The 2014 Subaru Forester Drive Event (Review)

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I spent March 6-8, 2013 on Vancouver Island, off of B.C. World renowned for its beauty, its vistas, its desolate stretches and its wet weather, it is, without question, a bucket list place to visit. I’ve been here before but I always love coming back.

For these three days, it became the backdrop for Subaru Canada’s launch and test drive event for their new 2014 Forester.

red XT sunset

On the morning of March 6, I packed my gear, kissed the family good-bye and flew from Edmonton to Vancouver, and then on to Nanaimo. By the way, the Nanaimo airport is the cutest airport in the world. And the flight from Vancouver to Nanaimo is 14 minutes long. Awesome.

Nanaimo sign

My Forester XT was waiting for me at the Nanaimo airport. It’s instantly recognizable as a Subaru, a Forester even, but styling is fresh, and has some nice new touches including very nice wheels. The XT adds a couple of aggressive splashes to the slightly more sedate styling of the 2.5i – it’s immediately noticeable at the front.


The 2014 is an all-new platform, and it is marginally bigger in every aspect than the previous generation. It’s taller, wider, longer. The additional space is used wisely. The A-pillar was moved forward a significant 8.9 inches, allowing for a new front-quarter window. The rear door openings are wider and access is excellent through any of the doors, which open very wide.


So, what differentiates the two models (the 2.5i and the XT) from each other? It’s not just styling. The XT takes the already great 2.5i, and stuffs a direct injection, turbocharged 2.0-litre boxer engine into it. (This engine deserves to be in the BR-Z STi – but I’ve said too much) This mill sings, to the tune of 250 horsepower at 5600 RPM and 258 lb.ft of torque at a very accessible 2000 RPM. But Subaru didn’t just give it bigger balls. They equipped it with higher spring rates, low-friction dampers and a rear subframe – all of which make a difference in handling, ride and stability.

By the way, the XT’s turbo (as well as the 2.5i’s engine) will both run harm-free on regular fuel. Premium is recommended for the XT, but only to help it yield the full 250 horsepower. It drops a few horsepower with regular gas, but no harm will come to your engine.

engine bay

After a couple of instructions and an introduction to my Aussie-accent navigation guide, whom I named Audrey, I was on my way. By the way, Audrey sounds hot. The first half of the drive, while scenic and gorgeous, was a highway run for the most part. It allowed the Forester to stretch its legs, and it proved itself as a fantastic highway car. Planted at all speeds, riding very smoothly and comfortably and never allowing any big hits to make its way through to the cabin, it soaked up the miles with ease.

mountain drive sunset

The Forester XT’s interior catches up with the most current Subaru interiors. That is to say it has soft-touch plastics and smooth, simple lines. Is it pretty? Not a chance. It seems that Subaru is still willing to forego any real stretch into adventurous styling, sticking instead to the functional. Hey, it’s not a work of beauty, but it does everything really well.

dash wide

The heated, power-adjustable leather seats are comfortable, albeit a bit slippery. I’d also prefer a little more effective bolstering for sportier driving. The perforated leather looks good front and back, and sports some nice stitching.

front seats

This high trim came loaded. In the center of the dash is a hooded bin holding two small screens – one for the climate control system and a color driver information screen. Below that sits a touch-screen navigation/media system – feeding an excellent harman/kardon audio unit – and at the bottom, the dual-zone automatic climate control.

The bottom of the stack opens up to a very usable open storage area. The center console starts behind that, and houses the “gear” selector, a traditional parking brake, two cupholders and an armrest with storage underneath.

drivers view

The cabin always felt roomy for my 5’10” frame. The sunroof does eat into the headroom, but I still had plenty. The rear seats are very comfortable, although they lack any sort of bolstering whatsoever. Legroom is great, access is very good and there are two sets of LATCH connectors for kids’ seats. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders. Otherwise there’s not a lot going on. No adjustable air vents, 12V or 120V plugs. Nothing. That’s too bad, because it’s a bit spartan in terms of convenience and tech.

rear seats

The base engine feeds through a CVT or a manual transmission, the turbo only comes with the CVT.

