Mountain Wheels: Ever-popular Subaru Forester adds technology and power
2016 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring
MSRP: $33,795; as tested, $36,250
Powertrain: 250-HP 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; CVT transmission
EPA figures: 25 combined (23 city, 28 highway)
Sunburn. Turbo power. And a thoroughly modern chin, plus the benefits of EyeSight.
Just a few quick glimpses of the latest iteration of the virtually weather-proof vehicle I think I can accurately call the official car of Northern Colorado, the 2016 edition of the Subaru Forester. Pick the right moment and you can probably spot nine of them in a 20-foot radius, especially at Whole Foods.
With good reason, of course. Forester’s time-tested, extremely upright and boxy shape may have it looking like one of those cartoon cars driven in the Michelin commercials, but the result is good passenger and cargo room, and a tall but stable platform.
And if you decide to get all fancy and opt for the 2.0XT Touring edition I sampled — priced at just over $36,000, a pretty far cry from the $23,395 price of the basest-of-base models — you also get the much-desired added benefit of a 250-horsepower intercooled and fabulously turbocharged engine.
That engine does indeed make a significant difference in rendering the Forester into a passing and uphill-pulling monster, with power galore. Do so sparingly and you might reach the 30 MPG tally I got in mixed traffic; the 25 combined MPG figure on the window sticker is still accurate for mountain and freeway trips.
Part of that efficient package is a continuously-variable automatic transmission that’s really one of the best around, producing the absolute least amount of slack-line delay possible, even under “I need it now” blasts of accelerator pedal. It also replicates six gears, so you can use the wheel-mounted paddles to gently slow the Forester while careening down Vail Pass in the iciest, nastiest mess you can imagine.
And that’s also a huge credit to Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system, part of the reason people buy ‘em by the metric ton here in Colorado. The even-handed, well-grounded and efficient transfer of power you’ll feel — even while driving on not-especially-ice-ready all-seasons — does indeed imbue the Forester with hero status in bad conditions.
As for the sunburn part, Forester’s got what must be the largest amount of upright glass in any car this side of an old Nissan minivan, and that greenhouse effect — amplified by a very large, half-cabin-sized sunroof — makes sunglasses and a 50 SPF sunscreen a daytime reality. The sole sun visor, smaller than an iPad, doesn’t quite cut it; I can only imagine the oven effect of driving a Forester in Phoenix in August.
But up here, the tall headroom and great views of the mountains suffice. Easy-drop rear seating and the very efficient rubberized cargo-area mats also make that 74.7 cubic feet of tall cargo space a bit more manageable than smaller and lower crossovers and wagon-styled SUVs.
Subaru’s own variation on newfangled preventative safety systems turns out to be quite well-rounded, even if it is a bit different than other carmakers’. EyeSight is a binocular system — you’ll see the two cameras mounted up by the rear-view mirror — and it offers fast-acting crash-avoidance warnings, as well as integrating automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings. If you like acronyms, you’ll love the SRFs — steering-responsive fog lamps that also work with the system.
It’s all also a bit of a bargain as you can get EyeSight as a package with the much-improved multimedia navigation system — HD and satellite radio, smartphone connections, and optional weather and traffic updates — all for $1,395, or about the price of an ashtray in a European import.
The navigation is presented in a glossy black display with slightly haptic controls and is pleasant to use, especially compared to the clunky systems of the recent path. The 2016 Forester also receives a round of updates to the Starlink electronic emergency communications systems, including remote locking and unlocking, stolen vehicle tracking and SOS services.
The XT-edition Foresters sport a more aggressive-looking grille and bumper and chromed headlamp bezels, all quite contemporary and striking.
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