All-wheel-drive crossovers seem to whet the whistle of buyers unlike anything else these days. Though nearly every automaker offers some sort of high-riding, so-called-active-lifestyle vehicle, Subarus in particular seem to embody the ideal of the crossover unlike anything else. Even non-enthusiasts know Subaru is the first choice of the outdoorsy among us; a casual trip to the local dog parks or trailheads will almost certainly reveal a gaggle of Subarus clustered together in the dirt parking lots.

This is the high wave that the 2019 Subaru Forester comes riding in on. It looks little different than the outgoing model, though underneath a host of changes promise a better driving experience than before and interiors have been upgraded in respect to materials and quality. There's no doubt, however, that the essence of the Forester remains wholly intact. Nicely straddling the line between technological progress and comforting familiarity, the 2019 Forester should have no problem continuing as the cornerstone of the Subaru lineup and holding envious competitors at bay.

Best Value

For 2019, the Forester is available in five different trim levels. All are powered by a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT); the turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission options have been quietly euthanized. Of the five trim levels, it's the Limited that we're smitten by. Luxuries include leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker sound system, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert; it's also the first trim where the larger eight-inch touchscreen is standard. Though the lower trims are still competitive options, the balance of features and price make the Limited a strong value proposition even if it's second from the top in the Forester family.

  • Model: 2019 Subaru Forester Limited
  • Engine: 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder
  • Output: 182 hp / 176 lb-ft
  • Transmission:CVT
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG:26 City / 33 Hwy
  • Options: N/A
  • Base Price:$31,770 (including a $975 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price:$31,770

Performance

Subaru Forester

Up through 2018, the Forester used to be a bit of a dark-horse performance crossover, thanks to the availability of a 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and a separately-available six-speed manual gearbox. Unfortunately for enthusiasts, both of those elusive options have been taken off the ordering sheet, leaving the timeworn 2.5-liter boxer four and CVT as the only powertrain combination.

The 182-hp, 2.5-liter engine will be immediately familiar to anyone who's spent some time in a Forester or Outback built in the last 20 years. There's still that subtle but distinctive exhaust note that gives away the engine's flat boxer-style design, and engine noise is still rather prevalent, though the cabin is well soundproofed. Power is adequate for around town, though highway passing or short onramps will expose the lack of grunt. Fuel economy is good for the 3,500-pound crossover – the EPA rates it at 26 miles per gallon city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 combined.

People like to rag on CVTs, but the reality is that the unit fitted to the Forester is a good one. It does a good job of providing good off-the-line acceleration, and the characteristic whining when the gas pedal is depressed isn't an issue here. It makes the most of the engine's limited power and will put it to use without ever being unpleasant or cantankerous. On Sport models, paddle shifters let buyers pretend to row through the nonexistent gears themselves; it's a small consolation for those who were hoping the manual transmission option would return for 2019.

Though the sheetmetal is familiar, the chassis is all-new and is the same as that found under the Impreza, Crosstrek, and also-new Ascent three-row crossover. With the new platform comes marked improvements in stiffness and handling, translating to noticeably less body roll and a much smoother ride. It's still no Mazda CX-5 in the corners, but it certainly handles with more verve than the old one did. All Foresters come with Subaru's trademark full-time all-wheel-drive and a useful 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

Style

The Forester embodies Subaru's reluctance to jump headlong toward new styling directions, as the new-for-2019 model looks as if it could share all it's body panels with the old one. For some brands, this kind of restraint could mean a slow demise, but for Subaru, it seems only to further entrench their already loyal customer base. It probably explains why the new Forester largely keeps it's chunky and blocky look; the small details that were revised only serve to heighten the sense of butch purposefulness it seems to exude. Big windows, a wide hatch with a low load floor, and the severity of the angles all combine to make one of the most practical, upright crossovers on the market.

The innards of the new Forester make a decidedly more apparent leap forward. Materials, fit and finish, and overall quality are better on every trim; top-of-the-line Touring models have a particularly rich-looking brown leather available that belies the car's $35,000 price tag. Lower-spec cars use a 6.5-inch touchscreen, while the Limited and Touring have an eight-inch unit. Both house Subaru's Starlink infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Passengers both front and rear have ample stretch out room, with the rear passengers benefiting from nearly 40 inches of leg room. Tiered seating put those in back slightly higher than the already high-up front seaters, and together with the space make sitting in the second row a pleasure. Drop the rear seats – possible with the touch of a button on the Touring models – and the 35.4 cubic feet of cargo space more than doubles to 76.1 cubic feet. Drivers have 10-way power adjustment unless they opt for the base model, in which case they'll get six-way manual adjustment; passengers make do with four-way manual adjustment except in the Touring model, where they'll have an eight-way power seat. Visibility is excellent from the front, thanks to the large windows and commanding seating position.

The Best and Worst Things

The feature count, quality of materials, and ample space will be enough to sell most prospective buyers, and old-time Subaru fans will be glad to see how familiar their favorite crossover still is.

Evolutionary rather than revolutionary styling might be a drawback for buyers who were hoping for something more stylistically daring; the 2.5-liter boxer motor is almost old enough to legally drink, and it's mediocre at best compared to some of the competition.

Right For? Wrong For?

Subaru Forester

Yes, it's become a trope, but it's true – the active-living outdoorsy set really would be right at home in the confines of the Forester, as it has the space and capability to handle the rigors of this lifestyle.

Buyers looking for actual performance will be disappointed with the new Forester, especially now that the turbo engine and stick-shift options have been discontinued.

The Bottom Line

Subaru's Forester has become a favorite for a reason – it does everything well for not a lot of money. Sure, it's no sports car or corner-caver, and the styling certainly won't inspire any artists or poets, but it's a comfortable and efficient daily-driver, a reliable road-tripper, and a perfect weekend getaway vehicle when it's time to escape the hustle and bustle. The 2019 Subaru Forester continues to deliver on these principles, and we're sure both new buyers and returning customers will be happy to trade in and trade up to Subaru's latest salvo in the hotly-contested crossover market.