wheel drive system modulates it front to back. That’s matched with a special mode for the AWD system’s clutch pack, as well as Hill Descent Control. What you end up with is a Forester that’s a little more able on the trail, while it enables precise, composed control of individual wheels on slick inclines—much better, Subaru wagers, than any of its rivals. We can see this feature as one that may soon be converting some current Jeep owners.

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