2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Limited Review and Road Test

2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Limited

A slightly refreshed CUV from Subaru for those with WRX dreams but who live in a Forester reality

Words by: Adam Allen



Looks like the Forester has been out for a spot of cosmetic surgery…

It was only a few short years ago that the current SJ version of Subaru’s Forester made its Canadian debut and since then, they haven’t had any problems finding interested buyers. For the last decade, the Forester’s sales have increased steadily and have helped make Subaru one of the fastest growing automotive brands in North America. As a reward for its briskly significant impact on company balance sheets, Subaru commissioned its design team to show the Forester a little love. Not too much love, though; this is only a slight refresh on a recipe that’s already very tasty. If you are familiar with the neighbours that have a 2016 model in their driveway few doors down, your keen eyes will notice that the LED daytime running lights have been changed, and that the taillights also now boast some LED treatment of their own. New wheel designs like those on our tester are also new to the party. Inside, there’s the availability of Cognac Brown leather seating that looks seriously on point and the EyeSight suite of driver and safety aids is packing some new tricks as well.

Driver aids are meant to help, but they’re mostly annoying. Why include more of that stuff?

We’re privileged to drive all kinds of cars, and while they are all fundamentally different there’s common denominator amongst them we’ve noticed over recent years. That is, during our pre-departure checklist after adjusting driving and mirror positions we immediately reach for the off switch for most of these technologies. Automakers have their hearts in the right place with this tech- It’s meant to help protect you and your passengers, after all- but most of these systems function in such a distracting and frankly jarring manner that they just end up bothering more than they provide a useful service. Subaru is about the only manufacturer we can think of where we leave EyeSight’s electronic security blanket on. That’s because when it does warn you of a fast-approaching obstacle or that you’re wandering out of your lane, it does so in a matter that’s wholly palatable and non-intrusive. Not only that, but the EyeSight cameras are now smart enough not to trigger a slew of overzealous warnings that can put drivers on edge when commuting. For 2017, EyeSight has added further protection from backing up into the vehicle behind you, slamming on the brakes if it determines you’re going to mess up your rear bumper. It also alerts you to vehicles or pedestrians that might get in the way of your intended direction. These helpful additions to EyeSight already join a comprehensive mix of pre-collision braking, pre-collision brake assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.

So there’s more tech, but you’d hardly call a Subaru “luxurious”.

Until we had spent some time in this Forester 2.0XT, we would wholeheartedly agree that Subaru and Luxury were mutually exclusive and could not possibly coexist. Subaru vehicles are great in the snow and have always been sturdily made but they always made you wish that the engineers would have been a little more generous with sound deadening materials. Spending time in their interiors wouldn’t spoil you, unless your frame of reference involves a stripped-out Lada. This Forester gave us pause to think about far Subaru has come in producing a vehicle that you might describe as soothing, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Gritty sounds from the road and tires when driving have been eliminated, and the grumbly din of the turbo flat-four has been reduced to a pleasant thrum. Thanks to strategic addition of noise suppressing materials the interior now enjoys a level of serenity we haven’t experienced in Subarus previously. This new dedication to refinement extends beyond what the ears pick up- now your eyes will reinforce the luxury vibe as they pour over a cockpit that has obviously been screwed together with care. Those handsome Cognac Brown seats with contrasting stitching with a large, crisply rendered touchscreen Starlink infotainment touchscreen reinforce a quality feel. Our Limited also featured effective heated seats and a heated steering wheel, a first for the brand and seriously appreciated on frigid mornings. Capping off the pleasant environs is outward visibility that is incredibly good, allowing for easy views 360 degrees around the driver making the Forester easy to place while going down the road or when parking.

So ‘2.0XT’ means there’s something juicy in the engine bay- shall we think of the Forester as a WRX on stilts?

Sort of. The XT badge on the Forester’s rump means that it shares its 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder with the spicy WRX, destroyer of rally stages for the better part of two decades. It makes 250 horsepower and 258 pounds feet of torque- numbers that feel like they’re lowballing the actual output. This engine feels much stronger that what the spec sheet suggests, and it’s a smoothie too. Perhaps it’s not as efficient as other engines of similar architecture and displacement as our test mileage of 12.1L/100 would attest, but it’s hooked up to a CVT that can deliver decent efficiency when asked. A word about that CVT- it’s astonishingly good. Yes, there will be situations where it drones and road speed will be out of sync with the tachometer. But these instances are few and far between, and the CVT is an ideal match to the turbo four’s power delivery characteristics. When you select the Sport Sharp driving mode (not Sport ‘hashtag’ as my wife thought) it shifts “gears” with conviction, exhibiting exactly none of the traits we so despise in these gearboxes. Putting the Forester in this maximum attack mode makes it feel responsive without feeling nervous and allows you to extract the most out of each and every horsepower available. The handling isn’t as astute as the WRX- you can mostly thank the higher center of gravity for that- but it feels pretty sharp for a crossover, and the ride is delightfully plush and eagerly soaked up all the nasty bumps and frost heaves we typically encounter in our travels. It’s also go Subaru’s excellent Symmetrical all-wheel drive which makes any journey a surefooted one.

Should you buy a Forester 2.0XT?

If you’re a current Subaru owner or perhaps you have owned one in the past, most likely you’ve got a Forester on your shopping list- brand loyalty has always been a strong suit for Subaru. The 2017 Forester is the best the model has ever been, which should make it that much more of a compelling choice. It’s not perfect- the steering is vague, the infotainment system sometimes gets laggy, the 2.0 litre can get thirsty and whatever you do, don’t sample the base engine after you’ve flogged the turbocharged XT- it’s lack of power will make you think perhaps you left the parking brake on. After sampling the first Forster 20 years ago and every vintage since, we’ll make the claim that this is the best Forester ever and the torrent of interested buyers shouldn’t wane whatsoev

er. If you’re interested in a CUV, you owe it to yourself to look at the Forester.


2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Limited- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $41,170
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Engine:  2.0-litre turbocharged inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  250 @ 5,600 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 258 @ 2,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,671kg (3,686 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.1L/100km (19 MPG)