Is it just me, or is the Subaru Forester getting bigger? They used to be this more upright wagon that was about the same size as the Outback (more or less), but they seem to be slowly turning into bigger and bigger SUV-like rides. And the specs from Subie on the 2019 Forester bare this out. The wheelbase is nearly two inches longer, for one thing, and there are gains in head, hip, and shoulder room. Yup, bigger.
The new Forester just rolled out at the New York International Auto Show, marking the fifth generation of the Subaru SUV. The thumbnail sketch is that the 2019 Forester will come in Standard, Premium, Limited, and Touring trims, along with a new Sport trim. All versions are powered by the ever-dependable 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine. The plant is paired with a standard Lineartronic CVT; also standard (all trim levels) is Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system. Duh!
Safety & Security
Like many other car companies these days, Subaru is really focused on ladling in as much safety tech as they have available. Apart from what is now seen as “the regular safety stuff,” Subaru has also come up with DriverFocus. DriverFocus is a monitoring system that uses facial recognition software to identify signs of fatigue or distraction, and works in conjunction with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology to reduce the chances of an accident. A nifty little side note is that DriverFocus can also recognize up to five drivers and their presets for seat position, climate, infotainment, and such.
The rest of that safety stuff includes Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Lane Keep Assist, Pre-Collision Throttle Management, and Lead Vehicle Start Alert. That’s the standard stuff. Optional safety features are Reverse Automatic Braking, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The higher trim packages include High Beam Assist, Steering Responsive Headlights, and Trailer Stability Assist.
And lots of airbags too: front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, front side pelvis/torso airbags, and side curtain airbags.
Connectivity & Technology
There is also lots of non-safety tech to be found in the new Forester: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, Bluetooth capability, phone connectivity, and audio streaming just to name a few. The Aha and Pandora apps are also integrated. The navigation system is built-in and voice-activated, powered by TomTom with an eight-inch, high-resolution touchscreen. The Starlink Connected Services offers remote start, a concierge service, anti-theft vehicle immobilizer with flashing security lights, and young driver safety functions including geofencing, speed alert, and curfew. Firmware updates come to your Forester over the air.
Power & Performance
All of this tech and safety is powered down the road, paved or otherwise, by a new version of the 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder engine, complete with direct fuel injection and higher compression. The new plant produces 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft. of torque. With the standard Lineartronic CVT, the whole package gets 33 mpg on the highway.
If you opt for the Sport or Touring, the CVT has a mode that simulates a seven-speed manual transmission with the steering wheel paddle shifters. In the middle of the drivetrain is the standard, driver-selectable SI-DRIVE that allows you to tailor the vehicle’s throttle characteristics by selecting between “Intelligent” and “Sport” modes. “Intelligent” mode helps smooth out accelerator inputs for fuel savings, while “Sport” mode tunes the throttle to emphasize performance.
Subie goes into great detail on the new Forester’s design, but to me, there’s not much to go into here, which is a good thing. It’s kind of that straight up, two box design with truck-like proportions. It’s simple, non-finicky, and it works. Fuji Heavy Industries has added new colors for 2019 though: Jasper Green Metallic, Horizon Blue Pearl, and Crimson Red Pearl. You can even get a panoramic moonroof.
There’s a ton of cargo space (76.1 cubic feet), 60:40 split rear seatbacks, and the rear gate opening width is 51.3 inches wide, which is pretty big. If that’s not enough room for you, roof rails, standard on all but the base model, allow for carrying stuff like bicycles and kayaks. New tie-down hooks are integrated into the rails so all your toys can be secured more easily.
Availability & In Person
The 2019 Forester is arriving at Subaru retailers later this year. In the meantime, it’s on display at the New York International Auto Show, now through April 8th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.