Forester Unsung Strength of the Subaru Brand

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CHATHAM, Mass. – Simple, straightforward, solid, good value – all terms which describe the 2021 Subaru Forester Limited and are indicative as to why this is the most popular of all Subaru models.

Where for some the Impreza and Crosstrek are too small, and the Legacy, Outback and Ascent too big, the Forester is just the right size, combining the company’s well-earned reputation for reliability and foul-weather conquering all-wheel drive (AWD) with lots of interior space in a compact SUV form.

One of the factors legendary automotive journalist David E. Davis, Jr., used to measure a vehicle’s passenger room was his ability to wear a hat while driving. The Forester will easily allow anything from a 10-gallon cowboy to a stylish chapeau (watch out for the headrest), just about anything short of a cartoon-large top hat.

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And the tall roof line also helps provide a large storage area behind the foldable (split 60/40) rear seats — 28.9 cubic feet — or 70.1 cubic feet with the seats folded flat.

A quiet, rewarding driving experience

The Forester, like the Outback and Ascent, are the quietest Subaru vehicles I have driven – ever (and I own a 2013 Crosstrek XV and have driven the brand’s products extensively through several generations since 1990). Road noise, which was somewhat intrusive in some past models has virtually disappeared, thus helping make the driving experience much more satisfying and enjoyable.

Also contributing to this positive driving experience is the new-for-2021 seven-speed manual mode for the Lineartronic® CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission)> This setup allows you to get the most performance possible, utilizing the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, from the 182-horsepower, 176-pounds-feet-of-torque 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine (cylinders arranged in a horizontal-flat pattern rather than in a “V” or vertical inline one).

In addition, switching from “Intelligent” to “Sport” mode can give the Forester a bit more of a performance edge by changing transmission “shift” points and holding the throttle longer on acceleration.

The fully independent suspension and AWD combine for sure-footed handling on virtually all road surfaces; very forgiving, providing a comfortable ride and reassuring in every-day use.

Subaru was one of the first non-luxury brands, non-Swedish brands to offer four-wheel disc brakes as standard in the U.S. market and the Forester continues this tradition.

The braking system includes power-assisted four-wheel discs with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and four-channel/four-sensor anti-lock (ABS) with Brake Assist and Brake Override safety systems; Active Torque Vectoring; Auto Vehicle Hold; Electronic Parking Brake.

Ventilated rotors are on all four corners, the fronts 12.4 inches, the rear 11.2.

Subaru EyeSight at the heart of the advanced driver-assist systems

Peering out from the top of the Forester windshield is the recognizable part of the Subaru EyeSight Driver-Assist system indicating inclusion of the company’s renown advanced driver-assist system (ADAS). The basic, standard system includes Adaptive Cruise Control; Pre-Collision Braking (utilizing automatic-emergency braking, AEB); Pre-Collision Throttle Management; Lane Departure and Sway Warning; and Lead Vehicle Start Alert.

The Limited like I drove adds Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Our car also had the lone Limited option package which added Reverse Automatic Emergency Braking (RAEB) to this comprehensive suite of ADAS.

Creature-comfort and convenience features simple to operate, inclusive in scope

The RAEB is one part of the optional Subaru Starlink 8.0” Multimedia Navigation System, the lone Limited option and part of the test car. The navigation system, by TomTom® is easy to understand, clear and informative.

The option package also adds a Harmon Kardon amplified nine-speaker system to the standard infotainment package (AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/streaming audio) and a heated steering wheel (leather wrapped).

The wheel is adjustable for tilt and reach while the driver’s seat has 10-way power adjustment (and power lumbar support), so finding a comfortable driving position was easy. Like the wheel, the seats are leather covered and heated in the front, as well as being comfortable, supportive and grippy when negotiating the twisty, hilly roads of Wellfleet on the Atlantic Ocean side.

USB ports are there for front and rear passengers (the front allowing cable connection of a smartphone to access the included Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility) to keep their mobile devices conveniently charged.

Speaking of conveniences, Subaru’s interior designers and engineers have done a superb job in making controlling and operating this extensive feature list, including the dual-zone automatic climate control. Very logically located buttons and switches on the dash, console and steering wheel are simple in design and wonderfully easy in activation. Nothing extra; no extraneous flourishes for the stake of “high style,” which in other cars hampers using the included features.

Typical Subaru – very solid bottom line

Historically, Subaru did not try to win the fuel-economy derby at all costs (like driving comfort, noise, solid construction and safety). Instead, it produced cars (and now crossover/sport utility vehicles) engineered to last long and be reliable in ALL types of conditions/climates/environments (including countries with a much lower percentage of paved roads than the U.S., Japan or Europe) without being impractical.

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The 2021 Subaru Forester Limited is rated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency at 26 miles per gallon in everyday driving (29 in the city, 33 on the highway), but I saw a steady 33 mpg during my extensive and mixed-road week of driving. Regardless on how hard I pushed the Forester, I never saw the instantaneous mileage meter dip below 29. Very impressive for a car built like a Subaru.

The price for all of this solid, reliable performance begins at $24,795 for the base model.  The Limited, with the navigation option and $1,050 destination and delivery charge totaled $34,140 – a very solid, competitive number, especially considering Subaru vehicles will last a long time and serve you well throughout.

Next week TBR Drives the 2021 Toyota Sienna hybrid minivan.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.