I’ve always admired the Subaru Forester for being a trend-setter. It’s one of the first cars that made you ask the question “is it a car or is it an SUV?” As a consequence, an argument can be made that the Forester was one of the original crossovers and well ahead of its time.
Subaru came out with an all-new version of the Forester for the 2019 model year and the 2020 is essentially the same but with a few minor tweaks.
Let’s go back and revisit some of the 2019 changes. The Forester entered its fifth generation with a brand-new global platform. The vehicle became 30 mm longer than the previous version and the chassis 40 % stiffer as well. The outside has been reworked but is still very similar. The rear fascia has undergone the brunt of the changes and comes out looking more modern and more utilitarian.
The increased size means more space for the interior occupants and more cargo room. The cabin is quite cavernous with plenty of head and leg room all around. Cargo capacity is rated at 935 litres with the rear seats up and 2008 litres with them folded down. I always chuckle at the measurements for cargo capacity because I don’t think many people know what to make of the numbers and if they’re even good or bad. Don’t’ worry, though, the Forester has very good cargo capacity.
The cabin has undergone a refresh and was one of the things that impressed me the most. Gone are the bland Subaru interiors of yesteryear and in comes a stylish, modern and – dare I say – luxurious place to be. The brown leather seats are comfortable and stylish. The leather extends to the console and dash coupled with some black piano finishing and really makes for an eye-catching ordeal. The only downside is that fingerprints become an issue.
Subaru must also be given very high marks for not trying to over simplify the interior. While some manufacturers and getting rid of physical buttons as fast as possible, Subaru has kept trusty knobs for climate and audio controls (unfortunately the Outback and Legacy have moved toward the full touch-screen interface). It makes for such an improved experience over tapping a frozen touch screen just to alter basic vehicle functions. A traditional gear shift is also a welcome device even if the parking brake has gone to an electric button. The infotainment system is excellent and easy to use.
The 2020 Forester model line is now equipped with the award- winning Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist Technology and new Lane Centering function as standard. This system of driver aids helps anticipate dangerous situations via the use of cameras and sensors. It’s used for adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, pre-collision braking and pre-collision throttle management.
Also new for 2020, all Foresters include Rear Seat Reminder. Designed to help prevent child and/or pet entrapment, the system will alert the driver to check the rear seat before exiting the vehicle.
There is new facial recognition software in the vehicle. The facial recognition is part of the DriverFocus feature which is used to ensure that the driver is not distracted for more than 3 seconds and beeps to recapture your attention. If the car beeps multiple times without detecting the driver’s eyes returning to the road, the Forester will begin to slow to a complete stop. To be honest the feature was a little annoying and beeped whenever I would glance at anything so I turned it off. The good news is that the technology can also be used to recognize five different driver profiles. That means whomever from the family gets into the vehicle, the seats, climate controls and mirrors are automatically adjusted. This is an industry first.
The increased chassis rigidity helps both off-road performance and ion daily driving. I found the Forester was able to take corners nicely at speed with little effort. It’s a solid-feeling vehicle and inspires confidence. The all-wheel drive system is among the industry’s best and with snow tires, there is not much mother nature can throw at you that you won’t be prepared for.
Subaru offers only a single engine option in the Forester. It’s an almost all-new 2.5-litre four-cylinder making 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) it performed adequately for my daily driving needs. The CVT is quite advanced and works to minimize any of the thinking or delays in shifting often associated with the type. In (simulated) manual mode you can go through the seven ratios as your leisure.
You can get into a base model Forester for as little as $30,733 but the top-of-the-line Premier has a price of $42,033.