Subaru Forester (2013-2019) review - Engines, performance and drive

Off-road performance shades rivals, but on tarmac the Forester is less than thrilling

The Forester has never been as sharp to drive as rivals and that remains true for the updated model. Permanent four-wheel-drive system ensures the car has very high levels of grip but the steering is completely lifeless. The ride is firm and a little jittery on cars with 17-inch alloys, but body roll isn’t too pronounced.

The manual gearbox is sweet, but the CVT does blunt performance somewhat - even though Subaru has added ‘virtual’ stepped ratios you can select from steering-wheel-mounted paddles. This Lineartronic transmission also comes with Subaru’s X Mode system that aids traction off-road and adds a hill descent function. As a result the Forester is extremely capable on loose ground, and will leave many rivals trailing in its wake.

The standard 2.0-litre petrol is smooth but a little gutless, so buyers craving performance will be better off with the turbocharged version. It’s only available in flagship XT guise and mated to a Lineartronic gearbox, but it claims 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds. While it looks quick on paper, it feels laboured and rather underpowered in reality.

For most buyers the 2.0-litre diesel will be the best bet. It’s surprisingly refined, plus with plenty of torque it’s a punchy performer. All engines get Subaru’s SI-Drive set-up that allows you to select from up to three different levels of throttle response.

Engines

Thanks to their ‘boxer’ configuration, all the Forester engines have a distinctive sound, and all are quite smooth, if a little noisy. The petrol is the quietest, especially with the CVT option.

It’s a 2.0-litre unit that makes 148bhp and 198Nm, which is enough to take the Forester from 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, or 11.8 with the Lineartronic gearbox. Maximum speed is 118mph, or 119mph with CVT.

The turbocharged version takes power up to 237bhp and torque to 350Nm, so as well as the range-leading 0-62mph of 7.5 seconds time you get a 137mph top speed. 

The 2.0-litre diesel engine gets 145bhp and 350Nm it provides 0 to 62mph acceleration in 9.9 seconds, in both manual and CVT forms. Maximum speeds are 117mph and 118mph respectively.

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