The Quick and the Dad: 2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring car test drives subaru
2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Stuck behind a logging truck on the Sea-to-Sky highway is no place to find yourself. The road twists and turns, revealing alpine vistas and postcard-perfect peaks, and all I can think about is that one part from those stupid Final Destination movies where all the logs break their chains and come cartwheeling through the windshield as though the car was suddenly under attack by a militant wing of the Scottish Highland Games Society.

At the time, I was behind the wheel of a 170-hp Limited-trim Forester, and while that particular car has perfectly adequate power for most situations, it’s not quite enough to attempt to get around a heavily laden semi, currently travelling at about 10 km/h under the limit. The truck’s too long and the passing areas are too short; I lift off the throttle to open up a little more room between the Forester and the rain of bark chips that stream out behind the logging rig.

A very brief dashed line appears, but better not chance it, I figure. And just at that moment, a silver Forester XT goes slinging past both of us, turbocharger whistling away merrily and engine pinned in the powerband – sometimes a little extra power is actually a safety feature.

A short time later I got my hands on the turbocharged version of Subaru’s all-new Forester and took it up the same road. As you’ve already read in previous reviews, this fourth-generation Fozzie is larger, lighter, spacious-ier, and considerably more fuel efficient. It swallows gear with ease, accommodates child seats no problem, fits in-laws in comfort and has a stellar safety rating – best in the segment.

As such, it ticks all the Dad boxes, and as somebody who hits the local trails regularly (though not regularly enough to look like Bear Grylls instead of Winnie the Pooh), the whole outdoorsy vibe of the Forester fits in perfectly with our family’s muddy-booted ethos. Standard factory roof rails? Good stuff. Decent road clearance and an “X Mode” for handling rough descents? We’d actually use it. Plus, I already own a turbocharged Subaru product, of which I’m almost sappily fond, so the go-fast version of the Forester should fit like a woollen sock in a Welly, right?

Let’s talk about drivetrains for a minute. Subaru will still offer you a six-speed manual in both base and Touring trims of the four-cylinder naturally aspirated model. May Our Lady of Acceleration bless them for it. Everything else, including the turbocharged XT, gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The Quick and the Dad: 2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring car test drives subaru The Quick and the Dad: 2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring car test drives subaru The Quick and the Dad: 2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring car test drives subaru
2014 Subaru Forester XT Touring. Click image to enlarge

The CVT is perhaps the most-maligned transmission on the planet as far as the enthusiast community goes, taking a kicking for everything from excessive whine to the unchanging accelerative feel of a motorboat. The decision to only offer the hi-po Fozzie with this snowmobile gearbox therefore looks like folly in the extreme. Remember how great the old five-speed manual Forester XTs were? Like a big floppy WRX with the styling lines of a toaster and the soul of a rally car.

But you haven’t been able to buy a manual-transmission turbo Forester for a full generation. Instead, buyers got stuck with the old four-speed automatic – an antediluvian transmission that predates agriculture. But say what you like, the four-speed was tough as nails and worked hand-in-hand with the torquey 2.5L turbo to provide strong acceleration and durability. Er, except for the engine’s headgasket issues, but they mostly fixed that.

This new turbine-fed Fozzie gets a 2.0L, direct-injected flat-four that produces a full 26 hp and 36 lb-ft of torque over the previous engine (how’d they do that? More boost.) and also gets a unique, beefed-up version of Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT. This last is an entirely in-house design with a steel drive belt, Subaru preferring to develop their own CVT rather than license a lighter-duty option from CVT-championing Nissan.




About Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer is a Vancouver-based automotive writer, a member of AJAC and a ginger.