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Did Subaru Make A Mistake Dropping Sporty Forester 2.0XT? Just Ask Mazda

New Subaru Forester is trailing the competition. Is dropping the sporty 2.0XT and 6-speed manual the reason?


When Subaru uncovered the all-new 2019 Forester, they disappointed Subaru enthusiasts when they dropped the Forester 2.0XT turbo model. They were also surprised that the Japanese automaker ditched the 6-speed manual gearbox option on the new fifth-generation SUV. Even though sales of those two models were slow and one of the main reasons for jettisoning both trims, there are other reasons why Subaru Corporation did away with them.

Car and Driver just ranked every Compact SUV from worst to best and the new 2019 Subaru Forester can only muster #6 on the list. In the competitive segment, the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Mazda CX-5 all scored ahead of the new Forester. C & D mentioned their disappointment that both models are gone and that the only engine is now a “naturally aspirated boxer-four with a modest 182 horsepower, hitched to a continuously variable automatic transmission.”

The new Mazda CX-5 gets the nod as the #1 compact SUV in the crowded segment by Car and Driver. They lauded the CX-5 for its newly-available 250-hp turbocharged engine upgrade. This is similar to the 250-hp 2.0XT Forester model Subaru just discontinued. Did Subaru make a mistake dropping the sporty 2.0XT trim?

Subaru’s explanation

After the Forester launch, Subaru executives explained why they chose the non-turbo route. Company execs said sportiness does not necessarily mean having more power. Tomohiro Ishitobi, Subaru Corporation’s senior general manager for sales and marketing division said, “Our interpretation of sportiness does not rely on engine power.”

You May Also Like: All-New 2019 Subaru Forester Sport vs. Forester 2.0XT Comparison

Subaru believes expressing sportiness in the Forester is more about synergy and how the engine responds to driver inputs and its overall driving dynamics. “There is a way to express the sportiness of the SUV, and that’s what we think we have accomplished with the new Forester. We have prepared a different type of engine, not just the 2.0-liter that we’re launching this time. But regardless of engine displacement, we focused on engine response, it’s the key thing we focused on,” says Ishitobi.

Why Subaru dropped the manual

One of Subaru’s core values is safety, and they won’t compromise it for anything. Subaru ditched the 6-speed manual rower because they made their EyeSight driver assist system standard across all Forester trims, as it’s incompatible with a manual gearbox. The Japanese automaker also says they picked up new customers who had never purchased a Subaru vehicle before because of the EyeSight safety feature. Customers will see all SUV models in their lineup come with EyeSight soon.

If you look at the glass half full, the all-new 2019 Subaru Forester did score ahead of 10 compact SUVs on the long list of sixteen contenders from Car and Driver. We are wondering if Forester would have been in the top three if they still had the Forester 2.0XT turbocharged model. Mazda moves ahead of the pack with their new 2.5T 250-hp 310 lb-ft of torque sporty CX-5.

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Photo credit: Subaru USA (Andrea Black)


Rich (not verified)    April 15, 2019 - 4:30AM

Subaru's pandering to the "non-GMO, free range, anti-vac, gluten free, artisanal, Fair Trade, vegan, bunny huggers is a disservice to the GREAT cars that they have. My wife has a 2015 Forester XT. That motor is fantastic!!! In the Cut & Thrust driving in the NY metro area, it prevents accidents!

digitaldoc (not verified)    April 15, 2019 - 7:21PM

So short sighted of Subaru. They make some nice cars, and then underpower too many of them, especially the Crosstrek, BRZ and the Forester. I am not sure why they won't address these shortcomings, but until they do I will not be purchasing their vehicles, that I otherwise would.

It is too bad that the compact crossover segment that is otherwise selling well has such mediocre engine choices unless you jump up to the luxury segment among the Japanese offerings.

