Review by Jeff Wilson
Photos by Ryan Edwardson and Jeff Wilson

2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i. Click image to enlarge

Subaru would like us to believe that their 2014 Forester puts the “Sport” back in SUV (SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle, remember?). Given that this is the company that has always provided a turbo XT variant of their perennial compact SUV (and briefly, a snorting STI version in other markets), I’m not sure the sport was ever really missing.  Nonetheless, not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, if the good folks at Subaru wish to add some more sizzle and make their already revered Forester more engaging to drive, I’m all for it.

Fortunately for Subaru, they gambled wisely and provided me with a stick-shift-equipped test car in the exact trim I’d order for myself if I were shopping for a Forester. A 2.5i with Touring Package in the beautiful Marine Blue Pearl paint is just the right mix of features and value, still coming in at a hair under $30,000. While the greater gusto of the boosted XT model would be appreciated, I also believe that “Utility” needs to be a priority for SUVs too, and the Forester appears at first glance to offer it, particularly compared to other SUVs with their form-over-function designs.

The Forester (like all Subarus it seems) forgoes gratuitous fashion for honest-to-goodness practicality. A tall, upright profile with a lot of glass means a look that’s less swoopy than its competitors, but provides outward vision second to none. With side mirrors mounted to the door and leaving large forward quarter windows, the driver’s sightlines are simply remarkable with the Forester. For what it’s worth, in this scribe’s opinion the 2.5i’s styling is more successful than the XT’s, with its unusual vertical gashes on either side of the front bumper absent on the lower-cost model.

Those tall windows and boxy shape also provide an air of spaciousness to the cabin, reinforced by the light grey cloth interior. Comfortable seats and decent headroom (somewhat compromised in the rear by the oversized sunroof) fulfill the assurance of passenger contentment.

2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i. Click image to enlarge

The driver faces two large round dials for both the speedo and tach, and a small graphic information centre between the two with a digital fuel gauge being the only other measure present. A temperature gauge (instead of an idiot light in blue or red) would be a welcome addition here, but otherwise the simplicity is a refreshing change these days.

A clean design continues through the centre stack with a trio of large knobs operating the automatic dual-zone climate control. Top and centre is a small display screen that cycles through various informative screens offering up everything from exterior temperature to graphics depicting all-wheel-drive power delivery and from efficiency meters to music information.

The only real weak point of the interior design is the woefully fiddly radio found at this trim level. Compared to most of the competitors, Subaru’s infotainment unit is nowhere near as intuitive to operate, requiring a decent amount of button-pushing for simple Bluetooth connections and iPod operation. The Touring Package also does not come with a navigation system, though a back-up camera is standard on all but the most basic Forester.

2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i
2014 Subaru Forester 2.5i. Click image to enlarge

So the cabin is a nice place to be; but what of this sportiness Subaru has allegedly infused here? While no BRZ sports car, I can report that the rugged playfulness found in so many Subarus lately is still largely present here.

When the 2.5L four-cylinder fires up, there is no mistaking it for anything other than a Subaru boxer engine. It’s a little louder, a little more growly than the butter-smooth mills found in the CR-V and RAV4, but I still prefer it. I’ve always loved the gruff noises these engines make – mechanical without being harsh.

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