If you liked the previous Forester, you’ll probably love the 2019 Subaru Forester. That’s not to say there aren’t improvements nearly across the board, but the redesigned fifth-generation Forester looks and feels a lot like the old Forester. Playing to its owner base, the reimagined 2019 version mostly maintains Forester’s wagon traditions in looks and performance. Subaru eliminated the manual transmission and a turbo engine option. Only the stanchest fans of stirring the transmission yourself will miss the manual transmission, but more Forester shoppers may be put off by the loss of the more aggressive 250-horsepower turbo. With a new 2.4-liter turbo making its first appearance in the three-row Subaru Ascent, there is reason to hope it will wind up in the Forester, too. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, buyers of the latest Forester will have to satisfy themselves with more passenger and cargo space, a segment-leading cargo door opening, a new stronger and quieter platform, stronger fuel economy, a new Sport grade and standard EyeSight suite of safety/driver-assist technologies.
What’s New for 2019?
The Subaru Forester is completely redesigned.
What We Like
EyeSight safety/driver-assist technologies standard across all grades; roomier interior; huge rear-door and rear-hatch openings; quieter interior; LED headlights standard
What We Don’t
No turbo; no manual transmission
Having bellyached about the lack of a turbo, what you need to know about the 2.5-liter flat 4-cylinder carried over from the previous Forester is that it isn’t carried over, not really. According to presenters at the remade Forester’s media preview several weeks ago, although the displacement is still 2.5L, the mill is totally reworked, containing roughly 90 percent new parts. Horsepower is up to 182 hp and torque is slightly elevated at 176 lb-ft.
Lighter and quieter, the CVT has been updated as well. Artificial gear changes (seven in all) are evident along with a manual mode (on upper trims). All-wheel drive is standard on every Forester. Government estimates put fuel economy at 26 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
Subaru offers the newest Forester in five trim levels, including the new Sport grade. Prices reflect the $975 factory delivery fee.
Standard in the Base trim ($25,270) are 17-in steel wheels, welcome lighting, full power accessories, auto door lock, a multi-function display, outside temp display, remote keyless entry, dual USB ports, tire-pressure monitor with a display for each tire, seven airbags, trailer-stability assist, active torque vectoring, Auto Vehicle Hold, three 12-volt outlets, 24-hour roadside assistance for the original new-car limited warranty period, active grille shutters, automatic climate control, an electronic parking brake, auto-on/off headlights, LED headlights, a backup camera, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, the EyeSight safety/driver-assist package and a STARLINK infotainment system with a 6.5-in touchscreen, 4-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Factory options include 17-in alloy wheels and roof rails.
To the Base gear, Premium ($27,670) adds 17-in alloy wheels, roof rails, a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, a cargo-area cover, hill-descent control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a panoramic power moonroof, a reclining rear seat back, an upgraded STARLINK system with six speakers, a Wi-Fi hotspot and X-Mode for AWD system with hill-descent control. Options include blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless access with push-button start, a power rear hatch with auto close and height memory and an All-Weather Package with heated front seats and outboard mirrors, as well as a windshield de-icer.
The new Sport trim ($29,770) beefs up Premium’s content with the All-Weather Package, keyless access with push-button start, 18-in alloy wheels, a manual-shift mode, integrated turn signals on outboard mirrors, high-beam assist, an upgraded multi-function display, orange contrast stitching on the steering wheel and dashboard and black-and-orange exterior accents. Among the available options are blind spot detection with cross-traffic alert, a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, hands-free text messaging and an upgraded STARLINK system with an 8-in touchscreen and voice activation.
The Limited ($30,795) increases content over Premium with all of its options, as well as an upgraded STARLINK system with an 8-in touchscreen, hands-free text messaging, dual-zone auto climate system with voice control, integrated turn signals on outboard mirrors, auto headlight-height adjustment, a leather-wrapped shifter, perforated-leather upholstery and steering-responsive headlights. Included among the options are a heated steering wheel, reverse automatic braking, a TomTom navigation system and a 9-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
At the top of the grade list is the Touring ($35,270) that adds all of Limited’s options plus manual-shift mode with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a 10-way power driver’s seat, an 8-way power front-passenger seat, memory for outboard mirrors and driver’s seat, DriverFocus technology, LED fog lights and silver metallic finish exterior accents. The only option is black or saddle-brown perforated-leather-trimmed upholstery.
No outside agency has yet to crash test the Forester. It comes standard with the usual array of passive safety goodies like stability control, traction control and ABS. Included among the seven airbags is driver’s-side knee airbag. Every Forester comes out of the box with the EyeSight safety/driver-assist technologies, including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and Lead Vehicle Start Alert that notifies an inattentive driver after stopping that the traffic ahead is moving again. Additionally, blind spot detection with cross-traffic alert is standard on the Limited and the Touring and optional on the Premium and the Sport. Reverse auto braking is standard on the Touring and optional on the Premium and the Limited. DriverFocus safety technology with face recognition is standard on Touring.
Behind the Wheel
One of the big changes for the newest Forester is that it is built on Subaru’s Global Platform along with the Ascent, the Impreza and the Crosstrek. A more rigid platform, it provides the beginning of a firmer skeleton that also benefits from a bigger dose of high-strength steel. The 2019 Forester feels more planted and stable. Subaru tinkered with the suspension, reducing body roll by as much as 50 percent. Steering response is quicker as well.
We won’t lie to you: The 2019 Subaru Forester could use a bit more oomph under the hood. Under most circumstances, this crossover holds its own, but in passing or merging onto an expressway, you will probably wish for more. Subaru loyalists won’t mind a bit. They are looking for other things from of their AWD crossover like its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and reliable performance in snow, slush and mud. The X-Mode works well, particularly the descent control. Throw a couple of kayaks or bicycles on the roof rack, and you’re good to head out on a weekend adventure.
In and around town, the 5-passenger cabin is comfy and quiet. Anyone hauling stuff in the back will really appreciate the widest rear-hatch opening in the segment, besting some competitors by more than eight inches.
Other Cars to Consider
Nissan Rogue — A runaway sales hit for Nissan, the Rogue has superior front seats, versatile cargo-carrying capacity and offers the ProPilot Assist system, one of the more advanced driver-assist systems in the industry.
We would go with the Premium grade, adding the All-Weather Package, if needed, as well as a couple other options like blind spot detection with cross-traffic alert. The bottom line would still sneak under $30K, and you would have everything you need to haul family or sporting gear. In other words, it would still be a solid value.