2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring review

Subaru's 2017 Forester 2.0XT Touring works WRX tech into a feature-rich AWD ride

Packing an updated look and new features, the 2017 Forester 2.0XT Touring improves upon a solid foundation, but still faces stiff competition.
Packing an updated look and new features, the 2017 Forester 2.0XT Touring improves upon a solid foundation, but still faces stiff competition.
Packing an updated look and new features, the 2017 Forester 2.0XT Touring improves upon a solid foundation, but still faces stiff competition.

Highs

  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Lively turbocharged engine
  • Availability of latest safety technologies

Lows

  • Unrefined CVT gearbox
  • Infotainment system still lags behind industry’s best

DT Editors' Rating

Right now, Southern California is in the midst of the wettest winter season that’s been seen in decades. While it offers a much needed respite from a record-setting drought that lasted roughly half a decade, the conditions are less than ideal for reviewing most new cars, as SoCal freeways typically grind to a halt when it rains and the safe pace required in such weather usually provides very little information about how a vehicle really behaves at speed under typical use.

Subaru’s efforts to quiet down the cabin have paid off as well.

But it’s under these compromised conditions that this Forester (and essentially all of Subaru’s vehicles) are truly in their element. And while this compact SUV has humbler origins than the rally-bred WRX sedan, it benefits from the development of the company’s most sport-oriented model in a number of ways, a strategy that’s been expanded upon even further for the Forester 2.0XT’s refresh for 2017.

Still, as crossovers and SUVs continue to supplant sedans as the dominant vehicle on America’s roadways, the Forester faces some worthy competition from both Japanese and American automakers. We grabbed the keys to this turbocharged, CVT-equipped example and braved the (slightly damp) elements to see how the newly revised Forester currently stacks up.

Refining the formula

While the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT is powered by the same turbocharged, 250 horsepower four cylinder mill as the last one we drove a few years ago (which we continue to be fans of today), Subaru has sought to keep the Forester fresh with a host of tweaks inside and out that improve on the recipe rather than reinventing it.

While much of it is typical fare for a mid-cycle refresh – updated looks by way of a revised front and rear fascias, new interior trim options and different wheel designs – this top-spec 2.0XT Touring has a few technological tricks up its sleeve that help set the Forester apart from other entries in its competitive set.

Active torque vectoring isn’t a feature one might typically associate with compact SUVs, but this handling-enhancing tech now finds its way into the 2.0XT. Derived from the WRX and WRX STI models, Subaru’s torque vectoring system is designed to reduce understeer during hard cornering by strategically applying the brakes to the inside wheels to help the vehicle tuck into the curve.

The technology is bundled in with the latest version of the optional EyeSight driver assistance package, Subaru’s active safety suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking features.

On the road

Sitting at the helm of the Forester, a few interior updates reveal themselves as well. Along with the new availability of the Saddle Brown leather package equipped here in this Touring model, the Forester sports a new steering wheel that features last year’s rethought control scheme, a revision which makes button layout far less daunting than the previous design.

Although the optional 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is also essentially a carry-over from 2016, it’s a welcome improvement over the system in the last Forester we tested. That only elevates Subaru’s infotainment offering from near-dismal to adequate though, as the optional Starlink system still lacks features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, the system earns back a few points for its straight-forward menu layout and responsive hardware.

Upon setting off we’re reminded of the virtues of Subaru’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder power plant. Plucked from the WRX, the gutsy mill manages to work around much of the shortcomings of Subaru’s CVT automatic gearbox, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles provide legitimate function for quick overtakes without the need to wait for the CVT’s software to figure out what to do. Few people buy compact SUVs for their performance prowess, but combination of ample power and a fairly buttoned-down suspension tuning may surprise a few would-be owners. However, that sportiness comes not only at the added cost of the 2.0XT trim but in its additional thirst at the pump.

In terms of road noise, Subaru’s efforts to quiet down the cabin with thicker glass, and acoustically treated windshield, and additional insulation have paid off as well, and the latest Forester feels more premium overall feel at speed for it.

The aesthetic seems to fit well with the honest, low-pretense theme of the Forester.

Even in less than optimal conditions weather the Forester remains eminently planted on the road and surprisingly responsive for a high-riding sport utility. The combination of all-wheel drive and its spirited power plant gives the Forester 2.0XT a level of confidence and capability in both wet and dry conditions that vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 simply cannot match, while X-Mode (standard on CVT-equipped Premium, Limited, and Touring models) provides both off-road tuned stability control and hill descent control, giving the Forester a leg up where the pavement ends as well.

