The Subaru Forester is Quaker plain. Park it anywhere and it blends into the landscape like clover in a lawn. That may be one reason it’s a solid seller for Subaru. No flash– all function.
I just finished test driving a $32,000 2017 Forester 2.5i Touring with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Forester is a model of unadorned transportation which is fine, but the manual is taking it a little too far. It’s a period piece. Shifting gears is a joy for those who still enjoy a hands on experience, but the Forester shifter is rubbery and imprecise. A 20 year old VW Jetta has a superior gearbox. Most people buy the automatic which is really a CVT (continuously variable transmission), it’s less annoying than the manual but still lacking in joy.
Let’s look on the bright side though, the Forester does have good qualities. Subaru has stayed away from current SUV styling which aims to be be sleek and car-like by using more curves and swoops. The Forester styling is cubist, like an alphabet block on wheels. The blocky shape makes room for big windows, It feels panoramic inside and visibility is excellent. There’s less chance to back into a pine tree on your off-roading adventures, which is part of the Subaru brand mystique. The utility of the styling also translates into more interior space for cargo and passengers. Headroom is ample, legroom is lavish.
While testing the Forester for a week we put it to work, filling it with bags of limestone screenings, mulch and soil. For this it was excellent. Though we had no need to its off-road capability, the Forester’s all the time, all-wheel-drive is designed for mud, snow, slick snd slippery roads.
We also took a short field trip toward Erie Pennsylvania. On the highway the Forester has a decent ride, but will leave some drivers longing for more power. The 2.5 litre, 4-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower. It’s adequate but don’t expect much passing power in 5th and 6th gear. The boxer engine (cylinders move horizontally rather than up and down) increases stability because of its low centre of gravity but along with it comes a distinctly unmelodic engine sound. The seats were comfortable even after four hours plus of driving, and ergonomics are good.
In Erie it’s worth exploring the lovely lakefront and also the stadium for the minor league baseball team- Erie Seawolves. It’s right downtown, near restaurants and a hotel. When we got home and I was looking for a place to photograph the Forester I took it to the empty land in the Barton-Tiffany area where the Tiger-Cats football stadium MIGHT have been built. Its a forlorn piece of landscape, waiting to be reborn.
I tucked the Forester in among graffiti cover blocks of cement for a photo. Kids pushing carts full of bottles and cans didn’t look twice at it. Maybe that’s the beauty of it-a useful, safe, plain Jane hauler that doesn’t cause a stir.