I’ve been testing Subarus for the better part of a decade now. Definitely not as long as some (read: Old Man St-Pierre), but long enough to know what I like or dislike about the brand, and also long enough to see the progression and evolution of their core products; namely the Impreza, Forester, and Outback.
The key there is that each of those core products has evolved over the years, and for the better. From technological additions to new styling and dynamic driving modes, modern Subarus are loaded with everything set to make an owner’s life on the road with them that much more pleasant and enjoyable.
So, what about the brand new 2016 Subaru Forester? While I wasn’t privy to the off-road drive in Eastern Canada like some of my colleagues, I still had the chance to experience the Forester in a way I can only assume 95% of its buyers will; in the city and in everyday life.
Off-road-ability for everyday life
It’s clear the Forester’s main appeal is its ability to tackle pretty much any road and any driving surface. Whether you’re clambering through forest paths or traversing muddy gravel pit roads or just popping to the corner store down the street on a Sunday afternoon, the Forester’s got you covered.
The reason behind that all-access ability? Well, it’s largely due to the 2016 Forester’s ride height which is 220mm, and of course Subaru’s renowned symmetrical AWD system. The Forester also features a solid chassis that’s reinforced and coupled with a long-travel fully independent suspension and a wide track -- all outfitted for maximum ground clearance and handling on uneven, rough surfaces. Introduced a few years ago, the Forester now sports an X-Mode (only available on models with CVT like my tester) that enhances the AWD system further, controlling your journey through uneven territory via hill descent control as well as hill hold, while also monitoring the transmission, engine and braking.
It’s a pretty cool system, and one I wished I’d had the chance to play with more, but truthfully dry, level underground parking garages just weren’t the right place to test it out…
That’s the other side of owning a 2016 Subaru Forester: most of the driving and “adventuring” the average family will do with the crossover will be limited to smoothly paved roads and speeds under 100km/hr. That’s not a bad thing, just a shame that the Forester won’t ever get to show its full potential -- of which it has masses.
Another redeeming quality in the 2016 Subaru Forester is something we’ve all become very familiar with over the years, as well: Subaru’s BOXER engine. My particular tester featured the 2.5L 4-cylinder mill good for 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque.
I’ve driven this engine quite a few times in various Subaru products, and it never fails to impress. Coupled with a Lineatronic CVT that’s actually quite good, the engine and transmission work together to transfer torque to the back wheels under heavy acceleration or when slippage occurs. Shifts can be simulated via steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, but I was content in letting the Forester sort its own transmission out, it’s that good.
I’m not a fan of CVTs (I don’t think any auto journalist is), but the Subaru version is tolerable and anyone purchasing a 2016 Subaru Forester will not bat an eyelash at the setup, in fact they’ll likely really enjoy it.
Of course, the turbocharged version of the 2016 Subaru Forester offers up more power and torque, however, if I was in the market for this particular Subie, I think I’d spring for the 2.5L, it’s that good. Easy to manipulate and easy on gas (9.6L/100km city and 7.5L/100km highway), the Forester’s 2.5L is the ideal engine combined with the CVT (however, there is a 6-speed manual available should you want to row your own gears).
Room to grow and adventure
Of course, another huge selling feature of the 2016 Subaru Forester is the gobs of interior space it boasts. If you’re interested in the Forester because you’re an outdoorsy adventurer, then you’ve chosen correctly. With 974 litres of cargo space (seats up, with seats down that increases to 2,115 litres), the world truly is your oyster when it comes to packing up whatever you need and hitting the open road (even if that road is covered in rocks and ruts that need to be maneuvered).
My son’s child seat fit easily in the back, and I can attest that even with that in the rear seat, two week’s worth of luggage from European visitors fit easily in the trunk, as did the passengers who came with it.
The 2016 Subaru Forester is a highly practical crossover, make no mistake about it. I’ve come to really appreciate it and all its nuances. Sure, it’s not the flashiest looking of the bunch, but it just might be the most utilitarian. And really its look is classic and rather manly, which is highly appealing in the segment.
With a starting price in the $26k range, the 2016 Subaru Forester isn’t cheap, but it comes with so many standard features that you’ll likely not add too many extras and still walk away with a really well equipped and highly capable all-weather, all-year vehicle that’ll keep you smiling behind the wheel and you and your family safe.