Despite the updates for 2017, the Forester still largely plays it safe on when it comes to aesthetics both inside and out in comparison to some of its more extroverted competitors like the Toyota RAV4. Whether that’s a strength or weakness is largely in the eye of the beholder, but the aesthetic seems to fit well with the honest, low-pretense theme of the Forester overall.

Our Take

Essentially all of Subaru’s tweaks to the Forester 2.0XT Touring for 2017 improve upon an already solid formula. The problem Subaru faces here is that in this crowded segment, anonymous styling isn’t necessarily a selling point. Additionally, many of the Forester’s greatest virtues (like the turbocharged motor) command price tags that take this SUV out of bargain territory. Still, the 2.0XT Touring has it where it counts when it comes to capability, road-holding confidence and cargo capacity, the latter of which has much to do with Subaru’s resistance to recent industry trends toward coupe-like rooflines for smaller SUVs.

What are the alternatives?

The Foresters list of competitors is fairly extensive and includes the aforementioned Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, along with the Hyundai Tucson, Dodge Journey, Chevrolet Equinox, and Jeep Cherokee, among others.

How long will it last?

Given Subaru’s expected generational life cycle for the Forester, this model probably still has some life left in it before a successor steps in, especially when considering that this year marks a refresh for the model.

However, in March of last year the company unveiled some details about its next generation modular architecture, the Subaru Global Platform, which debuted underpinning the fifth generation Impreza earlier this year.

This new platform is able to accommodate hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric systems in additional to traditional gasoline drivetrains and is said to make future Subaru models safer, more fun drive due to additional rigidity and a lower center of gravity, and less costly to produce. But the company hasn’t yet mentioned when the Forester might move to this new platform, so this model isn’t likely to undergo any major changes in the immediate future.

Should you buy it?

That depends where your priorities lie. On one hand the Forester 2.0XT Touring is somewhat thirsty and this top-spec package starts at $34,295 before adding options packages like EyeSight and the Starlink navigation system, which are bundled together and ring up an additional $1595. While opting for a lower trim level can drop the price tag significantly, the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter motor reveals shortcomings in the drive train that are remedied to a large degree by the mill used here in the 2.0XT.

On the other hand, if you live in an area where all-wheel drive stability is important and the added grunt of the turbocharged motor is appealing to you, the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring is a solid option that offers a lot of capability in comparison to most of its competitive set.

Cars

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.
Product Review

With the roomy and speedy 2019 Continental, you can take Lincoln seriously again

With the 2019 Continental, Lincoln is on a mission to rekindle ties with its glamorous past. The firm's flagship sedan is short on tech, but it's comfortable, spacious, and smooth -- just like a Lincoln should be.
Product Review

The new Ram 1500 blends capability and convenience better than the rest

The Ram isn’t the most powerful, spacious, or affordable of the light-duty, full-size pickup herd, but a modestly equipped version walks all over rivals in terms of ride quality, technology, and cabin comfort.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: 2019 BMW Z4 takes on the 2020 Toyota Supra

BMW and Toyota forged an unlikely partnership when they set out to build a sports car platform together. Here, we examine the similarities and differences between the 2019 Z4 and the 2020 Supra.
Cars

Prices for using Tesla Supercharging just skyrocketed

Tesla is updating their Supercharging pricing based on local electricity rates and customer demand, which has lead to an increase in charging costs by as much as 33 percent in some regions.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Cars

Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. Historically, it hasn’t gone very well. We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: a trike is just not a real…
Outdoors

Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber reportedly has its eye on building autonomous electric bikes and scooters that ride to a user when summoned by an app. The technology could also be used to make its two-wheelers safer with obstacle avoidance systems.
Cars

Someone just paid supercar money for the very first 2020 Toyota Supra

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Lincoln’s stately, limited-edition flagship sedan sells out in a month

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.
Cars

Volkswagen is planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring for a lap-record attempt. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car with the I.D. R.
Home Theater

Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

According to a report, people familiar with Spotify's plans say the company is readying a dedicated in-car music streamer that will cost $100. It will work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio system and can be controlled by voice.
Cars

Tesla given go-ahead to start deliveries of Model 3 to Europe

Tesla has been given the green light to start deliveries of its Model 3 electric sedan to Europe, giving it the chance to compete more effectively with the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz in the region's premium car market.
Cars

Royal fans bid big money as Prince Philip ‘car crash parts’ hit eBay

A couple of days after a car crash that involved the 97-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II, debris apparently from the scene of the accident showed up on eBay. And people wanted to buy it.