2019 Subaru Forester Limited
(3.5 / 5)
One of the best things about the Subaru Forester is that it’s completely honest about the kind of vehicle it is. As they say “it does exactly what it says on the tin”.
It doesn’t claim to be a proper SUV. It knows that it’s just a crossover, but with a distinct difference. Most crossovers have a certain stance and are equipped with hill descent control, all-wheel-drive lock buttons and other gadgets which, when combined, promise to be able to take the driver into the back of beyond. Try doing it, though, and you can be sorely disappointed.
The Forester, though, isn’t interested in illusions. It’s upfront about its mission: a crossover that takes you places. Subaru is quite confident in the Forester’s ability to take you way further than most owners would dare.
In the sales industry, it’s called “under-promise and over-deliver”. The Forester’s purpose is to get you down onto the beach and back again with minimal fuss. And in most cases, without having to drop your tire pressures.
To do that, it has 8.6-inches (220mm) of ground clearance, and with a wheelbase of 105 inches (2670mm), it’s able to get over rocks, while it won’t get bogged down in soft sand. We do have to say that it’s definitely easier when you do let the tires down, but the Forester’s inbuilt ability is quite impressive.
There’s also an X-mode dial that adjusts the stability control settings for mud and snow (even deep snow), and the torque vectoring helps to kick the car along if it starts to bog down.
So, off-road it’s good. What about on the road? Usually, when a car is designed to head into the bush, there’s a compromise when it comes time to head back onto the blacktop. The Forester has to straddle both worlds, and for the most part, it does that well.
Most of the time it will be sitting on the tarmac, so one area it needs to get right is how it handles.
The handling isn’t amazing, just average, as the Forester’s suspension tune is slightly softer than most SUVs so it can soak up the bumps when climbing up and over obstacles. As a result, it does tend to roll a little bit if you turn in a bit too sharply. Of course, if you want something that’s a little more like a passenger car but still has some bush-bashing ability, there’s always the Subaru Crosstrek.
However, the plus side of this suspension tune is a fabulous ride, especially at high speed. While so many crossovers tend to be jittery and transmit every corrugation into the cabin, the Forester irons out rubbish roads and when sitting at 60mph, it’s quiet and calm. This is a great car to cover a lot of miles.
The steering is a bit funny, though. It tends to be a bit fidgety around the straight-ahead, with a lack of progressive feel. You encourage it to go left slightly and it takes a second to respond and then you do it to the right and the same thing happens, so rather than a smooth adjustment, you’re constantly fiddling with the steering in a straight line.
Yes, you get used to it, but the switch to electric steering hasn’t been kind to the Forester. Thankfully as you turn into a corner, there’s more realistic weighting further into the steering lock.
But it does like to push you back into the center of the lane if you decide to take the “racing line” when going through a corner. The EyeSight camera system is a bit enthusiastic – more about that later on.
One of the best features of the Forester, though, is the visibility. With a world obsessed with curvacious SUVs which have windows smaller than a tank’s, it’s refreshing to jump into the Forester and know exactly what’s going on around you.
Not only is the over the shoulder view excellent, but the forward view is expansive and because the edges of the hood are easily seen (those long ridges help mark out the boundaries of the car), it’s easy to park. Then, there are the myriad cameras which have guides to help you park as well.
As you’d expect, there is a reversing camera which uses guides that follow your steering movements, but there is also a forward facing camera on the passenger’s wing mirror to help you watch the front wheel so you don’t mark those beautiful 18-inch rims.
But the downside of all those cameras is the car is a hyperactive safety nanny. Constantly beeping at you, always warning you that there’s some impending doom. Look, car, I know that there’s a tree coming up, but I’m turning soon, so there’s no need to panic. Instead, the Forester pumps the brakes, beeps and tells you there’s an obstacle in your way and that – basically – you’re going to crash.
It helps for when you’re reversing, with the rear cross traffic alert telling you there’s something approaching, but when it’s done its job alerting you, it seems like it doesn’t realize you understand. And so it continues beeping. For way too long. It’s okay, car, I know someone is there.
There’s also an infra-red scanner just above the central display binnacle, and that watches your eye movements to make sure you’re not checking your phone or looking in the wrong spot. And yes, it even works when you have sunglasses on. The problem is, though, that I like to scan the road ahead, behind, and anywhere else, watching that no-one is going to crash into me. But the Forester doesn’t know. Nor does it care. Instead, it takes over and tells you that you’re not looking in the right spot.
“KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD”. The message flashes up on the screen in between the instruments. So you panic and wonder what you’ve done wrong, only to look at the screen – instead of at the road. A bit counter-intuitive, wouldn’t you think? So, that gets switched off using an under-dash button.
Also switched off is the lane departure assistant because it’s disconcerting when someone (or something) else takes over. And lastly, the engine auto stop-start. So that’s three switches to press every time you turn on the vehicle. But if that doesn’t bother you, more power to you.
Speaking of power, the 2.5-liter engine isn’t the most powerful in the segment, but it gets the job done, and Subaru’s CVT gearbox matches well to extract the most out of it.
There’s plenty of included equipment as standard in the Limited: Leather-trimmed upholstery, 18-inch machine-finish alloy wheels, Blind-Spot Detection / Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Keyless Access with Push-Button Start, All-Weather Package with heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Then the active safety gear: Adaptive Cruise Control, Brake Light Recognition, Emergency Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Sway Warning, Lead Vehicle Start Alert, Pre-Collision Brake Assist, Pre-Collision Braking System, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, and Speed Limiter.
The Limited also looks a lot nicer than the rest of the range, with a bit more bling at the front, especially the fog-lamp surrounds. And the space in this MY19 Forester is excellent, with a good-sized trunk (and electric tailgate), foldable rear seats, plenty of legroom for all passengers and a lot of storage as well.
You can see that Subaru is targeting active families. It has all the bells and whistles, good build quality, a massive safety list and lots of ability.
Some of it’s a bit annoying, and some of it is very, very good indeed. So, it’s a car you’ll either love straight away or one you’ll take a while to get used to.
Either way, if you’re getting away quite often and getting a bit dirty, it’s one you need to put on your shortlist.