Subaru Forester Limited 2019 Review

Subaru Forester Limited Review hero shot

2019 Subaru Forester Limited
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

How many SUVs these days claim to be more than they are? Whether it be off-road ability, interior space, safety or any other aspects, they all purport to be “best-in-class” and “ground-breaking”.

Subaru is different. The company understands that it will never take on Land Rover, but then, it doesn’t have to.

As long as it will take you down to the beach and back, handle a bit of snow, climb up and over obstacles and transport the family in safety, that’s all company wants its Forester crossover to be.

This SUV doesn’t care about pretenses. It’s simple, easy to drive and packs plenty of ability for those who want to make use of it. And for those who don’t, just enjoy it as a high-riding wagon.

Part of the Forester’s appeal is that it comes from a long line of all-wheel-drive vehicles. In fact, if you forget about the BRZ for a moment, the entire lineup of Subaru’s machines are all-wheel-drives. And that means that they can handle situations that a lot of pretenders couldn’t.

Subaru Forester Limited Review rear three quarter

Take going down to the beach, for example. With half the machines out there running a Haldex-style coupling, the front has buried itself in the sand before the rear has a chance to catch up.

Not so the Forester, which has permanent all-wheel-drive and doesn’t need a “lock” button that you’ll find on so many crossovers.

Another reason it can take you off-road is its 8.6-inches (220mm) of ground clearance. Then the wheelbase of 105 inches (2670mm) is relatively short, meaning it can ramp over rocks or logs.

And yes, you’ll find it easier if you let the tires down, but even without doing that, there’s a lot of ability.

Things like the X-mode dial which will adjust the traction control make things a lot easier in both mud and snow, where grip is scarce. It will also apportion torque left and right if you find yourself digging in a bit too far.

There’s no doubt about its off-road chops. Most of the time, however, the Forester will be spending its time on the blacktop. So how does it fare in this environment?

You’ll be pleased to know that even though the suspension is designed to soak up the bumps when bush-bashing, it’s not so soft that it falls over in the corners.

Subaru Forester Limited Review driving

There’s enough roll to make it feel safe (and so you don’t push too hard in corners) but it can be threaded through an arcing road without washing out into understeer. And if you do want something a little lower and smaller, there’s always the Subaru Crosstrek.

It must be said, though, that Subaru has struck a beautiful balance with the Forester, creating a very comfortable ride and one that gets better with speed. There are simply too many crossovers that are stiffly sprung, creating a bouncy and nervous ride that thumps and crashes over bumps. By contrast, the 2019 model Forester smooths out the road and at 60 miles per hour you’ll find a very muted cabin.

We did find the steering to be a bit strange. Around the center, it doesn’t sit naturally, and you have to make constant adjustments, correcting your line. It’s like it doesn’t quite self center within a few degrees of the straight-ahead. Now, that’s fine if you’re parking or driving around the city, but if you’re covering many miles it can get a little annoying.

Subaru Forester Limited Review Interior

It may not be a deal breaker, but this is what happens when you start putting electric steering in cars – they start to feel unnatural. At least as the corners tighten up, it starts to feel a bit more normal.

Let’s focus on the positives for now, and in today’s design-obsessed world, it’s a relief to sit in the Forester. Not because its design is too simple, but because Subaru has remembered that as drivers, we still need to see out of these cars. And the visibility out of the Forester is best-in-class. There are no huge C-pillars, the A-pillar is thin enough and the vision is fantastic all around.

Especially good is the view out of the windscreen. Now, that may sound like a strange statement to make, but because the hood has long ridges that extend all the way to the front, you know exactly where the outside of the car is. And that helps you to park. Of course, you also get a reversing camera which has guides – very handy.

Subaru Forester Limited Review Apple Car Play

Under the mirror on the passenger side, there’s another camera which will enable you to watch that you don’t kerb the front wheel. It’s also handy when swinging into tighter parking spots.

And of course, there’s also the twin-camera setup of the EyeSight safety feature. This watches the road ahead, activating the autonomous braking, keeping you in the lane (highly annoying when you’re driving properly) and making sure you don’t follow the car in front too closely.

But the system is so overactive that it gives you a heart attack. It’s always beeping, warning and telling you off. If there’s a tree ahead, but there’s a curve in the road, you know you’re not going to hit it, but the car doesn’t. It then pumps the brakes, and you think you’ve done something wrong – but you haven’t.

One good aspect of the system is the rear cross traffic alert which will tell you that someone is approaching from the side. The only thing is it keeps on alerting you even when the danger has passed.

Another annoying thing is the infra-red camera that scans your eye movements. Sure, it’s good for telling you not to look at your phone, but when you are looking around to make sure you’re not going to crash into anything, then I don’t need to be told to watch the road.

So, unfortunately, that gets switched off.

Subaru Forester Limited Review side view

Then, the next button to push is the lane keep assist, which pushes you around while you’re driving. And then the engine start-stop also gets deactivated. That’s three buttons to push each time you hop in. It would be much nicer to be an opt-in rather than opt-out.

Under the hood is Subaru’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, which certainly isn’t the last word on power, but with the very good CVT gearbox, it makes the most of the torque on offer.

Certainly the Forester Limited comes loaded with quite a bit of gear: 18-inch alloys, Leather-trimmed seats, Eyesight safety assistance (with all the extra systems that entails), heated front seats, and two-zone climate control.

We think that the Limited is styled better than the rest of the range, thanks to its extra chrome at the front end, and there’s a heap of space with a decently-sized trunk that gets an electric tailgate, good legroom in the rear seats, and plenty of odds and ends storage areas.

Sure, some aspects of the Forester are quite irritating, but most of it is very well thought out. It’s one for active families and has plenty to commend it, especially if you find yourself getting away from it all.

About Karl Peskett 431 Articles
A passionate writer, editor and driver, Karl is the go-to man when it comes to four wheels. With stints in television, radio, print and online, Karl has been writing about cars for more than a decade. He drives around 100 vehicles every year and has tested everything from Bugattis to Suzukis. Sometimes on track, sometimes off-road, his focus is on producing objective journalism without fear or favour.

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