Subaru has a dual reputation. Car people know it as the company that gives us WRX and STi (and a good chunk of the BRZ/Toyota FT 86 partnership), while the rest of the world thinks of the brand as one that puts out a lot of wagon-esque crossovers that appeal to granola types, academics, and families that prioritize safety but aren’t in a Volvo tax bracket.
The Forester Touring definitely fits in to that latter stereotype. And that’s not a pejorative – it’s okay to embrace what one does best.
For the Forester, that means serving as a solid if not spectacular commuting wagon that’s road-trip ready.
By coincidence, I happened to have the Forester during a weekend I’d planned a short trip with an overnight stay. A trip that would require hauling the usual snacks and such and luggage for two. Oh, and at least one case of a certain type of beer sold only in Wisconsin would be coming back across state lines with us. It was like Smokey and the Bandit, but no truckers, no Firebirds, and actions that were completely legal.
That’s the kind of drive the Forester excels at – it swallowed up the cargo with plenty of room to spare and provided long-haul comfort from Chicago to east-central Cheeseland and back.
Not all was well. The 2.5-liter “boxer” four is a bit underpowered here, with just 182 ponies and 176 lb-ft of torque on hand. At least the continuously-variable automatic is inoffensive in its operation.
Standard all-wheel-drive probably doesn’t help with acceleration, given the extra weight and driveline losses endemic to such systems, but Subaru’s safety reputation is staked in part to the availability of AWD across so much of its model lineup.
Don’t expect enthusiastic handling here, either, though the steering is just fine for commuting and longer drives. The ride is on the firm side, but not punishing.
Subaru is proud of its EyeSight safety system, standard on the Forester. The system can alert the driver when it detects fatigue or distraction, but it needs work – it beeped at me at times when my eyes were firmly on the road, and other times, I intentionally let my eyes wander or looked down briefly (when it was as safe as possible to do so, of course – think empty highway with no cars around) and it didn’t activate. I suspect it will work better at some point down the road, and the driver-recognition ability (EyeSight can recognize who’s driving and set mirrors and climate settings accordingly) is a fine idea. For now, though, you’re best served using your own self-discipline.
My test Forester came well equipped, since it was a top-trim Touring. In fact, there’s no available options packages – just a few accessories. Standard equipment included EyeSight, rear spoiler, roof rails, fog lamps, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, navigation, dual USB ports, satellite radio, Bluetooth, keyless entry and starting, power tailgate, leather seats, heated front and rear seats, and heated steering wheel. That totaled $35,270 with destination fee.
The Forester isn’t the world’s sexiest tall wagon, thanks to a mish-mash of curves and soft angles and a boxy, snub nose. Inside, the buttons and graphics look like a bit like those pretend dashboards kids played with in the ‘80s, but I give Subie credit for integrating the infotainment screen.
Not that anyone expects the Forester to be sexy. You don’t buy this for sex, speed, or sport. You buy it to load up with gear, and you expect it to be comfortable, and should the worst happen, safe.
I’ll let the IIHS determine that last bit – we’re not equipped to crash-test cars around here. Comfort and utility, though, were on hand in spades.
Gliding along in the mainstream ain’t so bad sometimes.