Off the line, it jumps ahead but with the typical CVT smoothness – as with most engines that provide enough power, the CVT driving experience was excellent. The engine always had ample of power on tap, and that allowed the CVT to wind up when accelerating and quickly bring the revs down to within reason. I typically dislike CVTs with smaller, less powerful engines, because they will cause the transmission to hang up at higher RPMs and sit there and whine until you get to where you need to be. Not so here.

drive modes

Want to make things a bit more sporty? All the XT models (but not the normally-aspirated 2.5 Foresters) have three drive modes, selectable with buttons on the steering wheel. It starts in “i” mode, which is essentially normal driving/eco mode. To pick things up a notch, there’s Sport mode, which will sharpen the response a bit, and hold on to revs longer. Put the CVT into manual shift mode (using the gear selector or the shift paddles), and the CVT will simulate 6 gear ratios. Finally there’s the strangely-named Sport # (Sharp) mode. It tightens the car’s throttle response up even more, and reprograms the CVT to simulate 8 gear ratios. Manually shift through them, and it feels as though you have a high-performance 8-speed auto doing the work for you. It works really well.

green 2.5i forest

The halfway point from Nanaimo was Port Alberni, where we were instructed to take a break, and grab a coffee. A crew waiting for us topped up the fuel and handed us a Starbucks card. After a quick snack and caffeine infusion, we were back on the road.

green 2.5 at ocean

The second part of the trip was the interesting one. Twisty, undulating, meandering through the countryside. Often flying through hair-raising switchbacks and crazy off-camber, acute angle corners, it was an absolute blast! The Forester absolutely impressed me here. It’s a tall vehicle, and you’ll definitely find some body lean around those corners, and yes, you’ll feel the height. But it never felt like it was going to come unglued and it never felt very heavy. I was flying through some of those corners at speeds that were easily… well, let’s say probably illegal. Never once did the vehicle feel unsettled. It always came up with enough power, even up the steep climbs (thank goodness for passing lanes!) and the all-wheel drive system did a fantastic job making sure the front end grabbed, and the rear end kept up.

far bay

Speaking of the all-wheel drive system, it’s very, very good. Transparent during normal, dry road driving, the system uses active torque splitting and is very effective at shifting power to where it’s needed when things get a bit hairy.


The drive terminated in Ucluelet, a beautiful place that is far removed from civilization, yet offered us a ridiculous amount of civility. Because Subaru put us up at the stunning Black Rock Resort.

Black Rock Resort

Stunning because of the architecture, stunning because of the location and the views, stunning because of the hospitality and the incredible food. I highly recommend it, and I’m not sure what all the rooms are like, but mine was a 1-bedroom suite with a bathroom that is practically a spa, a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen – and a view to die for. That night, Subaru gathered us all in the Wine Cellar Room for a dinner that can only be described as exceptional.

sunrise sunset

The next morning, breakfast was served and followed by a classroom session where we learned more about the new generation of Forester, how it was developed and where Subaru was coming from as it approached the redesign. I found it interesting that the Honda CR-V was used as a reference point occasionally. Subaru is positioning the Forester as a true SUV. A quick walk-around of both models (which were parked beside the 2013 models for comparison) and we were off.


The new Forester offers EyeSight on the upper trim levels. This combines a lot of driver assistance tech into one package – pre-collision throttle management (to stop those pesky drives through store windows), pre-collision braking (to stop those pesky rear-end accidents that are your fault), lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

center stack

The morning was spent in the 2.5i paired with a new 6-speed manual transmission. This engine puts out 170 horsepower at 5800 RPM, and 174 lb.ft of torque at 4800 RPM. We were sent into the mountainous passes we came through on the way to Ucluelet. I wondered how the 2.5i with 80 fewer horsepower would do, but truthfully, I had just as much fun with it and the manual transmission as with the turbo XT and the CVT. The manual is slick, although not Honda slick, and the ratios suit the car well. It never felt underpowered, and the suspension, while feeling slightly less buttoned down than the Turbo’s, was very effective. It soaked up everything the highway threw at it, remaining comfortable at all times, and handling those corners with aplomb.

