2018 Subaru Forester midrange crossover rules on wintry roads

The 2018 Subaru Forester compact crossover continues to hold its own against similar vehicles from other brands and Subaru’s other crossover models. Recently added handling and safety tech help, but the popularity of all-wheel-drive-only Subarus in wintry states, especially the northeast and northwest, seems to render the company’s market share bulletproof.

The compact Forester currently holds the middle spot of the brand’s three crossover SUVs, between the subcompact Crosstrek and the mid-size Outback. Next year the Forester will be the second-smallest of four models with the debut of the 7-passenger, 3-row 2019 Ascent full-size crossover.

The 2018 Forester has no significant changes since 2017’s interior and exterior styling and technology refresh. Our 2017 Forester 2.0 XT Touring review still holds for the new model — particularly the shout out for active torque vectoring in the high end 2.0XT Touring trim. Torque vectoring works in conjunction with the traction control and vehicle dynamic control, both of which are standard on all Forester trims. The 2.0XT Touring trim gets extra help with sharp turns when active torque vectoring applies the brake to the front inner wheel.  The Forester’s handling aids, the low center of gravity Subaru Boxer 4-cylinder engines, symmetrical all-wheel drive, and 8.7-inch ground clearance result in a reliable ride suitable to carry five passengers pretty much anywhere the roads get rough or snow covered.

2018 Subaru Forester engines

Foresters come with one of two Boxer 4-cylinder motors. The 2.5L normally aspirated engine is good for 170 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 174 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 RPM. This engine is EPA rated at 22 mpg in city driving, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined with the 6-speed manual transmission that is standard equipment with the base Forester 2.5i and 2.5i Premium trims. The 2.5i Limited and 2.5i Touring trims have a CVT transmission and better fuel economy, rated at 26 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 28 mpg combined.

The top Forester 2.0XT Premium and 2.0XT Touring trims come with a smaller 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, but with direct injection and turbocharging the 2.0L motor cranks out 250 hp at 5,600 RPM and 258 lb-ft of torque at a wide 2,000 to 4,800 RPM range. The small engine is peppier and pulls much harder, but the bite on fuel economy is twofold. The EPA rating for the 2.0L with a CVT is 23 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. Subaru recommends premium gasoline for the 2.0L engine, while the 2.5L version is fine with regular gas.

2018 Subaru Forester safety and driver-assist tech

All Foresters come standard with a rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring, brake assist, and brake override. Subaru’s Eyesight Driver Assist Technology package bundles adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane keeping alert, lane keeping assist, and sway warning. The Eyesight bundle and separately available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are neither standard nor optional with the base Forester 2.5i.

Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert is standard on the 2.5i Limited trim, while it’s optional for Premium trims. The Eyesight bundle is available as an option for the Premium and Limited trims. Both Touring models, the 2.5i Touring and 2.0XT Touring, include the Eyesight bundle and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert as standard equipment.

The Touring and Limited trims also have three features not available even as options on other trims: auto high-beam headlamps, reverse automatic braking, and LED steering responsive headlights that pivot slightly to light up turns.

So the bottom line is, if you want the full set of Forester safety and assist features, for 2018 anyway, you’ll have to buy one of the most expensive trims, with starting prices of $29,395 for the 2.5i Limited, $33,090 for the 2.5i Touring and $36,090 for the 2.0XT Touring.

The tables below clarify which safety and assist features are standard, optional, or unavailable with each Forester trim. Bold type indicates the standard features for each trim for clarity.

Passive Safety/Driver Assist Features 2018 Forester 2.5i 2018 Forester 2.5i Premium 2018 Forester 2.5i Limited
Rearview camera with backup assist gridlines Standard  Standard Standard
Tire pressure monitoring Standard Standard Standard
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert Not available Optional Standard
Adaptive cruise control  Not available Optional Optional
Pre-collision braking Not available Optional Optional
Lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert Not available Optional Optional
Auto high-beam headlamp Not available Not available Optional
Reverse automatic braking Not available Not available Optional
LED Steering Responsive Headlights Not available Not available Optional
Passive Safety/Driver Assist Features 2018 Forester 2.5i Touring 2018 Forester 2.0XT Premium 2018 Forester 2.0XT Touring
Rearview camera with backup assist gridlines Standard Standard Standard
Tire pressure monitoring Standard Standard Standard
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert Standard Not available Standard
Adaptive cruise control  Standard Not available Standard
Lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert Standard Not available Standard
Pre-collision braking Standard Not available Standard
Reverse automatic braking Standard Not available Standard
LED Steering Responsive Headlights Standard Not available Standard
Auto high-beam headlamp Standard Not available Standard

How to choose a 2018 Subaru Forester

Choosing a Forester trim is much easier than with many other crossover models. All trims include all-wheel-drive and have the same 2-row, 5-passenger seating. Moving up the trim levels adds comfort, convenience, and tech features for handling and safety. A choice of two engines balances power and fuel economy, which isn’t much of a surprise, but in this case, the more powerful engine requires higher octane gasoline, which is an added consideration.

