A bit larger than before on a 0.9-in. longer wheelbase, the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester compact crossover (CUV) offers improved performance and fuel economy and a somewhat roomier, quieter cabin in a slightly bolder-looking body.
Its updated look is evolutionary with new "hawkeye" headlights flanking a slightly taller hexagonal grille in front. Turbocharged 2.0XT models sport a more aggressive front bumper, a one-piece mesh grille, black side cladding and dual stainless steel exhaust tips.
On the inside, soft-touch surfaces on the upper instrument panel and armrests make the 2014 Subaru Forester look and feel more roomy, and more upscale, than the outgoing model. The driver’s seat has more fore-aft adjustment travel, and rear-seat legroom is up to 41.7 inches from the previous 38 in. Wider-opening rear doors make it easier to climb in and out and to install a child seat, and the rear seatbacks recline in all but the base Forester 2.5i model. Cargo capacity is up to 74.7 cu. ft. from the previous car's 68.3 with the standard 60/40 split rear seats folded down.
The standard engine is a 170-horsepower, 2.5L horizontally-opposed flat (aka "boxer") H-4, while a new 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged H-4 powers higher-performance 2.0XT models. Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is standard on all models, which sets the 2014 Forester apart from FWD competitors with optional AWD. A standard six-speed manual gearbox replaces the previous five-speed manual, while Subaru's Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) -- available on base and Premium and standard on Limited and Touring models -- supersedes the old four-speed automatic.
Both versions of the Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive continuously power all four wheels, transfer torque to those with the best grip and integrate with the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system to improve all-weather traction and stability. The Subaru Forester with the 6-speed-manual uses a viscous-coupling locking center differential that distributes 50:50 power to the wheels. The 2014 Forester with the CVT uses Active All-Wheel Drive with an electronically-managed continuously variable clutch to actively manages torque distribution.
On the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited and Touring, plus all 2.0XT models, a new X-Mode feature optimizes control of the engine, transmission, Active AWD, brakes, VDC and other systems to further improve control on slippery surfaces and steep inclines. Hill Descent Control uses the VDC system to maintain constant speed and improve control on downhill grades.
We like its improved dry-road dynamics (ride, handling, steering, braking), its quieter, roomier cabin and its fairly eager performance (9.3 sec. 0-60 mph) with the standard engine, especially with the 6-speed manual. The four-wheel independent suspension delivers respectable handling and comfortable ride, and the Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) gives good feel and feedback while contributing to improved fuel efficiency. The 2.0XT's powerful turbo H-4 improves 0-to-60-mph capability to a quick 6.2 sec., while its sport suspension on 18-in. wheels and tires and larger brakes with ventilated rotors front and rear elevate this five-passenger compact CUV almost to the level of sport-sedan fun.
This new Subaru 2014 Forester -- more refined, more practical, more feature-rich and more appealing in most ways than the previous generation -- should compete well with the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and even segment leaders Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.