2014 Subaru Forester XT ReviewMay 3, 2013
- 250-hp turbo engine
- Efficient CVT transmission
- Roomy rear seats
- Panoramic windows
- Standard rearview camera
- Second-rate touchscreen controls
- Unsupportive front seats
- No stick shift for turbo XT model
- So-so fuel economy compared to competition
The value-packed 2014 Subaru Forester XT with its 2.0-liter turbo engine, well-designed, spacious interior, and legendary AWD and 8.7-inch ground clearance is the perfect no-nonsense ride for the outdoor set.
Power & Handling
Subaru threw its updated turbo, 4-cyclinder engine in the XT—based on the engine featured in Subaru’s BRZ sports coupe—gave it a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to boost its fuel economy to 23 city/28 hwy over last year’s model, and added an off-roading system called “X-mode,” which modulates acceleration and braking to maximize traction. It’s a feature found on serious off-roaders from Jeep, Toyota and Land Rover. Finding it in the economical Forester is pretty cool. It turned a steep, sandy descent and climb out of a desert wash into no big deal.
On the highway, the turbo kicks in at only 2,000 rpm, which makes accelerations easy and smooth around town. In fact, it’s as fast as some sports car-minded hatchbacks such as the VW GTI. The same turbo causes the car to scoot up climbs—even at altitudes of 5,000 feet. The transmission can be controlled with paddle shifters, which add an element of fun to the driving experience and sorta makes up for the fact that Subaru won’t sell the XT version with a manual transmission. Otherwise, the Forester XT does a good job of convincing the driver that he or she’s behind the wheel of a sports car, not a compact crossover/SUV.
In terms of mpgs, I clocked around 28 mpg over highway and mellow off-road driving with very little stop-and-go traffic. Two years ago, that would be commendable, but in today’s world of 30+ mpg compact SUVs, it’s just okay.
Cargo & People
From the outside, the 2014 Subaru Forester doesn’t look noticeably different from last year’s version, but sit in the back seat, and the difference is immediately apparent. There’s 3.7 inches of extra legroom, more shoulder room and a nearly flat floor. The result is 3 adults can sit comfortably for long road trips without wanting to kill each other.
Subaru also squared-off and enlarged the rear cargo area’s access, which makes it much easier to throw in a 29er mountain bike or other wide and tall objects. Fold the rear seats down and you could conceivably slide a couple of bike boxes inside, leaving them upright inside the 74.7 cubic feet of storage.
That said, the Forester isn’t perfect: the front seats don’t offer much support, especially considering its sporty engine, transmission, and suspension. (Admission: if Subaru made better seats, I’d own one). And unlike the larger and more expensive Subaru Outback, the roof rails on the Forester don’t come with the Outback’s clever swing-out crossbars.
At first glance, the Forester looks like it’s been designed for families, and it is a near ideal family transporter, but the XT model, with its turbo engine and beefier suspension tells a different story. It’s a blast to drive and with models starting around $28,000 it’s a killer deal. If you’re looking at a Subaru Outback, you’d be smart to compare it to a Forester in terms of features, driving dynamics, and interior comfort and space. You may find that you get more car for the money with the Forester.