2014 Subaru Forester: First Drive

January 24, 2013
If the somewhat larger Forester that emerged for 2009 was Subaru's first grab at a wider group of American family shoppers, the latest all-new 2014 Forester is an official coming-out to the mainstream—and at last, a direct rival again to the likes of the RAV4 and CR-V, as well as the Ford Escape and others.

While we hope to put the Forester more thoroughly through the rigors of grocery runs and weekend errands sometime in the very near future—and see that it measures up with those models—we recently attended an official first-drive event that served to show us, essentially, that the new Forester hasn't compromised to broaden its appeal.

In a drive that took us on washboard-surfaced gravel backroads, out to track time, we found a top-of-the-line 2.0XT Touring not only more engaging to drive on paved roads than your typical compact crossover but also surprisingly well isolated from coarseness and roughness.

As we covered in a Preview Drive of the 2014 Forester back in November—in which we got a limited drive of a pre-production prototype on a closed circuit—this new model takes no big step ahead in performance, and it doesn't get substantially larger on the outside. Instead it goes for the heart of the compact crossover market with family-minded conveniences like a power liftgate, as well as, at the top of the model line, upscale conveniences such as adaptive cruise control and Harman Kardon audio.

Roomier and more refined; still rugged

The Forester remains far more rugged than just about any other vehicle in this class, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and enviable approach and departure angles; and it aims to make tough off-road situations no sweat with a new off-road aid called X-Mode. And at the same time it's been made roomier inside, more refined, and more fuel-efficient.

Subaru also claims to have much-improved the Forester's level of interior refinement, and while we can see some serious improvement in the materials throughout, we still needed to test the Forester's comfort on real U.S. roads. While the new Forester is essentially the same size as the model it replaces, Subaru rethought its interior packaging and made some very meaningful changes. Outward visibility is much-improved, too, thanks to an A-pillar that's been moved a bit forward, with a small partition window added, and the side mirrors moved back.

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