Sacramento, California – Over the years, I’ve driven something like a dozen versions of the Subaru Forester, a sport-utility vehicle that basically wrote the book on combining on-road sophistication with macho off-road ruggedness.
But I’ve never driven a better Forester than the 2014 model with which I recently spent a week.
It was smoother, stronger, better-looking and more comfortable inside than any other in the long line of Foresters I’ve previously wheeled around.
No wonder it was named Motor Trend magazine’s Sport-Utility of the Year for 2014. Subaru initiated an extensive makeover for 2014, marking the fourth generation of the venerable model. This remake was not a simple window dressing. It was a serious rework of the SUV inside and out.
They made it way better than it was … or ever was.
OK, I admit that my tester was the top dog of eight trim levels, a 2.0XT Touring edition with the 2-liter, turbocharged boxer engine grinding out a max 250 horsepower. Lots of perks with the tested model as well, which explains the somewhat hefty starting price of $32,995. Mine had even more extras to push the bottom line to nearly $36,500.
Price and specs were forgotten once I started driving the thing. Is this a Forester? Can’t be.
My previous seat time in Foresters was, well, pedestrian at best. My tester, by comparison, was a run-with-the-bulls rush. A consistently powerful, no-lag blast from the power plant accompanied by exceptionally light steering enabled me to pull off some unexpectedly agile moves in tight city traffic and amid dicey freeway commuters. This is a most-responsive sport-ute, and dare I say, a genuinely fun blast to drive.
And it has all the off-road goodies you need: 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, multiple braking systems, multiple control systems, generous cargo room, power rear gate with height memory, and naturally, all-wheel drive.
Multiple safety systems are top-notch.
Inside, the Forester is downright elegant in appearance and touch. A cluster of clearly understood controls abound, easily operated from the 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar adjuster.
Outside, the Forester still looks very much like an SUV that will take you over a rough trail, but the latest sculpture is – how can I say it – CLEANER than what I remember. Rounder too. This Forester looks like it has spent a lot of time in the gym. Or maybe extended time on the styling engineers’ computer screens.
Simply said, it all works. It’s an “A” effort on an old favorite.