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2014 Subaru Forester First Impressions

New-Generation Forester Stays True to Form By ,

Ucluelet, British Columbia -- The new-generation 2014 Subaru Forester is a pragmatic evolution of a pragmatic vehicle. So, why are we smiling so much behind the wheel?

Well, for starters, this piece of tarmac on Vancouver Island is a zinger of a driving road -- and not too shabby to look at either, snaking as it does around mountains, lakes and big trees, and such.

Secondly, at this particular moment we happen to be piloting a Forester XT which means there is a 2.0L direct-injection twin-scroll turbocharged “four” under the hood, good for a very lusty 250 horses and 258 torques.

New XT transmission
There is only one transmission option for the 2014 Subaru Forester XT, a “High Torque” CVT (that means no manual). The CVT features paddle shifters, and three driver-selectable modes (SI-DRIVE): Intelligent (default mode); Sport (for higher engine revs, easier “kickdowns” and six “simulated” gears); and Sport Sharp (for even sharper throttle response and 8 “simulated” gears).

The all-new 2014 Subaru Forester XT sports a different front and rear fascia with blackened headlights that make it visually stand apart from its brethren. And no turbo hood scoop this time around.

The Forester’s new body design was constructed with driving in mind, and the top-end model furthers the body’s handling potential with upgraded suspension tuning, 18” wheels, and bigger brakes.

New XT turbocharged engine
The other 2014 Subaru Forester models feature the carryover 170-hp 2.5L “four” mated to a CVT (however, not the “High Torque” one used in XT) or a new 6-speed manual transmission.

Subaru Canada’s Ted Lalka, VP Marketing and Product Planning, noted that offering a manual transmission is a bit part of the Forester’s DNA.

“Forester owners are not choosing the manual transmission because it is less expensive,” says Lalka. “They’re buying it because that’s what they want. They enjoy a manual transmission.”

We found said transmission in the 2014 Subaru Forester to be excellent. It’s easy to shift and well matched to the 2.5L engine.

The 2.5’s CVT works perfectly fine, as well, even though I would probably prefer a conventional automatic. Throttle tip-in was a touch abrupt.

Subaru said journalists always complain about CVTs, even though consumers seem happy with them. Well, if we do complain, it’s usually about how slowly engine revs build under mild acceleration (creating a droning, unpleasant sound), and their inability to inspire a lively driving feel.

Well, the Sport Sharp mode in the 2014 Subaru Forester XT’s CVT is particularly good at being un-CVT-like -- and good, clean fun to boot.

All 2014 Forester models had no problem being hustled through fast sweepers and tight apexes. They have a comfortable, unflappable feel, with little body lean. Some credit has to go to an enhanced symmetrical AWD system, which now adjusts to more inputs, including steering wheel angle, yaw rate, and throttle positioning.

Adding to the driving experience is a new higher hip height for the front seats, and great outward visibility.

More SUV, less crossover
Owners apparently dig the bigger, SUV-like vibe of the current generation Forester versus the more wagon-ish look of the original model. So, we get more SUV overtones with this 2014 model, including a higher front hood (which is kind of ironic, considering Subaru’s flat-four engine sits nice and low in the engine bay).

Lalka noted that the 2014 Subaru Forester is committed to the hardy disposition of an old-school SUV, while most competitors are “getting soft” and more car-like.

To that end, Subaru has given us “X-mode.” Working on speeds below 40 km/h, X-mode optimizes throttle and AWD settings to make the Forester one of the more capable off-roaders in its segment. For one thing, you get a hill descent feature which we tried and can attest to its effectiveness.

Cabin corrections
As we mentioned earlier, Subaru created this generation Forester by refining the formula, not reinventing it. Engineers focused on things consumers said needed improving. For example, the interior is more spacious and upgraded, especially in the rear where you will find better egress, more knee room, and more child-friendly centre cup holders.

Cargo utility is furthered by rear seats that fold forward with the flick of a switch, and there is a new optional power tailgate.

There’s more to the 2014 Subaru Forester story than we have time and room for here, but we’ll get our hands on test vehicles soon enough. In the meantime, consider the Forester's excellent projected fuel economy numbers: 8.8L/100km (highway-city combined) for 2.5i models, and 9.8L/100km for the XT.

The base Forester starts at $25,995. XT models start at $32,495.

 

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    2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
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    2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring
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