The 2019 Subaru Forester proves to be a Swiss Army knife of a vehicle. This ride is for more than just soccer moms, backpackers, and tweed wearing professors, it gets things done, safely, and all with a newly refined look.
Not all great romances are whirlwind affairs of heady days and dreamy nights. Some romances are the stuff of steady companionship, of long held devotions, of good humor and steadfast reliability.
Subaru’s emphasis on love in their marketing isn’t by accident. They’ve built a brand around it, with buyers as committed as any Jeep or Mustang enthusiast out there. And a big part of that is meeting expectations coupled with steady, if not always radical, improvements along the way.
What was old is new(ish) again. The redesign for 2019 keeps much of what folks have loved about the Forester while adding new exterior and interior styling, along with additional changes to the suspension, transmission, and engine. The through line here is the Forester remains as practical as its always been while looking better than ever.
The most notable change under the hood between the 2018 and 2019 Foresters is the discontinuation of the turbo 2.0 XT engine option. Now you’ll have to settle for the 2.5 liter flat four boxer engine. It happens to be spritely enough for most daily driving, but more than a little underwhelming when passing. It’s good for 182hp, 176 lb.-ft. of torque, and a fairly impressive mpg rating of 26 city and 33 highway.
The engine is paired with a seamlessly shifting CVT. Incidentally, Subaru also dropped the manual option from the Forester but does offer paddle shifters in the Sport and Touring trims. The SI-Drive System does little to further enliven the driving as you toggle between “Intelligent” and “Sport” mode, thought the “Intelligent” mode will help you get closer to that 33–mph highway number.
The Forester offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance to go with that Subaru mainstay standard all-wheel drive (AWD). X-Mode optimizes the engine and transmission outputs for off-road adventure and further augments the VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) which will adjust power and wheelspin according to the terrain. However, as nice as these are, we ran into situations where turning off these computer assists actually helped the Forester scale some otherwise difficult gradients. Like Luke Skywalker turning off his targeting computer in Star Wars: A New Hope, we had to trust in the For-ester.
We may have lost the turbo 2.0-liter XT, but most Forester drivers probably won’t even notice its absence. The pickup of the 2.5-liter engine is neither too weak, nor is it aggressive; it sits in that Goldilocks zone of completely inconspicuous acceleration. If you were looking for the rally car experience you’ve got the wrong Subaru (and there’s always the Outback’s 3.6-liter V6 option, too). What the Forester lacks in power it more than makes up for in its practical applications.
The handling on the Forester was fairly tight, with only minimal body roll around corners despite its height and it offers solid stability overall, at a notable notch above its segment competition. The electronically assisted steering makes for responsive, point-and-go driving regardless of road surface.
One of the pluses of that smaller engine is that the Forester gets great gas mileage (29 mph combined) for its segment, easily beating the Mazda CX-5 (26 mpg combined) and Ford Edge (23 mph combined) among others.
The Forester is rated to tow up to 1,500 lbs. and Trailer Stability Assist comes standard on all trim levels.
One of our favorite aspects of the new Forester is the smooth ride, clearly improved from prior years. The Forester absorbs dips, bumps, and undulations with ease, resolutely refusing to jar its occupants no matter what it’s handling. On the street the it feels well balanced, particularly for an SUV. Off pavement the Forester retains remarkable stability.
The 2019 upgrades to the dash, upholstery, and other materials makes for a busy yet high quality interior. Most of the controls are where you want them. Thankfully, many of these have knobs or shortcut buttons, so you won’t have to consult the infotainment screen to adjust the stereo volume. The standard 6.5-inch touchscreen can be upgraded to the 8-inch. Either size, all Forester trims come with Apple Carplay or Android Auto as a standard feature.
The seats are comfortable both in terms of the cushioned ride and their materials. We especially like the updated grill and bumper and the new black cladding. The Sport trim adds orange stitching to match the cabin and body accents. Though probably a bit flashy for your average Forester buyer, if you’re looking to stand out from the Subie owning crowd, the Sport trim can add that extra bit of flair.
