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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Subaru Forester

Subaru’s Forester is all-new for 2014, featuring fresh styling and motor options. I’ll admit that, being a Pacific Northwest native, I’ve been smitten with the Forester since its announcement. The styling is sedate enough to blend in, though a couple of aggressive cues are still unmistakeably Subaru.

The 2.0XT Premium trim level submitted for Mudfest comes with Subaru’s brand new FA-series engine, based on the horizontally-opposed motor found in the sporting BRZ and Scion FR-S. Subaru straps on a twin-scroll turbo before dropping the powerplant into its Forester. The low-end torque, smooth CVT, and excellent Symmetrical AWD system made the Forester very compelling on- and off-road, with enough grip to keep the car from sliding and plenty of boost to accelerate out of turns. The sport-tuned suspension kept the vehicle planted during aggressive driving maneuvers, too.

There’s also the Subaru Intelligent Drive system that alters powertrain response on-demand. Three SI-Drive modes are available on the Forester, including Intelligent for regular driving, Sport for more responsive feedback, and Sport Sharp for enthusiastic driving. We naturally set the Forester to Sport Sharp before carving up the pavement and dirt courses. More adventurous off-roaders can press the available X-Mode button that enables hill descent control and alters the powertrain parameters for slippery surfaces, hills, and bad roads. We did not need X-Mode for our dirt trials.

Despite the Forester's fun-to-drive factor, Subaru needs to revamp its infotainment system. It looks identical to the one found we reviewed in 2013 Subaru Legacy Sedan: A Mid-Size Ride With Practical Tech, but down-sized to a standard double-DIN form factor. The screen is only 6.1-inches. Nicely, the text is sharp, through the visual designs and 2D maps are still hideous. Subaru did manage to sneak in Aha Radio support, at least.

On a positive note, the Forester’s infotainment system paired with our HTC Droid DNA easily. It managed to read and send text messages from the DNA, also. And our fourth-gen iPad worked beautifully when we plugged it in.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2014 Subaru Forester
Trim level2.0XT Premium
Engine2.0 L turbocharged H4 (FA-series)
TransmissionCVT
DrivetrainSymmetrical AWD
Infotainment6.1-inch touch-screen navigation system
Notable featuresSI-DriveX-ModeHill descent control
Fuel economy23 city, 28 highway, 25 combined MPG
MSRP$28,820
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply