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Aging Subaru Forester Still Beats the Competition

The 2018 Subaru Forester needs a remodel, but even in its aging condition, see why it still beats the competition.


The Subaru Forester is due for a complete remodel, and it’s coming later this year. Even with its need for a complete makeover, the small SUV still brings things no other compact SUV offers. It features standard all-wheel drive, extra ground clearance, for off-road adventuring, an airy spacious cabin with excellent outward visibility, and a large and versatile cargo area. It’s what still sets the Forester apart from the pack.

This week we drive the top-of-the-line 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring trim.

What’s new for 2018?

One year after receiving a mid-cycle refresh, in styling, cabin comfort, and safety aids, the Subaru Forester carries over into 2018 with only minor changes. Forester does get a new Black Edition trim package that adds black-finished wheels, body trim, and grille. Limited trim levels also get a new cargo area cover, while Touring trims now include Subaru's EyeSight safety package as standard along with automatic high beams and reverse automatic braking.

Features and options

The top 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring trim ($33,090) comes standard with just about everything the Japanese automaker has to offer. It features a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, reclining rear seats, automatic climate control, larger 7-inch touchscreen, voice commands, Starlink Safety Plus telematics (emergency assistance, automatic collision notification, and various remote services), and an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio.

Touring models also come standard with a power liftgate, Java Brown leather upholstery, an upgraded driver information display and a cargo area cover. Blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Touring also gets 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, upgraded side mirrors with integrated turn signals, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, an upgraded sound system, navigation and one-touch folding rear seatbacks.

The EyeSight active driver-assist package is standard on Touring models, a camera system that sees danger ahead and self-brakes. Along with that system comes self-dimming headlamps that turn with the car, and reverse automatic braking. The Touring models also have blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts. This tester is priced at $34,005 including destination.

Interior highlights

Subaru interiors have come a long way and this Saddle Brown leather gives this Touring model a rich feeling and look. It features attractive light colored stitching on the seats, door panels, and center console. The contrasting black/silver trim throughout the cabin adds to the premium feel.


We especially liked the new center display showing miles per gallon, time, outside temperature, and how many miles until empty. All controls are easy to use and understand unlike many new models today. We did notice the heater struggled to heat us up in the single digit temps to hit Denver this week. But the heated steering wheel and seats worked flawlessly.

Controls in the Forester are simple and intuitive, and there’s no need to get the owners manual out to change the radio station. The audio and climate controls are logical and easy to use, unlike a German car or two we’ve tested.

One of Forester’s strong points is the open and airy feeling in the cabin. It’s due to the higher driver position, low window line, and the dash is located forward and low, giving front occupants additional room. The taller roofline also contributes to the open feeling and visibility is excellent compared with most other small SUVs.

In the rear, our passengers found ample headroom and legroom and said the rear doors opened wide enough for easy entry and exit. The rear seats split 60/40 folding nearly flat with a one-touch mechanism, creating a generous cargo capacity of 74.7 cubic feet. And there’s still 34.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat. This tester came with the power liftgate making it easy to load cargo.

Engine and fuel mileage specs

The Forester Touring is powered by a 2.5-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder Boxer engine making 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. The 2.5-liter engine is mated to a Lineartronic CVT automatic transmission featuring 6-speed manual shift mode. This tester also came with X-Mode and Hill Descent Control off-road technology.

EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 26/32 city/highway mpg and 28 combined mpg. We averaged 25.5 mpg during the week, but we pushed the small SUV hard and drove at high altitude.

Driving dynamics

The Forester with the 2.5-liter engine is not going to win any races, but it’s all about a good blend of performance and fuel efficiency. Forester 2.5i will have enough acceleration for most consumers, and it performed well in our city driving. Forester is a perfect commuter vehicle that will get you to work safely in all-weather conditions, and it’s set up for weekend adventures with its X-Mode off-road technology.

We found the Forester has superior driving dynamics over all other small SUVs because of the lower center of gravity. The boxer engine sits lower in the chassis and it doesn’t lean as much for a tall SUV in the tight mountain corners. It also handles well in city driving and making quick lane changes.

We had a significant snowfall in the mountains west of Denver this week, and Forester is unmatched on unpaved snow-covered dirt roads. Even with all-season tires, it took on the snow with no issues. Bolt on a set of winter tires, and it will get you anywhere you need to go.

We were able to experience Forester with X-Mode designed to enhance the vehicles' capability in low-friction environments. We took it on a short off-road course near Morrison, with lots of steep inclines. We drove the vehicle to the top, stopped, pushed the X-Mode button and let the crossover roll down the steep decline without touching the brakes. Forester also comes with 8.7-inches of ground clearance and never bottomed-out as we took it over some large rocks.

Forester features excellent visibility, and it’s a good size for urban dwellers. The newly-remodeled CVT automatic is also a bright spot for the vehicle. It’s one of the better CVTs out there with its 6-speed manual shifting. Forester comes with a suite of safety features, and we tested the EyeSight’s Pre-Collision Braking Control and Adaptive Cruise Control in stop-and-go traffic, and never touched the brakes once.


Even though the Forester is aging, it’s still one of the best small SUVs out there. With standard all-wheel drive, extra ground clearance, a spacious cabin with excellent outward visibility, and a large and versatile cargo area, the 2018 Subaru Forester has what it takes.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Ed B (not verified)    March 2, 2018 - 8:58AM

I really hope that don't change what makes the Forester great. I'm looking forward to the new platform and the changes, but I hope they follow the Ascent lead with the new Turbo (which takes regular gas we hear) and the thigh support drivers seat is a nice touch in the Ascent. This should be an easy winner when the new platform arrives. I'm not holding my breath on the styling side - that never was a Subaru strong point. However, I'm sure it will be better than the current generation and bigger (hopefully).

Thomas Shields (not verified)    March 2, 2018 - 12:44PM

I was cross shopping the Forester and the BMW X1. I am so happy I got the Forester XT touring. It is a Much better car than the X1.

Tony (not verified)    March 2, 2018 - 5:20PM

I own a 2007 Subaru Forester LL BEAN EDITION and love it! Love the all wheel drive system. I also have a 2015 Dodge Ram Truck 1500 and to be honest I rather drive my Subaru. The Subaru is definitely better on gas. The Subaru is more nimble and handles better in my opinion. Can't wait to see the new Subaru when it hits the show room.