mountain driving

At lunch, we convened in Tofino, at the famous Wickaninnish Inn, where we were treated to lunch at The Pointe Restaurant. This location is sterling, to be sure, but nothing beats the views from the restaurant.

wickaninnish inn

It juts out over the surf – during storms, the waves splash on to the restaurant’s windows. The view of the surf is simply unparalleled, and the receptionist was overheard taking reservations for over a year in advance.

The Pointe view

After that, we got back on the highway toward Ucluelet, but took a turn onto a deserted road. Behind barricades sits a beautiful oceanside golf community called Wyndansea. It only got so far before the money ran out, and it’s in receivership now. 360 acres, sitting there. Doing nothing. Just waiting for some Subaru Foresters to come on a conquest. And they can. The 2014 Forester has 220 mm (8.7″) of ground clearance, more than any of its competitors.


It was a strange feeling, almost like a ghost town, driving down perfectly paved roads, complete with streetlights, hydrants, etc. Not a soul to be found. Except our guides from VDG (Vehicle Dynamics Group) that had set up several off-road courses to test out the Forester’s chops. There were gravel roads, up and down hills, tight corners, and a hill descent course where we tested out the X-Mode.


X-Mode is a low-speed (activated below 20 km/h, turns itself off over 40 km/h) off-road driving mode, switched on with a console-mounted button – it comes with all CVT-equipped models. It uses electronics to control brakes, engine, transmission, the all-wheel drive and the differentials to save your butt when you head off the beaten path. Letting the car do its own thing, and not touching the brake or the gas is a creepy sensation, but the car got it right every time, controlling every motion with the brakes and differentials.

hill descent


We also tested it on an incline with rollers under one side. We were first given a Hyundai Tucson to try it in, which had a very difficult time getting any grip whatsoever. The Forester quickly shifted all the torque to the side with wheels on the road, and got up the incline just fine.

incline test


Finally, there was a hill climb. If you’ve ever been off-road, this wouldn’t be that impressive, and is probably closer to soft-roading. But the incline was likely more significant than 99.9% of Foresters will ever see, and the substrate was gravel, and I was very impressed by the way X-Mode handled the ascent.

hill climb

After these adventures, it was time to call it a day and head back to the hotel, where we enjoyed dinner and some great company.

Friday morning came, and after breakfast, it was time to pack up our Foresters.

Foresters in front of hotel

A power liftgate is finally an option, and it’s activated on the dash, the tail gate itself or your key fob. The cargo capacity is large (974 litres), the opening is very accessible and the wheel wells don’t intrude into your space. Fold the 60/40 split rear seats down using small pull-up knobs (or the cool power-actuated seat release switches in the trunk), and you’re looking at a best-in-class 2115 litres. Nice.


Fuel economy ratings range from 8.3 L/100 km in the city and 6.2 L/100 km on the highway for the 2.5i with a CVT to 8.9 L.100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway for the XT. Truthfully, I never paid attention to what I achieved because this was about experiencing the car’s abilities over three days. The only time I checked was on the last day. Over the course of the 2 hour, 180 kilometer trip – through those same crazy mountain passes, hard on the go pedal, uphill (some 12% and 18% grades!) and often exceeding the speed limit by 30 km/h or more, as well as some more typical highway travel, I averaged around 11.5 L/100 km (20.5 mpg). This in the XT with the turbo. Not bad, considering how aggressively I was driving the entire time. The fuel tank holds 60 litres.


Once we got through Nanaimo and to the airport, we were all on our way home – wherever that was.

