Despite being 6 years old, the outgoing Subaru Forester is still a Cars.com Best Bet. Naturally, we had high hopes for the redesigned model that debuted at January’s Detroit auto show. Subaru invited journalists to Southern California to put the SUV through its paces on- and off-road, and I can attest that the updates keep it as competitive as ever.
The engines — a regular or turbocharged four-cylinder — carry over with few changes. What’s improved is the highway experience: Efforts to quiet the cabin have paid off, and at 65 mph the Forester seems on par with most small SUVs for road and wind noise. That isn’t something I could say about the previous model.
Subaru says the vast majority of Forester buyers will get the non-turbo engine, and I can see why. Its 170 hp moves the SUV to highway speeds with acceptable oomph, especially with the smooth-shifting manual transmission. I actually preferred that engine’s gradual whine to the turbo’s choppy roar. The turbo engine’s extra grunt (224 hp worth) moves the Forester with authority, but its power comes and goes in patches. Prod the gas on the highway enough to prompt the automatic to downshift, and the SUV surges forward. Putter around town with anything short of concerted acceleration, and the extra power never feels apparent.