The base model 2018 Forester 2.5i, starting at $22,795, has the 170-hp 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. Like other Foresters, the 2.5i has 8.7-inches of ground clearance. The Starlink Multimedia infotainment system has a 6.2-inch display and an AM/FM audio system with four speakers and a single CD player (remember those?). The 2.5i has single-zone air conditioning and limited options.

The first uplevel trim is the Forester 2.5i Premium, starting at $25,695. The 2.5i Premium adds a power-tilt/sliding panoramic moonroof, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, automatic climate control system, and Subaru Starlink Safety and Security. Other standard features with the 2.5i Premium include roof rails, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 7-inch multimedia display, and six speakers. The Premium level also opens the options catalog for the EyeSight driver-assist technology package and a power liftgate.

Starting at $29,395, the 2018 Forester 2.5i Limited has leather-trimmed upholstery, an all-weather package with heated front seats, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert and a power rear liftgate. Other standard features on the 2.5i Limited include fog lights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift handle, X-Mode enhanced all-wheel drive, and automatic on/off headlights.

Trim 2018 Forester 2.5i 2018 Forester 2.5i Premium 2018 Forester 2.5i Limited
Base price  $22,795 $25,695 $29,395
Drive wheels AWD AWD AWD
Base engine  2.5L boxer 4-cylinder  2.5L boxer 4-cylinder  2.5L boxer 4-cylinder
Base horsepower  170 hp @ 5,800 RPM 170 hp @ 5,800 RPM  170 hp @ 5,800 RPM
Base torque  174 lb-ft @ 4,100 RPM 174 lb-ft @ 4,100 RPM  174 lb-ft @ 4,100 RPM
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual CVT
Fuel Regular gas Regular gas Regular gas
Fuel capacity   15.9 gallons  15.9 gallons  15.9 gallons
Fuel economy 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined (6-speed manual) 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined (6-speed manual) 26 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined (CVT)
Base wheels  17-inch  17-inch  17-inch
Body style 4-door SUV 4-door SUV 4-door SUV
Passengers  5 5 5
Storage behind 2nd-row seats 34.4 cu ft 31.5 cu ft 31.5 cu ft
Storage behind 1st-row seats 74.7 cu ft 68.5 cu ft 68.5 cu ft
Max Towing capacity 1,500 pounds 1,500 pounds 1,500 pounds
Seat Upholstery Cloth  Cloth

The 2018 Forester 2.5i Touring, starting at 33,090, is the highest trim level and includes all available Forester passive safety and driver assist technology. The 2.5i Touring has the features of the 2.5i Limited plus dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, 8-way power driver’s seat with memory, a one-touch folding rear seatback, and LED Steering Responsive Headlights. Other features include a voice-activated GPS navigation system, push-button start, a 440-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system with eight speakers, and a GPS navigation system.

The 2018 Forester 2.0XT Premium, $29,495 starting price, includes the 2.5i Premium features plus a turbocharged 250-hp 2.0L Boxer engine, 18-inch wheels, and a sport design front fascia. Other 2.0XT Premium features include an all-weather package with heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift handle.

The 2018 Forester 2.0XT Touring is the top trim with a price to match, starting at $36,090. The 2.0XT Touring builds on the 2.0XT Premium feature set with leather-trimmed upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, power driver’s seat w/ memory, one-touch folding rear seatback, and LED Steering Responsive Headlights. The top Touring trim also has a voice-activated GPS navigation system, push-button start, and the full complement of safety and handling features including active torque vectoring for sharp, smooth turns.

Trim 2018 Forester 2.5i Touring 2018 Forester 2.0XT Premium 2018 Forester 2.0XT Touring
Base price 4×2 $33,090 $29,495 $36,090
Drive wheels AWD AWD AWD
Base engine  2.5L boxer 4-cylinder 2.0L turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder  2.0L turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder
Base horsepower  170 hp @ 5,800 RPM  250 hp @ 5,600 RPM 250 hp @ 5,600 RPM
Base torque 174 lb-ft @ 4,100 RPM  258 lb-ft @ 2,000 – 4,800 RPM 258 lb-ft @ 2,000 – 4,800 RPM
Transmission  CVT  CVT  CVT
Fuel Regular gas Premium gas Premium gas
Fuel capacity (gallons) 15.9 gallons  15.9 gallons  15.9 gallons
Fuel economy  26 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined (CVT) 23 mpg city/27 mpg highway/25 mpg combined (CVT) 23 mpg city/27 mpg highway/25 mpg combined (CVT)
Base wheels  18-inch  18-inch  18-inch
Body style 4-door SUV 4-door SUV 4-door SUV
Passengers  5  5  5
Storage behind 2nd-row seats 31.5 cu ft 31.5 cu ft 31.5 cu ft
Storage behind 1st-row seats 68.5 cu ft 68.5 cu ft 68.5 cu ft
Max Towing capacity 1,500 pounds 1,500 pounds 1,500 pounds
Seat upholstery  Leather Cloth Leather

Editors' Recommendations