Subaru is in a cusp. From building hardcore turbocharged tarmac-ripping machines, they’re now glorified grocery getters and soccer mom mobiles lining the driveways and garages of idyllic Stepford Towns globally. And that’s not such a bad thing given that for every hundred well-manicured, pooch-carrying, muffin-baking housewife out there, there’s just one Colin McRae wannabe. Now, before long-time Subaru fans will take to arms because of this travesty, it also goes without saying that this move doesn’t erase what the brand’s built up for more than 60 years. Case in point is the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L.
Launched four years ago, the current generation Forester is already approaching the end of its lifecycle and yet, Subaru seems to have done something right as the aesthetics remain timeless. It’s the Chuck Taylors of crossovers: plain, but it’ll match just about any outfit. With a restraint against swoopy lines and bulbous fenders, it’ll continue to be in fashion for decades to come; something that can’t be said with other crossovers which are like Adidas NMDs: bordering on the baduy. Of course, Subaru has given it the requisite nip and tuck last year by changing the grille, bumpers, headlights, and taillights—all of which will likely escape the typical Stepford wife.
The same goes for the Forester’s interior which is a perfect example of function over form. It’s not as flashy or techy looking as some of its rivals and for that, it comes across as disappointing. And yet, it’s got everything down pat: excellent ergonomics, stellar visibility, generous space—it gets top marks on them all. Going in and out is easy with doors that swing up to 90 degrees and door sills which are extra low. The simple, high set dash also means a lot of knee and leg room for those in front, while the back seats remains good enough to sit three abreast comfortably. Finding a good seating position is quick thanks to the steering wheel offering a good range of adjustment. The seats themselves are quite comfy too, even comfier than the XT’s, despite looking flat and unsupportive in photos. Reach around and every knob, stalk, and switch falls right into place. There’s no need to read the owner’s manual here as the Forester is pretty intuitive.
Now, if there’s anything you can hate about the Forester is that it convincingly hammers down the fact that you got the entry-level model. In fact, it’ll shove that in your face every chance it gets. The gauges and its graphics are plain and dull. The multi-information display looks like it’s been nicked from a classic calculator. The display on the infotainment is decidedly low-res (and the touchscreen controls aren’t snappy either). And the voice control only seems to understand two words: “help” and “cancel.” It’s a good thing that the steering wheel is great to hold, the dashboard still has soft-touch materials on it, and the doors have fabric inserts; or else there would have been effigies of the Forester burning in protest everywhere. Do yourself a favor and spring the added cash if you can and head straight for the 2.0i-Premium.
Of course, looking at things in a purely mechanical sense, the 2.0i-L and 2.0i-Premium offer more or less the same driving experience, so Forester buyers on a tight budget may be well served by this entry-level variant. At this point, fans of Subaru’s racing efforts may want to look away since this normally-aspirated model doesn’t offer straight line performance remotely close to its turbocharged brethren. Don’t get it wrong: it’s solid and commendable; it’s just not fast. At city speeds, it’s lively enough with the Lineartronic CVT reacting well. Plus since it’s a non-turbo, the throttle is easier to module and feels less jumpy. And all things considered, 8.06 km/L (average speed 16 km/h) for a full-time all-wheel drive machine is not bad. It’s only when you require that extra grunt that you’ll wish you had the turbo. While you hear the transmission reacting as quickly as it can, the power just isn’t there. Even with the SI-Drive set to Sport, the powertrain feels taxed likely due to the portly curb weight which is 30 kilograms heavier than the Subaru XV.
While straight line performance is a bit of a letdown, it still handles pretty tidily. It still lives up to Subaru’s reputation of making great handling cars and that’s evident when you push and toss it through corners. Granted the typical Forester won’t do canyon carving with their pet poodle, the copious amounts of grip make it feel secure in every situation. It does without the XT’s Active Torque Vectoring, but considering the target market, it’s largely unrequired. Kudos though the new steering rack which makes it more obedient during turn in. There’s a bit of body roll and lean, but it’s all controlled. Also welcome for this update is the improved NVH and riding comfort. Not only is it noticeably quieter and smoother than before, but the ride is just more pliant this time. The choppy ride of the pre-facelifted Forester successfully addressed.
This current-generation Forester, known by its model designation as SJ5, is the continuation of Subaru’s move towards the mainstream. Although there’s no denying it still has all the elements that make it a Subaru, from the smooth horizontally-opposed engine to the impeccable handling provided by the all-wheel drive system, it’s now wrapped in a friendlier, more practical package. And while purists and long-time fans may roll their eyes at the prospect of seeing their beloved rally-bred machines now driven by everyone from hipsters to yuppies to mommies to geriatrics, it also shows the completeness of the Forester package. Yes, it does feel lacking in some areas, but truth be told, it’s hard to beat the value proposition of this crossover.
2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L
|Ownership||2017 Subaru Forester 2.0i-L|
|Year Introduced||2013 (Refreshed: 2016)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||F4|
|BHP @ rpm||150 @ 6,200|
|Nm @ rpm||198 @ 4,200|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / ~91|
|Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed||8.06 km/L @ 16 km/h|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,518|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Yokohama Geolandar G91 225/60 R 17 V (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes, with EBD|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||No, with Reverse Camera|
|Other Safety Features||X-MODE,
Hill Descent Control,
Auto Vehicle Hold
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front & Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjust||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|# of Speakers||6|