Nate (not verified)    April 16, 2019 - 2:31PM

I owned 3 XT based Foresters since the early 2000's and I enjoyed them very much. Especially when going to the mountains.
In 2020 I plan to replace my 2014 Forester XT with a 2020 or 2021 model, and if Subaru does not make a Forester XT in 2020 or 2021 model then will have to say ADIOS SUBARU after owning 5 Subarus since 1988. Pretty stupid decision on Subaru's management to drop it in favor of the Outback which reminds me of my grandfather station wagon despite all its advertised improvements in 2020.

Javi (not verified)    May 25, 2019 - 1:13PM

In reply to by Nate (not verified)

I understand your deliema. Some people just need a roomy vehicle that is still capable and a joy to drive. Hopefully Subaru might bring the Levorg wagon to the US. It would fill in the void left by Forester XT and the WRX/Sti hatchbacks.

Pips (not verified)    April 16, 2019 - 10:54PM

I had a brand new 2019 Touring for two weeks while my 16 XT was in the shop. It's SLOW. There is almost zero passing power, and merging is painful. I had to turn the eyesight off because it got confused with an offramp single land that split into three lanes - It thought I wanted the middle land, but there was already a car there and it tried to "lane assist" me into the vehicle next to me. I have no idea how they are allowed to put eyesights in these things. They're extremely dangerous, IMO.

shawn march (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 12:32AM

So Subaru says they dont rate the sportiness by the engine horse power then they explain how the new 2019's engine response has been fine tuned?
FAIL! Sounds like an excuse for someones bad judgment. sophisticated didn't get subaru popular!!!.
I have a 2017 and love it to death. I'll never buy another one unfortunately simply becasue they no longer offer the XT

Vance (not verified)    June 16, 2019 - 12:48AM

Funny about the sportiness not being rated by engine power! Apply that logic to the Subaru racing cars and they would always come in dead, dead last. We own a
2014 XT Touring and also had a loaner 2019 Sport for 2 weeks while waiting for some repairs. Absolutely loved everything about the car except the powerless and sportiness lacking engine! Wanted to buy a new one, I'm 6'4" tall and don't fit in the Ascent, Outback or Crosstrek well at all, so will not be buying a Subaru Forester with the better body style until Subaru remembers why that 5-10% of their market bought a Subaru in the first place. Safety, Comfort, Style, Reliability and yes the Sportiness of the TURBO ENGINE!!!!! Maybe 2021 will be the year they get the 2.4 L Turbo that takes Regular unleaded in the Forester??? Subaru, are you listening? I hope so.

Digitaldoc (not verified)    June 17, 2019 - 12:38PM

In reply to by Vance (not verified)

They clearly are not listening to their customer base, but as long as underpowered leads them to sales increases, they truly have to reason to listen. At some point, us enthusiasts are the influencers of our coworkers, friends and family when they buy their next vehicle- and this will catch up to them. Look at Toyota that got rid of all their sports cars for years, and the lack of enthusiasm that anyone had for the brand. The same will happen to Subaru as the cute puppy ads can only do so much.

Rick Johansen (not verified)    June 19, 2019 - 9:16AM

The lack of sufficient XT sales does not justify production of an upscale engine.
In the interest of reducing expenses to maintain a certain profit margin, short term sacrifices have to be made.

If it's your company, I'm sure you'd do the same to survive - trim the fat.

Nobody is arguing that it isn't / wasn't a great engine - but this isn't your company and these aren't your corporate dollars you have to worry about. So stop thinking the world revolves around your wants, because news flash - it doesn't.
They lose a few XT lovers, yet gain many times over 'boring people movers' .

Carl Couser (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 11:34PM

If the Forester had a 6 speed and a turbo engine, I would have purchased one for myself and one for my wife!!! Like my Crosstrek, the current Forester is under powered. So, I am waiting for the 2020 Toyota Tacoma, getting the 6 speed and the V-6 engine. I have driven nothing but Subarus for 30 years, until this fall when I trade in my Crosstrek!

