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FEATURES | 8 out of 10
Along with its complete redesign, the 2014 Subaru Forester gets an improved feature set throughout the model line. And several new features, including a rear-vision camera, multi-function display, power rear liftgate, and EyeSight active-safety systems, are now offered on much of the lineup. And with prices up only modestly (about $700) on the base model and not significantly changed at the top of the lineup—plus prices that more or less line up with front-wheel-drive rival models—you definitely get more value for 2014.
Instruments and displays in the Forester are new, and most models in the lineup get a color multi-information display that shows audio and trip information, the rear-camera view when backing up, and off-road-relevant info when in X-Mode. Even the base 2.5i model has a 4.3-inch LCD display for outside temp and trip-computer functions, along with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming, steering-wheel audio controls, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Incline Start Assist, and a security system with immobilizer.
Premium and Limited models come with a six-speaker system that includes HD Radio plus connectivity for Bluetooth audio streaming, smartphones, and media players like the iPod. Upgrade to the navigation system that's included in the top Touring model (and optional in the Premium and Limited) and you get a larger 6.1-inch touch screen, voice-activated controls, and Aha smartphone integration, plus iTunes tagging, SMS text messaging, XM Satellite Radio, and XM NavTraffic. On Touring models, it includes eight Harmon Kardon speakers and a 440-watt amp. The premium system also has full integration of Aha streaming audio, through an app for iPhone or Android handsets.
Unfortunately, interfaces for the audio systems are sore points. The base sound system has a limited number of characters with which to figure out media that's being played, while the touch-screen audio system in higher trims has a confusing menu system; and doing simple, common things such as tuning or seeking for the radio requires looking to the screen and finding a small 'button' on the touch screen—which is somewhat sensitive to reflections in bright light. Likewise, there's no way to display the list of satellite radio stations. And that SD slot that's front and center? It's not for media files; it instead needs to be filled with a map-data card at all times, otherwise the nav won't work.
Premium models come in two flavors. Opt for the manual transmission and you get heated front seats, heated mirrors, and a windshield wiper de-icer, while with the CVT is includes a panoramic power moonroof (with those winter items as an option package). In either case, they include 17-inch alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, a rear camera system, tinted rear glass, and an upgraded multi-function display.
With the Limited model, the CVT is mandatory but you get perforated leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, fog lamps, automatic climate control, a power rear liftgate, and an upgraded instrument cluster.
The available power hatch can be operated manually with low effort, or be configured to open short of a low garage ceiling.
With a number of firsts, like Adaptive Cruise Control, a power tailgate, and Harmon Kardon premium audio, yet no big increase in prices, there's more value in the lineup. But the premium touch-screen interface leaves a lot to be desired.