The Subaru Forester has a history of satisfying consumers who want a reliable, long-lasting compact vehicle. This is especially true in those parts of the continent that have a real winter, where the standard all-wheel drive and added ground clearance come into play.
The Forester has been completely redesigned for 2019, given a beefier engine and a spruced-up interior. Based on the company’s new Global Platform, it is slightly longer and wider with more room inside.
All the important features remain, but the fifth-generation Forester now also boasts an extensive array of safety features that place it in a league of its own.
The 2019 Forester is marginally larger than the outgoing model. The blocky shape, now has some rounded edges, making it more contemporary and attractive. This has not come at the expense of interior room. The new fifth-generation Forester has even more second-row head and legroom and an expansive cargo area.
The interior will be familiar to current owners, but has been freshened up. A new touchscreen tops the centre stack for control of the infotainment system. It now provides integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Forester has never been associated with luxury or fine craftsmanship. Rugged, long-wearing and utilitarian are words most often associated with Subaru interiors. The designers of the 2019 Forester missed that memo.
In line-topping Premium trim, the dash, seats, door panels and just about everything else inside was impeccably sourced and supplied. Owners will likely find themselves inviting friends, neighbours and anyone they can corner into sitting inside and having a look.
While they may not be obvious, the suite of safety features is impressive and extensive. The EyeSight suite uses cameras to monitor your position within the lane and what lies ahead allowing lane departure warning and forward collision assist. It also monitors the adjacent lanes and to the rear. It will automatically apply the brakes if you are about to run over or into something.
A new DriverFocus System makes its debut on the top trim level of the Forester. Designed to help address distracted driving and driver fatigue, it incorporates both head tracking, and facial recognition systems. It sounds an alert if it appears the driver is not looking at the road.
This may seem a bit like big brother is watching you, but it only has to work once to save your life.
It’s also pretty cool when you realize all you have to do to set your seats and mirrors to your preferred location is simply sit in the driver’s seat. The facial recognition software stores memory settings for up to five drivers.
My fellow jurors and I voted it AJAC’s Best Safety Innovation for 2019. It also helped the new Forester achieve a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The system also includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist and a washer nozzle for the rear-view camera!
The turbocharged 2.0-litre flat four offered previously has been replaced by a more powerful 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. It is paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission and Subaru’s excellent all-wheel-drive system.
It’s funny what you learn from the passenger seat. I spent the test period in that position due to a new hip and a very direct order from the surgeon not to drive. Like most normal consumers, my wife rarely uses full throttle. Blissfully unaware of things like horsepower and torque, she instead focuses on things like ease of entry/exit, space for child seats for our grandchildren and how easy it is to adjust seats mirrors, audio and HVAC systems — all received high praise.
I, on the other hand, am an aggressive driver, an enthusiast, and willing, if not anxious, to explore a vehicle’s limits and abilities. I have constantly belittled continuously variable automatic transmissions. I have rattled on about how they “motorboat” or force the engine to make a lot of unpleasant noise at fixed high revs under wide open throttle. Some are better than others, but none are as good in my mind as a conventional transmission with fixed ratios.
After a week and almost 1,000 km in the Forester, I asked the lovely lady at the wheel what she thought of the transmission. The response? “It works.” Pressed for further comment, she said “It goes forward when I put it in drive and backward in reverse. What else do you want to know?” The moral here is pretty clear. While enthusiasts and journalists don’t like CVTs. The other 95 per cent of the car-buying public don’t care. They likely have no idea of the number of gears and other features like drive modes and shift paddles.
The 2019 Subaru Forester is a tall wagon in my view. The added height brings improved visibility. The additional ground clearance, combined with an excellent all-wheel-drive system, takes the worry out of winter. The new 2019 version is more refined, better looking and laced with significant safety features. It also has an automatic transmission.
- Model: 2019 Subaru Forester Premium
- Engine: turbocharged, 2.5-litre, horizontally-opposed four-cylinder, 182 horsepower, 176 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
- Transmission: continuously variable automatic, full-time all-wheel drive
- NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.0 / 7.2
- Length: 4,625 mm
- Width: 2,052 mm
- Wheelbase: 2,670 mm
- Weight: 1,569 kg
- Price: $39,495 base, $41,220 as tested, including freight
- Competition: Ford Escape/Edge, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota RAV4
- Standard equipment: 20-cm high-res colour touchscreen for navigation and infotainment, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions, eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman-Kardon audio system; leather seating surfaces, 10-way power-adjustable and heated driver’s seat with memory, eight-way power-adjustable and heated passenger seat, heated rear seats and steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System, EyeSight pre-collision braking, brake assist and throttle management system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, sway warning and keep assist, side vehicle detection system, reverse automatic braking, automatic high beams
- Options on test vehicle: none