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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)
DrivetrainSymmetrical AWD
Infotainment6.1-inch touch-screen navigation system
Notable featuresSI-DriveX-ModeHill descent control
Fuel economy23 city, 28 highway, 25 combined MPG