The Forester is important for Subaru. It represented 23% of their sales last year, and it embodies their key attributes of adventure and versatility, as well as safety and longevity. During the presentation, it was very clear that passenger safety is part of the Subaru brand DNA. They brought up a ton of little things that appear in the Forester. Many of them aren’t requirements, but were things that mattered to Subaru. Things like a wider back door sill, with a larger non-slip surface – for your kids. I appreciate details like that.

front:rear quarter

When can you get the 2014 Forester? It showed up at dealers while we were at the Test Drive event, so if this is your kind of ride, you can check them out right now. They start at $25,995 for the base 2.5i with a manual transmission, and go up to $37,995 for a maxed-out XT (including Navigation, EyeSight, and everything else). With freight and taxes, you’ll have a tough time getting much higher than 40 grand. Very competitive, considering what you get.

blue xt downhill

The Forester is absolutely MY kind of ride. Our family is considering ditching our much-loved Honda Odyssey van. We no longer need the extra space for a stroller, a playpen, or the multitude of other gamechangers that infants require. We want something that has tidier proportions, but is roomy enough for 5. We want something that offers plenty of cargo space for when we head to the cabin or the mountains. We want something that drives well in the city and on the highway, and gets reasonable fuel economy in both places. And we want something that will keep us safe, isn’t a complete drag to drive and will last us a long time. Pretty nasty checklist, no? It’s a tough one to satisfy. But I found myself liking almost everything about the new Forester, and being able to check off every need and want. And with Subaru keeping it under $40,000, it makes this vehicle a serious contender for anyone in the market, including my family. Not only would I recommend the new Forester, I’d also put my own money up. This could be the new Wildsau family ride. I’d go with a loaded-up white XT, thank you very much. Stay tuned…

Thank you kindly to our hosts from Subaru for the opportunity to check out the Forester, and for the amazing canvas of Vancouver Island they chose as the backdrop for this adventure. It was a great time, and they introduced a great revision to the Forester. Even if you can’t drive the 2014 Forester in a test drive event, make sure you add the island to your list of places to visit if you haven’t. It’s stunning, and offers so many unique things to see and do.

All pictures here are from this 3-day event.

I’ve done a full review on the 2014 Forester since this event – if you’re interested in checking that out, you’ll find it here.

white XT big tree

Disclosure: Subaru Canada paid for my airfare, accommodations, meals and fuel and provided the vehicles for this test drive event.

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out more of them under my vehicle reviews tab at the top of my blog.


blue XT on inlet


door ledge

side view mirror detail


upper center stack

white XT face


dead old growth forest




nightfall on the bay

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  1. Steven says

    Is the new Forester that much bigger / better than the Outback? It certainly appears to be more expensive.

  2. Mark says

    I like it! Big improvement over the outgoing model. I would also consider owning one of these, with the positive changes.

  3. Jennie P. says

    What a fun read! Thank you for sharing this adventure and for the really in-depth review on the Forester.

    We are considering one for our family and this answered more of our questions than all of our other research on the internet so far. You did a great job!!!

    • Santiago says

      No one ever bought a Subaru Forester for it’s looks, fortunately, because they are all pretty much the next bunch of random styling cues trying to look practical. People buy them because they smallish, practical, reasonably priced, have the flat engine and AWD, and a reputation for doing things a bit differently.

    • says

      Hey Mark – good question! I feel more comfortable assigning my out-of-10 rating (which is highly subjective as it is) after having spent a week living with the vehicle. That includes the actual calculation of fuel economy, trying it with the kids, shopping, parking, etc. Based on my three days with the Forester, I’d happily stick it with a solid 8 out of 10. It’s one of the best-designed and functional rides I’ve had in a while. Nothing fancier than it has to be. Everything works and it works well. That’s pretty rare.

  4. Andrew B. says

    Great review Tom…as I’m also a father of three kids, can you comment on the size of the backseat? Do you think three car seats can fit back there? I’m looking at narrower car seats models such as Clek and Diono to maximize my number of SUV options. I also have a Honda Odyssey, but I’m going to need to replace my 2006 Legacy GT wagon with something larger soon that can fit three car seats. The new Forester XT looks like it will be just the ticket with similar performance to my beloved Legacy GT.

    • says

      Thanks for dropping by, Andrew!

      I can’t comment in terms of kids’ seats and how they fit very accurately, because I couldn’t test that out on the island. If you’re a regular reader, you know I always comment on how well our kids and their seats fare during the week I have the vehicle, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to evaluate that.

      I would say the two outboard seating positions are perfect for any size seat, as is typical for most vehicles. The middle position IS pretty narrow, and only has a top-mount anchor, no LATCH connectors. I don’t think an infant seat or a booster would fit very well into the middle, if it was between two normal kid seats.

  5. Markus says

    I had read this a couple of days ago but I waited to post a comment until I drove the car. I have now had the chance to get behind the wheel. I agree with this entire article!!!

    I only drove the XT so I can not compare them two but it was very responsive as you say and the cvt was perhaps the best one I have driven. Similar to Nissan with big displacement engines the cvt did well and was not like a whining mess.

    Really a fun read (I have read it several times over now and am a little bit jealous of your job) and sounds like quite an adventure. Keep up the great work here and have fun!!!!!

  6. Glenn says

    Thanks, I enjoyed the review. We are perched on the same ledge that many small families seem to be on with regards to choosing from the 2014 Forester, 2013 Honda CRV, 2013 Toyota Rav4 and 2013 Ford Escape. Have you reviewed these other three models, and if so, which do you prefer?
    In my own test drives, I ranked them as follows: Forester, Escape, CRV, Rav4. While there was not a huge discrepancy separating 1st from 4th on my list, and each of the other vehicles had their strengths, I think I will be buying a Forester in the next month. The Escape had great styling but seemed a bit less roomy, the CRV drove well but has some questionable exterior styling, while the new Rav4 looks nice on the outside but I did not like the dash and found the ride to be a bit cheaper feeling (little rattles, lower ride).
    Anyway, before I make my final decision, do you have any input for me? I think that they are all pretty solid choices, but if by chance you have some other information to consider, I woudl be happy to take it into consideration.

    • says

      Hi Glenn:

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read the review.

      I have reviewed the 2013 Escape here and the 2012 CR-V (which remains unchanged for 2013) here

      I have had some time in the new Rav4 but haven’t run it through the normal Wildsau review week and I don’t feel qualified to include it in my response yet, but you are absolutely right to include it on your shopping list.

      I would rank the vehicles in the same way and had the same reservations as you did. I’m pretty big on interior space and storage solutions and found the Escape coming up short in both departments. Also, I had the 2.0-L EcoBoost which was fantastic in terms of fun, but terrifying at the gas pumps. Brutal fuel economy. I’ve driven the 1.6-L EcoBoost – it’s cheaper and offers plenty of power and better economy.

      The CR-V did most things right from a utility perspective. Very roomy, including the back seat, and great storage options throughout the vehicle. I wasn’t smitten with the styling either, but with that said, nothing in this category is gorgeous.

      But overall, the Forester beats the others hands-down. I know my review came across as glowing but I can honestly say it’s one of the few cars that left me wanting for more time with it and that it’s one I’m seriously considering trading our mini-van in for. I loved it and can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with the purchase of a 2014 Forester, regardless of trim level.

      Good luck with your decision – I’d love to hear what you end up with when you make your decision.

  7. Cynthia says

    This review is so helpful. I currently drive a 2010 Honda O van but am tired of driving it and as a mother of a 10 and 13 yr old, I don’t think I need quite this much storage space anymore. However, with hockey bags, carpooling and dogs, I am not sure I can quite give up the cargo space. I have been losing sleep over trying to decide of going from a van to a Forester will be too much of a change but your review has made me 99% sure it will be a good move. One question – have you test driven the new 7 seat Hyundai Sante Fe as well as Toyota Hylander and how would you compare to Forester? I know these are both mid size suv as opposed to small but I am curious as to whether you have opinions on these compared to Forester.

    • says

      Thanks for dropping by for a read and for your feedback, Cynthia!

      I have not driven the new Santa Fe XL yet, but I just reviewed a Toyota Highlander a couple of weeks ago. The Highlander was a 2013, which felt old inside and out. But the new 2014 was just unveiled and it certainly steps up the game. My opinion is that I would still prefer the Forester to both, as it is more car than SUV – even though Subaru positions it as an SUV. I loved the way it drove and felt in every situation, and I strongly doubt I’ll feel that way about the larger Santa Fe or the new, updated Highlander.

      Good luck with that decision – sounds like we’re in the same boat.

  8. KiwiBri says

    Thank you so much for this review. Do you ask Subaru why the lack of a 6MT on the XT model? Lack of demand?
    I like the front end on the XT model. Hard to tell with the 2.5i model – not enough photos of it – maybe in real life it will look better.

  9. KiwiBri says

    just a note to anyone reading US reviews of this vehicle. I have seen that the US models have differernt trim options compared to the Canadian versions. Ie. 6MT model AND a Sunroof cannot be found in the US where it can be here, US base models have black coloured side mirrors and Canadian have body colour matched ones.

    Also the US model 2.5i CVT models dont have the toggle shifters.

  10. J says

    Great Review.

    I just got an XT limited a few weeks ago. First timei with Subaru Amazing choice. Could not be happier. Small family but still wanted some fun to drive. Looked at Rav4, CR-V, Santa Fe, Sorento, CX-5 and Escape. In the end, I was left with the Santa Fe (2.0 turbo) and the Forester but…once you drive the Forester, there is no coming back. I also test drived the 2.5 with the CVT. Very honest option but… look at the current offers if you are interested leasing. The XT was actually cheaper in March !! Again, very happy new owner here.

    • KiwiBri says

      Hey J,
      what did you think of the 2.5? Did it drive ok?
      Are you using Regular or Premium in the XT?

      I’m hoping to test drive in the coming weeks.. probably be a toss up with RAV4 though. The paddle shifter thing sounds interesting. I have always had Manual transmission for smaller cars, and my old Mazda Tribute Truck is fine with an Auto. Not sure where the Forester would fit.. Trying to convince myself the paddle shifters would work ok.. I would get the 6MT but you cant get that in leather trim :(

      Also nice to get the HIDs with LEDs 😉 😉

      • J says

        Hi KiwiBri,

        Honestly, the 2.5 was really honest. Had I not tried the XT, it would have been fair game…but the XT is too much fun to pass on ! I guess is also depends on the topography where you live. Quite a few hills around here so the 2.5 would tend to rev a bit too high for my liking.

        I tried both regular and Premium (almost emptying completely in between) just for sake of a little home test. Did not see a huge difference. Probably slightly partial to premium…because it is not a blinded test. But that makes no difference in picking 2.5 vs XT I think. And they say the regular is completely safe so I think I will go this way 3 out of 4 times.

        I tried the new RAV4. Could never go with the old lateral trunk door but the new one seemed quite nice. Not a bad car by any stretch of imagination, but in terms of both performance (even with the 2.5) and interior, I would go with the Forester. And frankly, the fact that the power is at least 60/40 (with the CVT) all the time makes a difference in handling I think. For that reason, or another, I found it more satisfactory in the Forester.

        Paddle shifts are fun. The CVT is excellent in the XT trim (I think it is a bit different than the 2.5). Very responsive. And with the sport# mode, lots of fun to drive. You can even forget it is a CVT (as it mimicks an 8 speed auto…and quite well).

        As for the look…well, lets say this was a little treat from me, to me :-)

        • KiwiBri says

          Thanks for the reply and information. With the price of Premium gas here in Ontario being so high, running on regular is nice… with a loss of some HP (though not sure how much). I started putting together our “wish list” for features on a spreadsheet and have listed the vehicles I plant to check out in the next couple months. Rav4 (2013), Sorento (2011-2013) , Santa Fe (2011-2013) and the Forester (2014)
          Its interesting – we want a sunroof AND roof-rails as we would end up getting a cargo box for ski trips and camping etc. The Sorento & Santa Fe only come in a Sunroof/Roofrail combo in the V6 models.
          Oh, and if anyone has not found this, here is a link to a TON of info on the new Forester:

          • J says

            I ended with a similar list.

