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CultureMap Auto Report

Redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester delivers: Popular crossover vehicle gets a fresh new look

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The 2014 Subaru Forester was an excellent companion for traveling to the 2014 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.   Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The cargo area of the Forester can serve as a temperary mobile office. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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SH-130 connects Circuit of the Americas with I-10 and has a speed limit of 85 mph. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Wheels are 18 inches all around. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The XT model comes in Premium and Touring trim levels. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Forester earned a five-star rating in the NHTSA crash test.  Photo by Kevin McCauley
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We saw just over 23 miles per gallon. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The on-site parking pass for the USGP. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The interior offers great outward visibility. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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This color is called Venetian Red Pearl. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Bastrop is still recovering from the devastating fires that hit the region in 2011. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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Subaru is known for being quirky, as well as all-wheel drive. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The 2014 model looks more rugged than last year's model. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Forester can seat five comfortably. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Forester is Subaru's best selling model. Photo by Kevin McCauley
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The Forester is Subaru's compact crossover, and also happens to be Subaru's best-selling model. For 2014 it's been redesigned to be a bit more spacious and more efficient without losing the sporty character that the Forester has always managed to have. We loved it at the TAWA Texas Truck Rodeo in October, so to find out what it's like to live with day-to-day, we drove it to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

 
What's under the hood?
The 2.0XT model comes with a 2-liter, direct-injected, horizontally-opposed four that's also in the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S — only now it's been turbocharged and produces 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission that has eight "gear" presets, selectable through paddles behind the steering wheel.
 
Observations
Driving 
The torquey engine and composed, confidence-inspiring ride quality make the 3,650-pound Forester 2.0XT feel surprisingly light on its feet. It simply feels more capable and more energetic than other compact crossovers.
 
Styling
Subarus typically aren't pretty, and the Forester makes no real efforts to buck that trend. It's gotten bulkier and more angry-looking, in an attempt to firmly dispel the "cute-ute" perception that often dogs the compact crossover segment. No one would call this CUV “cute,” so, …success?
 
Comfort
The cloth seats in our Forester were not particularly comfortable — they almost felt like they were actively pushing me out of the seat. The rest of the cabin is fine, and the raised seating position itself is very good.
 
Utility
The slightly-enlarged Forester has spacious back seats and a generous rear cargo area. You can lift up the floor and secure small items such as laptops in compartments under the carpet.
 
Efficiency
We got an average of 23.4 mpg driving around town, between Houston and Austin, and up and down the 85 mph Texas State Highway 130. It’s EPA rated at 23/28 mpg city/highway.
 
How much does it cost?
The 2014 Forester starts at just under $22,000 for the base, 2.5 liter non-turbocharged engine, and $28,820 for the Forester 2.0XT Premium with the turbo engine. 
 
What's Good?
The turbo and all-wheel drive experience deliver a boosty feel and plenty of character. Outward visibility is fantastic.
 
What's Not?
The steering wheel material, shape of the seat and iPod interface could all be much, much better. At freeway speeds, a lot of wind noise finds its way into the cabin. And the fuel consumption wasn’t great even in mostly freeway driving.
 
Our Verdict
The new Forester is a milestone vehicle for Subaru, which retains a unique character while still aiming for a wider appeal. There are more luxurious options (Ford Escape) and more efficient vehicles (Mazda CX-5), but the Forester is a multitalented performer that drives like nothing else in the segment.
 
How we'd buy it:
If the turbo engine is important to you, go for the 2.0XT and you won’t regret it. But the added amenities are slim, so you don’t lose much and you can save a bunch of money with the less powerful model. All of the colors are a bit bland, so you’re better off with something neutral — Subaru’s Dark Grey Metallic seems the best of the bunch.
 
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