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A surprise contender at the front of the pack
by Mark Atkinson

The Subaru Forester has a great reputation as a capable all-weather machine that’ll rarely trip you up no matter the conditions. However, the price paid by customers in terms of fuel costs and a rapidly aging cabin was starting to wear thin. So the company quite literally went back to the drawing board and came up with an all-new model that shares very little with its ancestors.

FAR FROM A FACELIFT

Thoughts that Subaru just mailed in a small facelift with a couple minor updates are dashed when discovering that the A pillar – a major structural piece – was moved forward by over eight inches. Sightlines are greatly improved and the side mirrors are now door-mounted as a result.

Spend time with the latest version and you'll appreciate Subaru's efforts to have its shape as instantly recognized as its Outback sibling. Although only marginally wider and longer than the popular third generation, along with a similar stretch in wheelbase, the interior is significantly airier. Most notable is the increase in hip and shoulder room thanks to some deft magic and smart engineering.

The whole dashboard follows the same script, pushed away from the driver and mounted lower too, again to help improve the feeling of additional space. The rear passenger seats are now easier to access thanks to larger door openings and doors themselves that open wider. The rear seat floor is flatter too, so the middle rider isn't jealous.

Cargo space is also up about 10 percent and high-end models get Forester’s first powered tailgate that’s smartly integrated to not impinge on space. The 60/40-split seats are easy to fold flat, and expand the total area to 74.7 cubic feet from 34.4 when collapsed.

Functionally, the Forester’s cabin takes inspiration from the new Impreza and XV Crosstrek, meaning much higher overall quality materials, fewer gappy plastics and a more modern design. Sightlines and visibility are improved even though no one seemed to complain about it before.

The standard seats are decently adjustable and supportive, although during the two days of wheel-time weren’t quite as comfortable as we’d like.The leather-covered chairs in the top-end XT seemed less annoying. Every Forester comes with niceties like air conditioning, power windows, a four-speaker stereo and Bluetooth hands-free with voice activation.

IMPROVED SAFETY

It’s safer too thanks to things like an increased use of high-strength steel in the chassis, seriously reinforced roof pillars and intrusion beams. Along with the usual ABS and stability control, you also get seven airbags, up one from before thanks to a new driver’s knee ‘bag. Also, Subaru’s camera-based EyeSight system, which allows for active cruise control, collision avoidance and lane-departure warning, makes its debut, which the company claims is a first in a compact SUV. The Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain offer a similar system, but it’s passive and only alerts the driver to a potential problem.

Something that will find universal acclaim amongst Subaru pilots is a solution to the standard murky, muddy radios. Finally, an optional eight-speaker, 440-watt harman/kardon audio system makes for clearer more enjoyable entertainment. It also comes with a touch-screen navigation system that’s much easier to use than previous attempts.
Read the complete 2014 Subaru Forester Review at AutoGuide.com
 
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