2016 Subaru Forester Touring Road Test

2016 Subaru Forester Touring

Tried and true.



What have we here?

Ever been to Vermont, or Colorado? If you answered in the affirmative, you’ll be forgiven if you think that driving a Subaru in these locales is mandated by their respective local governments. Their unique combination of go-anywhere capability and impressive efficiency packaged in a roomy, safety leading package is pretty hard to resist. The Forester you see here is particularly endearing to crossover buyers who have made it responsible for roughly a quarter of the brand’s volume. As with many offerings from Subaru, the Forester punches above it’s weight; head over to YouTube to see these plucky trucklets pulling big rigs out of snowdrifts.

Sounds like an ideal mode of transportation for the Zombie Apocalypse…

If the world is suddenly overrun by the walking undead, motorists would be wise to grab the keys to a Subaru Forester. It’s got lots of room in the cargo area, so you’d be able to take a whole cache of supplies with you. During our test, we achieved 9.8L/100km with minimal effort so you can rest assured in knowing that it would take you as far as possible without wasting precious fuel. Lastly, Subaru’s raison d’etre in the form of its trademark Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and generous ground clearance would afford you the kind of capability to flee as far off the grid as possible.

Heavens to Murgatroyd, this one even has a manual gearbox!

Yes, it does, and it’s an increasing rarity nowadays. Very few in the segment even offer the choice of selecting one’s gears- the Mazda CX-5 is the only other that comes to mind, although you can’t combine it with all-wheel drive. The unit in our tester lacked a bit of precision, feeling a bit ropy as it moved about from gear to gear. At least clutch take-up and feel was spot on, and we appreciated the Hill Holder feature on more than one occasion. The alternative to the manual is a CVT that will never set hearts afire with its rubber band-y feeling, so we’d still opt for the manual everyday of the week and twice on Sunday.

What’s it like inside?

Step inside the Forester- something that’s exceedingly easy to do, thanks to its ample ground clearance and seat height- and you settle into comfortable, cloth upholstered seats and find yourself face to face with a properly legible, no-nonsense dashboard. Turn your attention to the centre stack and notice that Subaru’s ancient infotainment unit has been swapped out in favor of their new Starlink system that eschews the usual plethora of buttons for a touch interface. It looks good and is a significant upgrade over the older system, but it’s still a bit clunky and requires you tot take your eyes off the road to make sure the desired command is carried out. Three rotary knobs do a nice job of managing the HVAC functions in intuitive fashion. As far as other equipment goes, our tester outfitted in Touring trim had a curious mix of kit. For example, it featured a power lift gate (something you typically only get with more luxurious trims) but didn’t have leather seats. Navigation wasn’t standard kit, but a large sunroof is on the list of niceties. Overall, the interior affords a general feeling of airiness and visibility is good, making the Subie seem larger than it actually is.

What are some of the cars highlights (and miscues?)

One of the things that left an indelible positive impression on us was the ride quality. There’s no unyielding bushings or an oversized wheel and tire package to be found, and coupled with the decent ground clearance you’ll find there is no stretch of scabrous pavement that will unfazed it. It seems to dance over imperfections and yet isn’t pogoing around when you show it some corners. It’s no WRX, this Forester, but it doesn’t do to badly when you want to play. The boxer four cylinder won’t encourage spirited trips to the redline, however. It speaks in an industrial tone and feels a bit gravelly. You are left with the impression that some of its 170 ponies may be on the leaner side of the muscular spectrum and thus is one of the slower entries in the segment. These engines are generally pretty stout, so no worries about it letting you down on one of your forays off the beaten path. It’ll carry you pretty far too, as our aforementioned 9.8L/100km is praiseworthy mileage over the course of a road test that saw most our driving in an urban setting.

I grew up watching Colin McCrae tearing up the World Rally Championship. What if I want a little more zing in my Forester?

Subaru has got you covered; that version would be the XT, and it ditches the asthmatic 2.5 naturally aspirated engine for a 2.0 iteration with a turbocharger slapped onto it. The results are a pleasing boost in horsepower to an even 250- although the excitement ends there when you find out that the only transmission choice is a CVT. We wish Subaru wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to give the world the WRX-on-stilts it would never actually build, but we digress. Frankly, the engine in our tester was fine for anything the average commuter might ask of it, and we suspect that the average Subaru owner isn’t worried about slashing 0 to 100km/h times anyhow. We look forward to see what’s in the pipeline where the Forester’s continuing development is concerned. They have a strong foundation on which to build upon- the list of things that need to be fixed or massaged is small. While our wishes for a hotter Forester with a manual gearbox may go unfulfilled, this immensely capable box-on-wheels will continue to capture the hearts and wallets of buyers both returning and new in locales like Colorado, Vermont, and many points in between.

 2016 Subaru Forester Touring— Specifications

  • Price as tested: $31,670
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Engine:  2.5 litre horizontally opposed four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  170 @ 5,800 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 174 @ 4,100 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,514 kg (3,337 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 9.8L/100km (24 mpg)