In the battle for your brain space, brands are boiling themselves down to a single word. For instance, when you hear Volvo, its brand architects want you to think ‘safety’. Land Rover would like you to think off-road (which to be honest is two words).
And Subaru, ‘longevity’. Which almost makes this review 10 years early.
Subaru’s recent PR materials report winning the Automotive Lease Guide’s 2016 Residual Value Award through a “commitment to designing and engineering high-quality, safe, fun-to-drive vehicles.” That’s about right and certainly in the right order when you’re talking about the 2017 Forester 2.5i Limited.
The quality is certainly high for the price. Secondly, this trim is packed with the sorts of safety features that SUV-purchasing parents love. And fun comes in third place for the bronze. That’s not a slight. This was written on the launch day of the 2016 Olympics, an institution where Canada has a proud history of bronze hegemony. So let’s talk about the Forester in Subaru’s own suggested order.
Quality: a story of value for money
For specific customers – value-conscious families with lots of stuff to move – this SUV is a good option. For less than $40K before taxes, Subaru has included plenty of comfort, well-planned practicality and bling in this Forester 2.5i Limited model with the Technology Package. The Forester is not as pretty as most of Subaru’s other products but stands up well amid its competitors on the Limited trim’s 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
The doors are surprisingly light and effectively closing them takes some getting used to. (Expect warning light and avian chirps to alert you.) Despite the welterweight doors, the ride is quiet, making the eight-speaker, 440-watt Harman Kardon sound system extra enjoyable. The stereo integrates well with the 7-inch touch-sensitive, and instantly intuitive, infotainment system. The tech is comprehensive with GPS navigation, all-phone compatibility, satellite radio and three months of other satellite offerings including traffic, weather, sports and stocks.
(BTW, if you need to know the values of your stocks while in traffic, you’re a horrible person.)
The steering wheel is heated, as are the front and back seats, which swim in easy-to-clean leather. This Forester’s eighth-day test occurred during an off-the-charts heat wave and cooled seats would’ve brought rave reviews but alas. Thankfully this tester’s white exterior and butterscotch-coloured seats didn’t trap much heat or overburden the A/C. (See more below, regarding fuel economy.) The already light and airy atmosphere was made brighter and roomier by the huge power sunroof. It’s remarkable the effect on the mood a roomy sunroof can have.
A Proper Workout: Venturing Off-road in the 2017 Subaru Forester
The proximity key took some getting used to. Highly sensitive, it unlocks the car door just microseconds before the driver reaches it. Which is why the key fob has no ‘unlock’ button, an inconvenient quirk if you want to remotely unlock the Forester for a passenger who arrived at the car before you. [Actually, the Subaru logo on the fob functions as an “unlock” button – Ed]. That I couldn’t find the unlock button is a small complaint and very #firstworldproblems but worth relating nonetheless.
Some of the most impressive ‘luxuries’ are safety features.
The steering-responsive headlights point where you steer, not necessarily just in front. So you illuminate dark corners at night. That’s great for swiveling side to side but the auto-leveling feature delivers a similar effect when you’re on an incline, pointing downwards or up. While we did cover a lot of territory in the Forester – nearly 1,600 km over eight days – we didn’t drive at night on darkened curvy hills. Nor did we need the heated rearview mirrors that evaporate frost and fog – but such safety features are like insurance or a karate black belt. You’re glad to have them but don’t ever feel bad that you haven’t used them.
In the same spirit, we also did not test the capabilities of the ‘whiplash reducing’ front seats.