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A Review of the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited: SUV Abilities with the Driving Comforts of a Car

The 2014 Subaru Forester ushers in a new generation of the long-running small crossover and while the exterior of the newest Forester doesn’t appear to be all that different from the previous models – it is the slight changes here and there which allow the 2014 models to make a solid crossover even better.

The Subaru brand is known for offering rugged, low-frill and affordable vehicles that can get you from point a to point b safely regardless of the road or weather conditions and while the new 2014 Forester makes good on all of the expectations of the Subaru brand – it does so with an added touch of style that is slowing growing across the brand’s lineup. The Forester won’t blow you away with space age styling on the outside or a frenzy of expensive, overcomplicated gadgets on the inside but it does feature a distinct appearance and a cabin that doesn’t leave you wanting for very much. Of course, the 2014 Forester offers the same surefootedness that you would expect from a brand which offers all wheel drive in almost every vehicle they make so whether you are on dry pavement, in slushy snow or in sloppy mud – this new Forester allows you to forge ahead with plenty of confidence.

The test subject for this review was a 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited model with a Marine Pearl Blue exterior and a two tone interior treatment that the company calls “Platinum”. This car carried a base MSRP of $27,995 but the navigation system package adds $1,100 and destination fees add another $825 for a total sticker price of $29,920.

The Exterior
The 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited is technically a small SUV (it won the Motor Trend’s 2014 SUV of the Year) but to look at it, the new Forester really looks more like a somewhat high riding wagon. This vehicle is one of the reasons that the term “crossover” was invented as the Forester looks very much like a car but the highish ride height, the taller greenhouse, the hefty amount of ground clearance and standard four wheel drive makes this Subaru much more like an SUV in its capabilities.
While the 2014 Subaru Forester introduces a new generation of the model, the exterior design isnt all that different from the previous models. The 2014 Forester wears a set of sharpened headlights, a grille that extends further up into a more sculpted hood and a redesigned lower fascia that all work together to make the 2014 model year Forester sportier looking and allowing it to stand apart from the previous generation. Subaru has been accused in the past of being too vanilla and this facelift goes a long way in adding more flavor to this roomy crossover.

Forester front

Along the sides, the 2014 Subaru Forester has the same tallish ride height and roofline that make this a small SUV/crossover and not a sport wagon but those taller features are subtle enough that most people appreciate the fact that this doesn’t look like most crossovers or SUVs. I prefer that this Forester looks more like a 5-door wagon than a squashed SUV and along with looking nice, this subtle approach to the SUV stance makes climbing in and out much easier than with some competitive vehicles that sit a little higher (for no real reason).

Out back, the 2014 Forester looks similar in the basic design to the previous generation but as is the case with the front end, the tail light lenses have been stretched and sharpened, the black cladding along the bottom has been extended further up the body and there is a new spoiler that extends straight off of the rear roofline to improve aerodynamics while driving home the sporty design of this crossover.

Forester rear

The changes made to the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited are subtle but they go a long way in spicing up the Forester lineup. From the lower priced trimlines to the top of the line models, the 2014 Forester is far more aggressive and far sportier than the outgoing models but this has been achieved in a way that doesn’t push the limits too far.

The Interior
The Subaru brand isn’t known for offering lots of expensive, high end interior features and that is true of the 2014 Forester 2.5i Limited but at the same time – there is a surprising amount of what was once considering “luxury content” in this mid-level Forester. When you open either the front or rear doors, you are greeted by the “platinum” leather interior surrounded by a plethora of black trim throughout the cabin. Both of the front seats have heated surfaces and the driver’s seat has 10 way adjustability with enough variance that makes this a great car for both very tall and very small drivers. The front seats are very comfortable with plenty of padding that makes for a great ride around town or across a few states but if you get into hard cornering, you will learn quickly that these comfy seats don’t offer a world of lateral grip.

Forester front seats

The tall greenhouse of the 2014 Forester provides plenty of front and rear head room so while this vehicle doesn’t sit like many SUVs – it offers comparable space for taller passengers and drivers. Better yet, there is a stunning amount of leg room in the rear seats so you can truly, comfortably seat four tall adults in the new Forester without anyone being cramped up. Elbow space is a touch limited for the driver and front passenger but the seats themselves are wide enough that you don’t feel crushed into your little area when riding up front. Like so many other vehicles of this general size, the center rear seat is really only adequate for smaller kids but as back seats go – this is one of the more impressive in terms of seating space. Finally, even with the spacious front and rear seating area, the 2014 Forester still has a massive rear cargo area that can accept large boxes thanks to the large rear hatch opening that pops up with the push of a button.

Forester cargo

Although the 2014 Subaru Forester wont stun you with high tech interior gadgets like some models, my test car was fitted with the optional navigation system that adds a 6.1” LCD touch screen. Those drivers who don’t like touch screen technology will likely want to stick with the base stereo system that relies on simple buttons and knobs as the Subaru touch screen infotainment system is one of the more touch-reliant systems I have used. I don’t see any problem with the system but those who fear technology may not like how much they find themselves poking around for the right “button” to change the channel. That is, of course, if they opt not to use the controls mounted on the steering wheel. This 6.1L touch screen integrated the hands free phone system, the stereo and the navigation software into one very neat panel in the dash with support from the steering wheel controls while the climate control system is adjusted entirely with the three large knobs located in the middle of the dash. The settings of the climate control system appear on a small screen mounted high on the dash next to another small screen that displays time, outside temperature and fuel economy figures.