            Not sure about the sunroof, but I would probably add the CRV in the mix if you consider the RAV4. I had more fun driving the CRV. My tall so the driving position was not ideal for me but it might be worth a try. My 2 cents :-)

  11. Chris says

    I am a Honda employee and I just bought a new 2012 Accord last year… I owned a Subaru Forester before and really thinking on trading in the yr old Accord for the new Forester. Your review just quite possibly made up my mind to go visit a dealership and see what can be done.

  12. James says

    I think you’re wrong about this part – “All but the base Foresters have three drive modes, selectable with buttons on the steering wheel”.

    I think that is only available on the XTs. NA versions only have D or Low. Or is this different in Canada?

    • says

      We’re both right, but thanks for pointing out that my wording can be misinterpreted. I’ll change it. By “base Foresters” I meant the NA non-XTs as you said.

      Appreciate the feedback and the help to make my write-up more clear. Thanks!

      • James says

        I agree. Nomenclature can be misleading.

        Here base is a trim level – base – premium – limited – touring etc. Otherwise it’s pretty much 2.5 or NA / XT or Turbo.

  13. James says

    I’m sorry. I also meant to tell you that this was a great review. I already own the 2014 XT Touring and still found your review very interesting. Nice Job!

      • James says

        I’m close to 500 miles now so I haven’t really let it rip yet while I break it in. I had one tank from the dealer and I put in a tank full of Premium. Premium here is just 20 c more than regular so I’ll stick with it.

        I absolutely love the car. I tested both the NA and the XT and the XT is a whole different beast. Its more responsive in every way – the CVT, acceleration, handling etc. They’ve just got it right! I’m switching to a CVT from a Manual Impreza and I’m not bored :) that should tell you enough.

        Right now with fairly conservative break-in driving, (under 25% acceleration on the readout) I get around 24-25 city, 30 Highway. But in my opinion, Subarus always deliver more than they estimate in mpg if you take care of your car and drive them well. My 08 manual Impreza used to give me 36 highway.

        Hope this helps and feel free to ask me more questions.

  14. Bob Helder says

    Oh my goodness! This sure looks like an incredible trip and in the right car no less.

    Definitely sold on the new Forester as it has brought the improvements we have been waiting for. thanks for the post!

  15. Rick Mallett says

    I currently drive a 98 Forester that is overdue for replacement and I’m looking to buy a 2014 Forester in the next couple of months. The 98 has a manual transmission and I had intended to buy a 2014 with a manual transmission until I noticed that fuel economy is much better with the CVT. What do you think? Should I switch to an automatic? Would I be disappointed in the responsiveness of the vehicle? What would you do if you had the same choice to make?

    • says

      Hi Rick – that’s a great question, and you’re going to get a bit of a loaded answer.

      If you enjoy the control afforded to you by a manual transmission, you’ll be giving some of that up with an automatic. Even more so with a CVT. The responsiveness will simply not be the same, but there are a couple of caveats. The responsiveness of Subaru’s CVT in the Forester is impressive, and if you’re getting the XT, you’ll have further control by being able to “shift” it manually into pre-programmed ratios that simulate gears. That might sound goofy, but it’s actually very effective and in this application, quicker than many traditional manually-shifted automatics. My recommendation is to take a CVT Forester out for a spin and see how you feel about it.

      As for me, I’d buy the CVT-equipped XT as I quite enjoyed the 6 or 8 speed ratios and I didn’t mind it all in normal driving mode either. Good luck making your decision – I’d love to hear what you end up with!

