Thursday, January 7, 2016

Venerable Forester pleases on pavement, or off

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­– I’m pretty sure that of all the motor vehicle models I’ve test driven over the past 15 years, I’ve logged more seat time in the Subaru Forester than all others.

I like the vehicle.

I’m not alone.  It was the first model to win Motor Trend magazine’s SUV of the Year award twice.

And yet, strangely, the Forester never shows up in a lot of conversations about sport-utility vehicles.  I suppose that’s because it’s not flashy enough, or pricey enough or whatever.

I’ll buy that, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a genuine on-pavement/off-roader that’s more reliable, better equipped or more reasonably priced than the Forester.  That will win you a lot of converts among folks who are serious SUV devotees.

Take the recently tested 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited.  The starting price was $28,795, and even with a $2,100 option package with a navigation system and a primo harman/kardon audio system, the bottom line on the sticker was still a sane $31,790.

For this price, you get a lot.

Let’s start with 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, boxer-style engine rated at 170 horsepower and linked to Subaru’s matchless all-wheel drive system.  This is the perfect powertrain marriage.

While not a super-powered vehicle, the Forester moves with authority and purpose on paved streets and highway surfaces.  Off the road – something Forester drivers actually do with their SUVs – the Forester handles with remarkable sure-footedness.

Don’t take my word for it.  My comparatively modest off-road meanderings are walks in the park compared with those of other reviewers who take Foresters over rocks, streams and mountains.  Consistently, they come back from their off-pavement treks with smiles on their faces.

Keep in mind that this marks the fourth generation of the venerable Forester.  Over that time, Subaru has added a blizzard of driving-enhancement features and safety devices that add to the driving experience.

Key standard features in the tester included 17-inch all-season tires, a rear vision camera, a power panoramic moonroof, heated front seats/side mirrors and Subaru’s STARLINK infotainment system that offers equal portions of fun and security.

The exterior styling on the Forester is pretty SUV-basic, but that’s fine for a crossover that is not meant to be coddled.  The Forester is equipped to deal with searing summer heat, knee-high snow and relentlessly slippery surfaces.  It wants to be driven.

I might need to get back in one again real soon.

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