Forester dash

Last but most certainly not least is the panoramic sunroof that is a standard feature of the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited. This huge glass panel extends a bit into the back seat to form one of the biggest sunroofs on the market and while I would call this an option that is worth paying for – it is included as part of the Limited package.

Forester sunroof

While the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited might not dazzle the owners of luxury cars, the optional infotainment system combined with the standard power heated leather seats and the huge panoramic sunroof make for a very inviting cabin while the soft, plush seats provide a comfortable ride for daily driving or for a long family road trip – with plenty of seating and cargo space for any occasion.

The Drive
The 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited is named for its 2.5L flat four “Boxer” engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 174lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and a Subaru’s Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system featuring the new X-mode. This drivetrain delivers solid performance with crisp low end acceleration and solid mid-to-high end acceleration (as when accelerating to pass on the highway) but it does so while still offering very good fuel economy figures for a vehicle in this class. The EPA expects the 2.5i Forester with the CVT to deliver 24mpg around town, 32mpg on the highway and a combined figure of 27 miles per gallon – all of which I found to be pretty much spot on during my time spent driving the new Forester.

Forester offroad

I would call the power output of the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited very adequate and while that might seem like a slight to some – it really isn’t meant to be. The power offered by the naturally aspirated Boxer engine is more than enough power for the average driver as it allows the Forester plenty of acceleration off of the line and more than enough power to keep up with fast moving highway traffic. However, the Forester isnt going to win many races so if you are someone who insists on having as much power as possible, the 2.0XT turbocharged models are probably the better direction for you. For those who don’t need 250 horsepower, the base 2.5L engine delivers a great mix of power and efficiency.

One feature of the 2014 Forester that I didn’t particularly care for was the Continuously Variable Transmission. There isn’t anything wrong with the CVT in the Forester but I admittedly do not care for the feel of a CVT in most vehicles as they create a very unusual feel while accelerating. That being said, the CVT in the Forester is better than many and it works with the 2.5L engine in a way that prevents you from driving around with the RPMs through the roof as the transmission works to find the optimal range. If I had my druthers, I would quickly pick the manual transmission from the lower trimline models but since the manual transmission is not offered on the 2.5i Limited – that point is moot. Ultimately, not liking a transmission because of how the drivetrain sounds when working might be a silly reason not to like a type of technology but that is how I feel and I know a great many other drivers (many of whom have owned vehicles with a CVT) who don’t love the simple lack of “shifts”. When you put that aside, the CVT does help improve fuel economy and many people love them so anyone considering the Forester should drive one to see if they like the action of the CVT transmission. Finally, the new X-Mode is designed to help even novice drivers get through the worst conditions by monitoring wheel slip and adjusting the power to the other wheels accordingly to keep the car pointed in the right direction.

Forester low rear

The 2014 Forester features a slightly retuned suspension system that allows for slightly better handling without stiffening up the ride quality relative to previous models. One of my favorite aspects of the Forester is that while it has the taller ride height and improved visibility of an SUV, it really doesn’t feel like an SUV when you are driving it. The 2014 Subaru Forester feels more like a midsized car or station wagon while driving it but the driver does have better visibility than with many cars of this size and stature. I have often heard people talk about how they want the capabilities of the SUV but they don’t want to feel like they are driving a jacked up pickup truck that lumbers over everything else on the road. The Forester is that SUV. It offers the ability to deal with the roughest roads and the worst weather conditions easily with its symmetrical all wheel drive system while also giving the driver a more upright position (thus a better view of the areas around them in every direction) but you really don’t feel like you are towering over the other vehicles on the road. The Forester feels like a 5-door wagon but it does have a slightly elevated ride height coupled with a great all wheel drive system and a sturdy suspension setup that affords you the capabilities of an SUV.

Forester side

If you are one of those drivers who wants a vehicle that can do what some larger SUVs can do but you don’t want the “big feel” of an SUV – the Subaru Forester is absolutely a vehicle that you should drive before making your next purchase. Under normal daily driving circumstances, the Forester gets great mileage and offers solid power but when the going gets tough – the Forester has no problem going on rough roads or in rough weather.

The Final Word
If you want a vehicle that gets great fuel mileage around town and on the open road while still offering the SUV-like ability to deal with the roughest roads and the worst weather conditions with plenty of confidence…all while driving a vehicle that feels more like a midsized sedan than a SUV or crossover - the 2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited could be the ideal new vehicle for you. The high levels of ground clearance and the standard all wheel drive system make driving on wet roads, snow covered roads, unpaved roads or driving offroad much simpler with the help of the X-Mode system so whether you are driving to a job in the city through 10 inches of snow or you are snaking through the woods for a family camping trip – the Forester delivers.

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Comments

148hp is not bad in a vehicle this size/weight (and the CVT helps opizmite that power). In fact, Crosstrek has a better power-to-weight ratio than Mazda's 2013 CX-5 2WD or 4WD versions. Would more power be more fun? Sure, but then Crosstrek wouldn't have class-leading fuel economy. I think this engine size is a smart choice, and I hope Crosstrek sells well enough to allow Subaru to also offer a faster version in the future perhaps a turbo or the 200hp 2.0L from the Subaru BRZ.