      • Glenn says

        I bought a 2014 Forester in March and love it. I bought the manual touring model, and find it just about perfect for my family of 4. If I had my druthers, I would have liked the HK stereo system, but have no complaints with the standard audio system, which is actually a step up from the system on my last car, an Impreza. I like the idea of the XT, but not at the expense of a standard transmission, even with the slightly better mileage afforded by the cvt. Mileage on the standard runs about 7.8 average per 100 km, which his better than my 2006 manual Impreza, an impressive feat give the big increase in size to the new Forester. The touring model is very well equipped, and I am very pleased I could get such a vehicle in stick shift, an option that doesn’t seem to exist in similarly equipped vehicles.
        I am sure I would have liked the extra Zip of the XT, but I am not sure that I need it, as my forester is more than adequate for my needs. Good luck with your choice! I really don’t think you can go wrong either way.

  16. KiwiBri says

    Tom, did you end up upgrading your family vehicle to the Forester? Summer has been busy and we never got around to test driving. Its nearly time now to choose a new family vehicle and I’m considering the Forester, The Sorento and the Sante Fe Sport. Forester may not have the bells and whistles but it seems to check off a lot of the requirements. Where can I find out about reliability ? Are Subaru’s more expensive to maintain than any other car?
    Hows gas mileage?
    oh man.. any other readers with similar questions?

    • says

      Hey KiwiBri – I haven’t ended up with a new vehicle to date. I think all three vehicles on your list are excellent choices, and compete fairly with each other. You’re right – the Forester might come across as a bit lacking in terms of techi-ness, but it does, in fact, have anything anyone would ever want or need. Historically, Subarus, Foresters in particular, are extraordinarily reliable and I have no reason to believe the new Forester would be anything but that.

      I can’t really answer the overall fuel economy question, because I only had a week with the car I reviewed a few months after I went to this launch – but feel free to check it out and see how I did after a solid week of actually living with it – the review is at

      I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Forester and have done exactly that with a number of our friends, several of whom have bought the new Forester – all of whom are excited about it and love it. Good luck with your decision!

      • KiwiBri says

        Tom, thanks for the reminder of that article. I totally forgot about that one. I actually did read it and posted comments when you first published it. Interesting to see your note re: Sante Fe vs Sorento, and the preference of the ’14 Sorento over the ’13. I guess I’ll be out test driving a few vehicles soon. It will be interesting to see what Toyota will do with the 2014 Highlander too.. agh! so many options.. lol!

  17. Yoshi Hashimoto says

    I found the reviews and replies very helpful as I am in the market for a new small SUV. All reports I have read elsewhere also agree on the Forester being a great car. I would be looking at buying a 2015 model. I notice that there has been no mention of a back-up camera on any model. Will there be options for it on 2015 models?

    Thank you

    • says

      Hi Yoshi – a rear-view camera is certainly available on the Forester. It has been since the 2014 came out. Sorry that I didn’t mention that in my review. Let us know if you go ahead with a Forester. You won’t regret it.

      • Glenn Austen says

        FYI, I purchased the Touring model 2014 Forester with manual transmission about a year and a half ago. I love it, and feel it has a number of outstanding attributes that elevate it above its competition such as Honda CRV and Rav4 namely, outstanding visibility, AWD, simple but attractive styling, and a fun to drive factor that the others lack.

        I do have one MAJOR caveat, however, for purchasers wishing to choose Subaru, and that is abnormally high levels of oil consumption. Unfortunately, after going through oil like crazy (a litre every 1000 km) and then having to undergo a number of oil consumption tests at the dealership, it was determined that my short block engine would have to be replaced. My forester is currently at the dealership for this purpose. Thankfully it is all under warranty (just over 60,000 km on car), although some online research indicates that this is not an isolated issue, and I am worried that the fix may not result in favourable results over time., as a number of Subaru models seem to have this issue.

        The oil consumption issue aside, I love the car – but I thought potential buyers should get the heads up. Hopefully the fix works. If not, I will be hard pressed to buy another Subaru, and will likely go elsewhere for my next purchase.


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