As a brand, Subaru has been around for some time. In fact, as a manufacturer, a few years back they were, by volume, the 22nd largest automaker in the world. Outside of the obvious ones, did you even imagine that there are more than 22?
We digress. A popular alternative to more mainstream SUV-type vehicles, the Subaru Forester has quite the history. In fact, with the 2017 model year, this is the 20th anniversary of the Forester in Subaru’s lineup. Some might refer to this auto as more of a wagon-type configuration, others, not so much. Whatever descriptive nomenclature you call this capable all-wheel drive vehicle really does not matter.
The 2017 model we drove for a week was the Forester 2.5i Limited with the Technology Package option. Technically, this model year is a mid-cycle refresh that has undergone some cosmetic tweaks—especially to the exterior, including a new-look grill, upscale LED daytime running lights, and tail lights.
This chameleon-like vehicle looks more refined and, to whomever is behind the wheel, will adapt quickly to their driving style and acquit itself admirably—even, heaven forbid, one decides to take it off road—not a Baja trail, but an aggressive cottage road, and they will be suitably impressed. The interior looks improved, feel a little more refined with better fit and more quality, softer materials and a charming almost quirky saddle brown upholstery, and a new-look heated steering wheel.
Subaru has also seen fit to add supplementary undercarriage and body panel insulation, as well as thicker glass, to assist in the reduction of often annoying cabin noise to a trifling amount. It’s impressively quiet despite the full-time all-wheel drive.
Even More Safety Features are Included
What is likely most interesting, from a safety and accident prevention aspect to the average driver, is the notable addition of the third-generation version of Subaru’s EyeSight® driver assist suite. This “package” is a welcome addition to this vehicle. Including, but not limited to, pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, pre-collision throttle management, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane sway warning, steering responsive headlights, and lane keep assist. EyeSight has evolved into one of the best-rounded safety packages on the non-premium market today.
Let’s put some of this into perspective: the reverse automatic braking system works in the same manner as forward collision braking—with one significant difference: it’s geared toward low-speed scenarios such as backing out of your driveway. How many times have you politely asked your kids to move their toys or bikes from the driveway or pleaded with your better half to bring in the trash cans on garbage day? Rhetorical questions, but you’ll soon understand. In the event a bicycle or garbage can is left at the bottom of the driveway, the EyeSight system will audibly alert the driver as the vehicle reverses. If nothing is done to avoid the obstacle, EyeSight will intervene by applying the brakes to bring the Forester to a jarring halt. And it all happens in an instant!
Care to Venture Off the Beaten Track?
This Forester puts power down through full-time all-wheel drive in typical Subaru fashion, ready to handle what the environment or even an adventurous owner might determine is appropriate.
Having made that statement, it’s highly unlikely the average Forester owner is going to venture off into the woods in their daily-driven vehicle. But unlike the competition, the Forester is more than happy to oblige should the occasion arise. Those few drivers who might venture off-road in Foresters being in the lower percentile, will surely appreciate that Subaru’s X-Mode traction system and hill-descent control are now standard on CVT-equipped Premium, Limited, and Touring models. To be clear, we’re not talking about a lifted Jeep Rubicon and disconnected sway bars, but, for an everyday, family-type hauler, the Subaru Forester can and will acquit itself without embarrassment under almost any road conditions. And, relatively speaking in an affordable package too.
As great as the Forester is off the road, to be sure it’s equally adept on it. In spite of appearances (deceiving, aren’t they?), the Forester is more sedan than sport utility vehicle when it’s back on regular black-top road surfaces. It’s not overly “tippy”, and the chassis and suspension are just tight enough and responsive. Plus, the steering feels comfortable, is nicely weighted and doesn’t feel loose.
A Vehicle Which Will Earn Your Respect
With the 2.5 L engine under the hood and the continuously variable transmission (CVT) supervising the engine’s power unobtrusively, like a general commands his troops, the Forester handles passing maneuvers with ease, and doesn’t suffer from much of the dreaded motor boat effect often typically associated with CVTs. In fact even though a CVT is an inexpensive option to manufacture as far as automatic transmissions go this is one that is not annoying.
So, is the 2017 Subaru Forester for you and your family? That’s a decision only you can make. But, should you determine that a Subaru in your driveway would be a welcome addition, it is likely you will have few, if any regrets. This is a capable, economical vehicle which will earn your respect and trust, should you make the determination you must have one. And remember, Subarus, more than almost any other vehicle, hold their value and are hard to find in the pre-owned selling arena. Why? Families like and enjoy them so much, they tend to be passed down, like an heirloom or an inheritance.
Body Style: Compact crossover utility vehicle
Drive Method: Front-engine, with Subaru symmetrical AWD
Engine: 2.5 L dual overhead cam (DOHC) 4-cylinder Boxer, 170 hp, 174 lb-ft of torque
Cargo Capacity: 1,940 L, 34.4 cu ft with rear seats upright, 74.7 cu ft with them folded
Fuel Economy: 8.4 L/100 km combined, 9.2/7.4 L/100 km city/highway
*Includes freight and PDI. HST extra
David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie, Ontario who is fascinated by innovation and technology which enhance the overall driving experience. He’s also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @Omemeeozzie or on Instagram @hugoscaroftheweek.