2019 Subaru Forester first drive review: Backwoods solitude

September 24, 2018

Deep in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, which covers more than half a million acres, American forestry was born over a century ago.
 Maintaining the dense old-growth forest takes patience and a close attention to detail. Disturbing its countless habitats could send waves of change through its undergrowth. Instead, the Biltmore Forestry School taught practical, steady, and deliberate change.


The 2019 Subaru Forester that I’m driving down a gravel road past the historic school seems to have been designed with the same virtues.

MORE: Read our 2019 Subaru Forester first drive


It may not look much different than its chunky predecessor with its big windows and earthy paint colors, but the 2019 Forester is a thorough, comprehensive rethink.


The silent partner


The first thing to stand out is its serenity. The new Forester’s underpinnings share nothing with their predecessor. Road noise—even loose gravel bouncing around underneath—barely disturbs the cabin. 
Its suspension is quiet and soft, absorbing water-filled potholes with poise and composure that would have ruffled last year’s model. Crisp steering and quick responses verge on sporty when hustled on the Pisgah Forest’s curvy paved roads.


Under its hood, the Forester uses a new version of last year’s 2.5-liter flat-4, which now produces 182 horsepower. That’s enough to give it adequate response when climbing through some of the eastern U.S.’ highest mountain passes, but the now-discontinued turbo-4 would have been a welcome addition. The flat-4 mates well to its continuously variable transmission, which provides good zip away from a stop and mostly keeps the engine from snarling too much into the cabin. Most versions have handy paddle shifters that fire up preset gears for descending hills without melting brakes. 


2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

All-wheel drive is standard, and with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and two off-road traction control modes, the Forester can venture farther into the timber than most of its rivals. 
Standard all-wheel drive doesn’t hurt the Forester’s fuel economy. Its 26 mpg city, 33 highway, 29 combined rating from the EPA bests most front-wheel-drive rivals.


Inside the Forester is where Subaru made its biggest strides. The new crossover has an imaginative design with varying textures, colors, padding, and stitching. Its front seats are more adjustable than before and have better padding, even if there’s no cooling option. 


Standard automatic climate control cools the cabin much faster. A 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment and an optional, brighter 8.0-inch touchscreen with baked-in infotainment bring the crossover into the late-aughts with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as a built-in wi-fi hotspot. A wireless charging pad would be a nice upgrade, but unfortunately one isn’t available. 


The Forester’s rear seat is larger than before, with plentiful space for most adults to sit behind one another. Compared to its rivals, the Forester is an inch or two narrower, but careful carving of its door panels makes it feel even more spacious.
It’s another example of the brand’s attention to detail.


At the rear, the Forester’s tailgate—power on most trims—opens exceptionally wide. It’s a reminder that cans had tiny apertures until wide-mouth Coors arrived couple of decades ago. Perhaps all crossover SUVs will be able to swallow a golf bag—sideways—by 2038.

2019
The Car Connection
See the winners »
2019
The Car Connection
 
Ratings and Reviews
Rate and review your car for The Car Connection
Review your car
The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from the site. I can withdraw my consent at any time by unsubscribing.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.