By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – Even before my week test driving the 2019 Subaru Forester was up my opinion had been reached. It was very satisfying to the point of being a very impressive midsize crossover that delivered on a number of levels.
Under the hood was a 2.5-liter Boxer engine, meaning horizontally opposed four-cylinder that made 182 horsepower and 176 pound feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Forester had an EPA rating of 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.
This new engine provided more than enough oomph in day to day driving. I really don’t care for CVTs but this one was not bad. Acceleration was good and it was fairly quiet, for a continuously variable transmission.
The first driving characteristic I noticed about the Forester was its handling. It was Go-Kart precise. Just the slightest turn of the wheel and the midsize crossover went in the direction the wheel was turned. Reaction time to driver input was almost instant.
Styling was new for 2019 too. Subaru said it was more rugged. The exterior had shoulder lines that followed around the pillars to emphasize height and strength. Prominent wheel arches emphasized the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system’s functionality. Subaru is one of the few manufactures that make all-wheel-drive standard.
The front, side and rear under guards were also standard on all models, with color finish according to trim line. New LED headlights were standard on all models. The wheelbase was increased to 105.1 in. from 103.9 in., with the gain benefitting rear seat legroom, which is now 39.4-in., a 1.4-in. increase.
I got into the rear seats and found them comfortable. There was plenty of headspace, hip room and I think three people could sit in the back seat in relative comfort. And because the Forester sits deceptively high, the drive tunnel was not that much of an intrusion into the interior space.
What’s more, the moonroof was larger than most I’ve seen.
Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille incorporated active grille shutters, which optimize aerodynamics to help reduce fuel consumption. Wider rear door openings and a steep C-pillar angle make ingress/egress and installing a child seat easier. All Forester models feature lower body side cladding, which helps protect against mud, rocks and other road debris.
My only complaint was that the frame for the C-pillar glass was light gray while the rest of the interior was black. I could see it out of the corner of my eye and it was distracting. I thought it was a vehicle in my blind spot at first, and then I thought it was somebody in the street and after I discovered what it was it was still disconcerting.
As Subaru said there was outstanding outward visibility. Strategically designed pillars and generous glass area ensure an excellent all-around view from inside, and all models feature a standard rear vision camera. But they need to dump that light gray frame for the C pillar window.
Anyway, that was my only gripe. And I believe that is a choice of interior color. The cargo space was upped during the redesign to 76.1 cu. ft. with the rear seats folded. The automatic lift gate width was 51.3 inches. This Subaru Limited trim also had roof rails with integrated tie-down hooks.
I thought the interior was really nice. It was soft black leather with gray stitching. It was particularly nice around the front door panels; so supple that it felt like a thick cloth.
The instruments were black with white numerals reversed out. And the vehicle seems to have had just about every creature comfort: stop/start, automatic lock and unlock, eyesight driver assist technology, torque vectoring, Bluetooth, a navigation system, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, satellite radio, voice controls, it had dual 2.1 USB jacks in the rear, plus one more in the front and an auxiliary jack and 12V socket.
It had its own Wi-Fi hotspot, lane departure alert and assist, blind spot alert, rear view camera with cross traffic alert, a navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, cloud apps, streaming capability, ride modes, and adaptive cruise control. And there was a pod atop the dash that gave you average mpg; mine was 22.9, then mpg in real time, range, interior and exterior temperature, the lock and the climate control reading.
The 2019 Subaru Forester was a great vehicle with great handling, a very good ride, good gas mileage and good interior space with what they called a panoramic sunroof. The sticker I thought was astoundingly low, $33,465.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com