Four generations of Subaru Foresters have all adhered to the same basic design you see here in this inexpensive all-wheel-drive box. Like all Subarus, the Forester is powered by a “boxer” engine, in this case either a 250-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 170-hp 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four. (This boxer/flat design, also employed by Porsche, orients each bank of cylinders parallel to the ground, 180 degrees opposite the other, with the advantage of reducing the engine’s height, and thus the car’s center of gravity.)
Subaru equips the Forester with standard all-wheel drive, and while lower trim levels of the 2.5-liter come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is used in the pricier models—including every turbocharged version. The Forester is the veteran of a crowded compact-crossover field that also includes the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5, and the Ford Escape.
The Forester’s best attribute is its outstanding all-wheel-drive system. Drivers in particularly snowy parts of the country have long favored Subarus, and we are consistently impressed with how well a Forester with appropriate tires gets moving in low-grip conditions. The Forester’s roomy greenhouse offers an impressive view of the world outside, especially when equipped with the large two-panel sunroof. Outward visibility is a boon to safe maneuvering, while letting in more sunshine—often in short supply in regions where Subarus traditionally proliferate—which can improve the driver’s mood.
The downside of this car is its CVT which is the top technologies to avoid when shopping for the next car. It saps throttle response and causes the engine to drone under acceleration. You need to go for the priciest 2.0XT turbocharged model to get a more palatable CVT with simulated stepped-gear programming and shift paddles to give the driver more control. Worse, Subaru drives us crazy by offering a manual transmission but refusing to let buyers who choose it pick the most desirable options.