Christopher Little

Utility: 2014 Subaru Forester XT

In the SUV world, bigger is better. The Subaru Forester didn’t start out very big, but it didn’t start out as an SUV either. When the first generation Forester landed in 1997, it was more of a station wagon than an SUV. But wagons fell out of favor to SUVs, so that’s the role the Forster has grown into. Except that the new 2014 Subaru Forest hasn’t really grown. It only feels that way. Minimal growth doesn’t mean minimal changes. The redesigned Forester sports more power, more room, and even a new face.

Subaru Forester 1

The Forester’s new body is only 1.4″ longer than the previous generation. But the small growth translates to more rear seat leg room, higher rear seat height, and more cargo space. The Forester can accommodate 4 adults more comfortably than ever. The driver and front passenger are treated to leather-trimmed cloth seats with supportive side bolsters. The high roof and low beltline combine to create an airy greenhouse. The sunroof is large; it’s almost uncomfortable to reach back and close the sun visor. But with the visor open, it brightens the cabin considerably. Visibility is excellent all around.

Subaru Forester 11

Unfortunately, the Forster XT Premium’s technology feels a bit dated. While we appreciate analog gauges, the monochromatic information screen centered between them looks ancient. That trend continues with the 6-speaker HD audio interface and its monochromatic display. The 4.3″ color display above the center stack serves up driving information, infotainment data, and acts as the backup camera display. There’s nothing wrong with the display, other than its diminutive size. Many modern cars fit larger displays in the cluster. All the technology works as expected, so perhaps the problem lies with us. There’s just nothing about the interior of the Forester that jumps out as being new. You could mistake it entirely for a previous generation.

Subaru Forester 13

The “new” feeling in the 2014 Forester comes from the powertrain. Under the hood of the XT models is a 2.0L turbocharged and direct-injection boxer engine. With 250 hp and 258 lb-ft torque on tap, the Forester XT is rather quick in a straight line. Paired with the Forester XT’s new engine is a new CVT. Just like the tech inside, this CVT doesn’t feel new. Shifting into drive, the transmission hesitated before clunking into “gear”. Once in drive, it rubber-bands under acceleration. There is a fix, however. Two buttons on the leather-wrapped steering wheel change the transmission’s character. They’re labeled SI Drive, short for Sport Intelligent Drive. In Sport (S), the CVT pretends to have 6 gears. In Sport Sharp (S#), it pretends to have 8. Wheel-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver control “gear” selection. In S and S#, the CVT does a decent imitation of an actual gearbox.

Subaru Forester 7

Subaru’s symmetric all-wheel-drive system puts power down without drama. Speed accumulates similarly, but it happens quickly and unexpectedly. That’s perhaps the best thing about the Forester. Nobody expects a speeding Forester, which meant the extra velocity went unnoticed to other drivers and law enforcement. The new electric power steering unit has good weight and decent feedback. The retuned suspension is a shade on the stiffer side, but we don’t consider it harsh. It provides just enough feedback to keep the driver informed. Like most all-wheel-drive vehicles, understeer is present. Thankfully, it only prevalent at speeds above what most Forester drivers will experience. That’s the long way of saying that it drives better than the other SUVs in its class.

Subaru Forester 9

Outside, a few simple visual changes distinguish the more powerful XT from the rest of the lineup. Unique alloy wheels add a sporting flair. Most noticeably, however, is the new front fascia. A redesigned grille sits between large front strakes that sit wide out, vertically below the headlights. The added aggression from the new front bumper isn’t carried around the rest of the vehicle, but it is impactful. The XT retains the 8.7” ground clearance of the rest of the Forester lineup. With the added X Mode for hill decent and slippery situation, Subaru ensures the Forester is capable of handling any weather.

Subaru Forester 5

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That seems to be Subaru’s approach to the 2014 Forester. Subaru drivers are highly brand-loyal, and the Forester gives them no reason the challenge that trend.  It doesn’t need to reinvent itself to maintain popularity. The Forester is a simple SUV, but an SUV none the less. Our XT Premium tester defies modern trends of adding technology. With an as-tested price under $29,000, the Forester XT remains highly affordable. The Forester’s value amplifies its practicality; year-round driving ability, comfortable seating for four, and large cargo volume. During our week, we covered 530 miles and averaged 24 mpg. It’s utility is undeniable. And with its turbocharged boxer engine, sport is definitely covered. 250 hp in such a versatile package makes the Subaru Forester XT an intriguing prospect.

-Christopher Little

2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium
Destination Charges $825
As Tested MSRP $28,820

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