Almost eight years old, the 2021 Subaru Forester rolls into this model year with only a few minor tweaks. Our Touring tester is the top of five trim grades and as such priced in at $35,945.
Powered by Subaru’s venerable 2.5-liter “boxer” 182 horsepower flat four engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT), it brings the brands also expected symmetrical all-wheel-drive but features the latest “X Mode” software driving modes.
Design is familiar as it hasn’t changed much since 2014 inside or out except for a few minor trim changes here and there. Forester is tall and boxy, representing a the mid-size offering for the brand in the crossover line.
Competing against vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V it offers a unique seating position slightly lower feeling than others and commanding field of view from behind the wheel. The interior is well outfitted with all the expected features of today but looks a bit dated.
On the road, the engine seems to struggle a bit to move the Forester, offering leisurely acceleration. Its engine seems to be a little noisier than contemporary in-line four-cylinder engines offered by competitors. In the Touring, the CVT is augmented by paddle shifters and a 7-speed simulated shift pattern for a more involved driving feel.
The EPA rates it at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined. In our week with it we achieved 24 mpg combined.
We tested it on both the paved road as well as off on the dirt paths of the wilderness. On the desert washboard road, the Forester proved competent in its agility and handling though could be harsh over the larger bumps which crash through with a metal to metal feel. We also got a lot of rattles and squeaks from interior trim and components.
On the paved road the Forester proved quiet and stable with little wind and road noise. Steering is light and has decent feel. Combined with its low center of gravity for an SUV due to its “boxer” engine configuration, it offers up confidence inspiring feel on curvy roads and around town.
Our Forester came loaded to the lid with Subaru’s litany of passive aggressive safety features and driver assistance aids. Because most of them are over sensitive and intervene with warnings or actions when not even needed we felt the desire to turn them off at all times.
Most turn themselves back on when you start the car, requiring a pre-flight shutdown of almost five systems every trim we took. Most cars offer a way to adjust the sensitivity of these systems. Subaru would benefit their customers if they did so as having to turn them off for a peaceful drive is unfortunate. In fairness, though we found them annoying, most Subaru customers love them and get used to their behavior.
All said, the Subaru Forester offers a unique choice in the mid-size crossover SUV segment that stands out in its design format and its feel from behind the wheel. With an excellent reputation for quality and safety, it’s worth a drive.