My very first car was a 1998 Subaru Forester that my brother handed down to me.
It wasn’t the sexiest car in the world, but it sure was reliable. I drove it from New York to North Carolina and back again for four years with 80,000 miles already logged, and it always got the job done.
So when the opportunity to try the newest Subaru Forester presented itself, I had to get behind the wheel and see if it still presented the same level of comfort, reliability, and driving ease as its nearly 20-year-old predecessor.
The Forester is arguably Subaru’s most important car. The crossover was Subaru’s best-selling vehicle in the US last year and still holds that title in 2016 so far.
As always with the Forester, the Subaru’s main perk is that it’s a practical and sturdy ride with all-wheel drive. But the 2017 model comes with some semi-autonomous features that take it to the next level. These kinds of steady improvements are important considering how competitive the crossover segment is, with players like the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4.
Here’s what it’s like to drive Subaru’s latest Forester:
Behold, the 2017 Subaru Forester. The car arrived on a relatively rainy weekend, but I had the chance to take it on a longer trip to Fort Lee Historic Park in New Jersey once the sun came out.
At a time when most cars are getting bigger, Subaru still has a loyal following with its small crossover.
Subaru’s Forester made its US debut in 1998 with the model pictured here. It was one of the first compact crossover SUVs to hit the market at the time. It’s actually pretty remarkable how little the size of of the compact SUV has changed, though it’s lost its original boxy shape.
For a crossover, the Subaru Forester has always offered a ton of interior space, especially in the trunk…
… And that still holds true today.
As a pleasant surprise, the 2017 Forester still comes with a beautiful, big rear window.
This is probably a strange thing to harp on, but one of my favorite features of my 1998 Forester was how much visibility it got in the rear. It had a perfect line of sight for long trips involving heavy highway maneuvering, and that feature hasn’t changed.
From a design standpoint, the 2017 Subaru Forester offers the same creature comforts that many Subaru loyalists have come to know and love, with some added improvements.
Interestingly enough, the 1998 Subaru Forester started under $20,000 for the base model. Nineteen years later, the 2017 Subaru Forester begins at $22,595 — a pretty small price increase. But the Touring Version that I drove starts at $31,295 because it’s available with features like a touchscreen infotainment system and semi-autonomous driving aids.
The original Subaru’s seats were covered in this grey-and-blue cloth material that can only be described as insanely ’90s. Because I drove the premium version of Subaru’s Forester, the seats was decked out in plush, brown leather.
Here’s another look at the backseat’s set-up.
All versions of the Forester come with a center console that offers a neat and clear app selection. There’s also a digital clock above the console that will transform to show you how much gas you have left when your car is shutting down.
Subaru’s STARLINK connected infotainment system is also standard. It’s not the most detailed map you’ll ever see, but it’s easy to see your route and the relevant information when you’re glancing down quickly while driving. It also gives solid directions. For example, it will tell you “turn at the next light” instead of tossing out a road name you may not be familiar with.
The Touring line comes with features like adaptive cruise control, an alert system that will ping you if it detects lane drift, emergency braking, blind spot detection, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. It also comes with steering responsive, LED headlights.
I appreciated how fine-tuned the Rear Cross Traffic Alert was on the Forester — it didn’t beep unless you were truly getting close to an object behind you. Subaru altered its Rear Cross Traffic Alert for this model so the colored cameras provide a longer field of vision, and it’s definitely an improvement. The camera view is crystal clear, and the different colored brackets provided accurate assessments of spacing.
I was also a big fan of the key fob that will automatically unlock the door for you when you approach the car. With keyless access you simply put the fob in the center console and push the start button to get the car going.
But the blind spot detection feature was lacking. It’s supposed to light up if a vehicle is driving in your blind spot. But I drove the car on the highway and didn’t really notice it, so it’s certainly a minimalist feature that’s easy to miss.
You can control a lot of the car’s functions using the steering wheel alone, from changing the volume to entering cruise control. There’s also paddle shifters if you want to enter manual mode. All of these controls were easy to access and adjust on the highway without spending too much time looking down.
And as a fun bonus feature, the Touring line comes with a heated steering wheel, which is the first for a Forester.
For fun, here’s a look at the original Subaru Forester center console. Feel free to revel at my cassette tape adapter hook-up. You won’t be seeing a cigarette lighter in the new model…
Overall, my experience driving the Subaru Forester was pleasant. It had great pick-up on the highway and the braking was consistently smooth.
The car offers the perfect amount of lift around the road, and it’s easy to control when changing lanes.
Its compact size and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert system made parallel parking this car a breeze.
Overall, the 2017 Subaru Forester remains a solid bang for your buck option if you’re looking for a sturdy crossover.