Bob (not verified)    August 6, 2019 - 4:52PM

I bought a 2014 Subaru Forester XT and have never been more pleased with an automobile. I've owned Mercedes, Acura, Toyota and Honda and the Forester XT is the best auto I've ever owned. We travel nationwide and the XT Forester allows me to move around the big cities, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, etc. without getting crazy trying to negotiate those heavy traffic cites. And it is the power of the XT which allows me to do that. Subaru says power doesn't have to do with Sportiness. I didn't buy the XT because it was sporty but because it had the needed acceleration to deal with those traffic situations. I drove the 2019 Subaru Forester and it was terrible. No power, no acceleration and when stepping on the sounds terrible. Not so my Forester XT. If Subaru doesn't bring back the Forester XT within two years, I'll be switching brands. Subaru can put a Turbo in the Outback, Crosstrek and Ascent, i can't accept their answer for why they dropped the Forester XT. All the Subaru dealers I spoke with said they never had trouble selling the Forester XT; dealers said they could not get enough XT's from Japan to meet the demand. My 2014 XT was brought in from another state, 500 miles away. My local dealer said they only got in about 2 every month from Subaru manufacturing. Yes, the XT cost me a couple of thousand more than the other models, but that was money well spent. Needless to say, I am frustrated because of Subaru's shortsightedness. Wake up, Subaru

Steven Arant (not verified)    August 18, 2019 - 6:30PM

I'm a 2014 XT owner and I will not be buying another Subaru if that tells you anything. The power and Zip of the turbo attracted me to Subaru. Meanwhile everyone else in the segment has turbos. Hyundai even has a turbo motor. Subaru DOES NOT LISTEN to it's fans. They listen to penny pincher guys in finance. Subaru needs to quit playing it safe and get back to its roots in motorsports and excitement to it's consumers. I would buy the new Forester in a heartbeat if it had a turbo version. I like the looks and tech but slapping a sport badge on something isn't going to cut it.

Steven Arant (not verified)    August 18, 2019 - 6:34PM

I'm a 2014 XT owner and I will not be buying another Subaru if that tells you anything. The power and Zip of the turbo attracted me to Subaru. Meanwhile everyone else in the segment has turbos. Hyundai even has a turbo motor. Subaru DOES NOT LISTEN to it's fans. They listen to penny pincher guys in finance. Subaru needs to quit playing it safe and get back to its roots in motorsports and excitement to it's consumers. I would buy the new Forester in a heartbeat if it had a turbo version. I like the looks and tech but slapping a sport badge on something isn't going to cut it.

Bill Herbert (not verified)    November 10, 2019 - 3:18PM

I have a 2017 Forester XT. Unless there is a turbo model or engine upgrade option by the time I’m ready for a new one, my next purchase won’t be a Subaru. The XT turbo is the only thing that sets my current Forester apart from a sea of faceless SUVs while the base motor is weak and underpowered. No amount of “tuning” is going to overcome the loss of 70 hp in terms of “sportiness.”

Mark McDaniels (not verified)    November 22, 2019 - 12:27AM

Purchased the new 2019 Forester recently. After driving it for about 2 months I'm totally disappointed with the engine out put and performance. My 20 year old son drives the 2016 XT 2.0 Turbo version. It's a blast, and still has so much room. The remodel 2019 is Fantastic. All of it is Fantastic, EXCEPT the engine performance, or lack of. I just test drove the 2019 Mazda CX 5 RTR with AWD and 2.5 Turbo. I believe I'm going to trade in the Brand New 2019 Forester and upgrade to the Mazda CX 5. If the Forester still had the 2.0 Turbo available I wouldn't have even looked at the Mazda. Some of us still enjoy Driving.

digitaldoc (not verified)    November 22, 2019 - 12:32PM

In reply to by Mark McDaniels (not verified)

The question is if anyone enjoys driving these anemic Subarus? I think Subaru wants to cater to the AARP crowd, but eventually when you lose the enthusiasts, the sales will suffer. Not sure Subaru can figure out that not every enthusiast wants a WRX, and there is room for a performance crossover.

Bill Roberts (not verified)    December 20, 2019 - 10:58AM

I own 2016 Forrester XT 2.0 I love the acceleration - no way I'll buy another Forrester when this one wears out - I'll find a brand that has some zip