The Subaru Forester isn't what it used to be

Christopher McGraw


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Quick note about our winter wheels and tires: The old STI wheels are so cool – we love gold – we had to put them on our long-term Forester for a bit. We had them lying around from when we had our long-term WRX a few years back, and while I think they look better on the WRX, they don’t look too bad on the Forester. The tires are a bit smaller than what I would buy for a Forester if I were looking for new ones, the recommended size is 225/60-17 and these tires are 215/55-17 – about 5% smaller in both diameter and width. 5% may not sound like a lot, but it is. With less sidewall they'll do less to mitigate big bumps, of which there are many on these Michigan roads, but any winter tire is going to outperform an all-season in the Snow Belt. There's no replacement for traction when the going gets icy. It doesn't matter if you're running the stock size if you're in a ditch.

All right, with that, let’s move onto the review of our long term 2019 Subaru Forester Touring. ...

My first experience with a Subaru Forester was about as exotic as you can imagine. In 2016 I traveled down to El Calafate, Argentina, and for the next eight days sat in Subaru crossovers, Outbacks, Foresters, and XV Crosstreks (simply called XV in the Chilean market) as our caravan traveled through Patagonia to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. That trip had a profound impact on many aspects of my life, including convincing me to buy my first Subaru, an XV Crosstrek that my wife and I have driven everywhere, from Canada to the Rocky Mountains to the Grand Canyon. 

Back then I always thought I’d end up with a Forester as my daily driver. Growing up in Michigan, there aren’t too many intense off-road trails to navigate, and a Forester XT could tackle anything I threw at it. I test drove Foresters through the fourth generation, but then life took a turn. After moving to Colorado, my next vehicle would need to be bigger and more robust, so my Forester search was over.

Then Autoblog got its 2019-20 longterm test vehicle, a fifth-generation Forester, which I was eager to drive — and found to be disappointing. The new Forester has become more generalized, getting rid of the turbocharger and the manual transmission. 

I still love the idea of the Subaru Forester, a boxy, sporty, all-wheel drive five seater that, with a few mods, can tackle more advanced trails. But now that I live in the mountains the naturally aspirated boxer isn't powerful enough, and the boxiness has become more of a bulbousness. Does that mean it is a terrible car? No. It’s just not the Subaru for me anymore. 

Check out the video above for more of my thoughts.