Another big plus for the Forester is the cabin space, which is generous. There’s a maximum of 111.9 cubic ft. available (107.8 if you opt for the moonroof). With all that real estate the Forester provides a spacious greenhouse that affords some of the best visibility you can find in a compact SUV. The cargo area starts out with 35.4 cu. ft. and, with the rear seats folded down, a maximum of 76.1 cu. ft. To top things off, those rear seats also have a 60/40 split. Another upgrade in 2019 is the extra wide cargo opening which expanded by a full 5-inches to 51.3-inches. That’s 6-inches better than any vehicle in its class.
That aforementioned “panoramic” moonroof does sacrifice a bit on interior space, but when combined with the already large windows the Forester things become absolutely airy. There’s something to be said for a vehicle already geared toward outdoorsy types bringing the outside into the cabin. Maybe not quite as bold as the Jeep Gladiator in this regard, but still pretty nice.
There’s very little road or wind noise in the cabin of the Forester. You’ll find the drive exceedingly placid, making it easy to hold an actual conversation with your rear seat passengers or simply Zen–out during your trip to the next camping spot.
Even with a ho-hum engine, it’s the quality interior design, comfortable daily driving, and overall practicality where the 2019 Forester stands out from the pack.
One of the Subaru’s biggest selling points is almost all of their safety features come standard, no matter the trim level. Many features that you’d be paying extra to acquire in other makes are baked in on the Forester. You might end up compromising elsewhere, but not on safety features.
This starts with the airbags. Front, side-curtain, rear seat-mounted, and driver’s knee airbags all come standard. The same if true of Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology which offers pre-collision breaking and throttle management, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
Of course, Subaru’s standard symmetrical all-wheel drive is here too, along with ABS and a self-cleaning rear camera. Upgradeable safety features include blind spot detection available from the Premium trim level and up and the reverse automatic breaking starting at the Sport trim level. The top-of-the-line Touring is the only Forester that get the new DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation System which uses facial recognition software to alert you if it thinks your attention is wandering from the road.
It should be noted that some drivers find the Subaru’s lane departure and distraction detection systems to be overly sensitive. They found the all too frequent beeping to be a distraction itself. We couldn’t verify whether this is truly the case as we usually keep our eyes on the road and never unintentionally triggered either system. Either way, both systems can be turned off if you also find them more annoying than helpful.
The all-weather package, available on the Premium and above, includes windshield de-icer and heated sidemirrors and front seats. Off-road features also start at the Premium level and include the aforementioned X-Mode and Hill Descent Mode. The X-Mode in the Sport and above adds on a Dual Mode for Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes.
|Trim||X-Mode||Hill Descent Mode|
|Forester Sport||Standard, Dual Mode||Standard|
|Forester Limited||Standard, Dual Mode||Standard|
|Forester Touring||Standard, Dual Mode||Standard|
Between the IIHS safety picks and the Consumer Reports endorsement for safety, its pretty clear Subaru knows on which side of its avocado toast is buttered (avacado’ed?). If safety is priority one for you too, the Forester is a great SUV to consider.
17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails.
$25,000 approx. (all prices include destination and delivery fees)
X- Mode, alloy wheels, roof rails, privacy glass and moonroof.
Push button start, paddle shifters, rear USBs, Dual X-Mode, 18-inch wheels, Harmon Kardon 9-speaker sound system.
Leather seats, 8-inch touchscreen, power lift gate, voice-activated climate control.
Power heated front seats, 18-inch wheels, chrome accents, roof rails with tie-down points.
The 2019 Forester offers plenty of reasons to love it, whether it’s for the first time or it’s re-igniting an old flame. The spacious cabin and plentiful cargo space are big attractions on a small-to-mid-size SUV. And the smooth, quite ride and quality handling more than make up for the less than dynamite engine. Safety remains one of Subaru’s strongest selling points. Given the steady progress across the industry when it comes to safety together with Subaru’s standardizing of those features, you’d be hard pressed to find a safer vehicle for the money.
With a new look and updated drivetrain, the 2019 Forester improves, if ever so slightly, on a good thing. It’s the grocery-getting, tree-hugging, pet-loving, kid-hauling, all-wheel driving Subaru you always knew you’d fall for.