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2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 2: Of Buttons and Murmurs

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Auto123 puts to the (long-term) test the 2021 Subaru Forester. Today, part 2.

See also:  2021 Subaru Forester Long-Term Review, Part 1 : The Origin Story

Now that you know all there is to know about the origins of the Subaru brand and its Forester model, what say we start her up?

The 2021 Forester comes in six different flavours: the base model, Convenience, Touring (our test model), Sport, Limited and Premier. And all of them save for the entry model with its $28,995 MSRP have dispatched with the old-fashioned key concept in favour or a push-button. Although before you can push it, you need to find it – something that requires a little bending of the head to the right, to peek behind the steering wheel. Ah, there you are!

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2021 Subaru Forester, interior (note hidden start button)
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, interior (note hidden start button)

Where’s Waldo (the Button)?
I don’t want to exaggerate – you won’t earn yourself a herniated disc trying to spot the thing – but in terms of ergonomics the button’s placement doesn’t score very high. One shouldn’t really have to search for even for a second to spot the doohickey that gets one’s chariot moving. I would suggest the industry come together and agree on placing that button in the same spot in every vehicle. Somewhere nice and visible, either in the middle of the dashboard or else – my personal choice – flat down on the lower part of the console.

Frankly that seems to me the ideal location for such a crucial component. Plus, as a bonus it would allow delusional folks like me to more easily pretend we’re Top Gun Pete Maverick Mitchell at the commands of his fighter plane.

In fact, some automakers seem to have already understood this. I’m thinking of Volvo’s crystal knob, or the glass one Aston Martin sticks in its vehicles. Or how about the red – and prominently placed – red toggle switch Mini has in its cars? Lamborghini took things a step further, covering the start button with a cover (red, of course) that driver has to lift up before they can actually push the button that brings the engine to life. Just like a nuclear missile!

2021 Subaru Forester, push-button
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, push-button

In total contrast, there’s Tesla, which never does things like anyone else; it has gotten rid of the ritual of starting the car altogether. As long as you have the fob on you (and it could be your smartphone), the car sets itself automatically in On mode. I suspect that one day all automakers will copy Elon’s innovative template in some fashion.

But until then, I do agree with you that placing a crystal knob in a Subaru is kind of like suspending a Louis XIV chandelier in the backyard tool shed. It would seem kind of overkill in a vehicle that delivers all of 182 hp from its 2.5L flat 4-cylinder engine.

Much more practical, dear carmaker, would be a start button that’s immediately visible to the user.

Murmurs
And God knows that practical is a prime adjective when speaking of the Forester, a Sport Utility Vehicle after all.

A vehicle? Yes! Utilitarian? Yup. But Sport? Not so much. For the most part, the Sport part of the Sport Utility Vehicle designation is simply a misnomer. Although there are exceptions – I would never say of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S that it isn’t sporty.

2021 Subaru Forester, engine
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, engine

The Forester is no Cayenne. And that’s obvious once you’ve found the start button and pushed it. Let’s just say the sound of the boxer engine will never be mistaken for the engine of an F1 car; it’s more akin to what you get from a tractor in the middle of a wheat field.

OK, I’m exaggerating. Maybe that was the case a few years ago, but today it simply doesn’t apply. In any case, saying that flat engines are good only for traversing farmers’ fields is just false, inexcusable even. After all, Ferrari long used boxer engines, and Porsche still does. Nobody would be so foolish as to dub their vehicles apt only for ploughing.

The particular tonality of the Forester’s engine comes from the fact that its exhaust manifolds are not of equal length. The discrepancy is what causes the distinctive raspy borborygmas. This grumpy purr tends to invade the cabin when cold starting, and then softens.

Personally, I like the way the Forester sounds when running. It sounds rugged and reassuring to me. And once the engine is up and properly running, the vehicle doesn’t sound like a grumpy passenger forced to sit at your side. Over the years, Subaru has instilled good manners in it by not skimping on sound-absorbing materials, making the vehicle relatively quiet on the road.

2021 Subaru Forester, front
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, front

Later on, we’ll have occasion to circle back on the topic of the Forester’s “sportiness” – the S in SUV. First, however, happenstance made that I’m going focus on the utility aspect of the model. The U.

Why is that? Because less than 10 minutes after pushing that start button in the Forester for the first time, I found myself in the parking lot of an IKEA. My better half wanted a new set of furniture for her new home office, and she had one question for me: “Will it all fit?”

Stay tuned for the big finale of that story in my next chapter of my long-term Forester review. I can’t get into it now because I want to keep the suspense, but also because I promised my Auto123 overlords I’d keep my chapters short. Wouldn’t want to put you all to sleep…

So stay tuned.

2021 Subaru Forester, three-quarters rear
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, three-quarters rear
2021 Subaru Forester, doors and htach open
Photo: M.Crépault
2021 Subaru Forester, doors and htach open