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Subaru Forester Will Lead The SUV Lineup In 2025

Image Source: Valdis Skudre / Shutterstock

The position of the Subaru Forester can be likened to the middle sibling within the crossover SUV family of the brand, often blending in effortlessly between its elder Outback and the more compact Crosstrek. In this lineup, it holds a resemblance to Jan Brady, with the added support of the more powerful Ascent when needed for heavier family responsibilities.

There’s no need to worry, middle child. Prospective buyers value the hard-working, dependable, and unwavering nature of the Forester: it has been the top-selling Subaru model each month this year, and these attributes are further enhanced with the redesigned 2025 Subaru Forester set to launch this May.

To put it simply, it’s a great vehicle, and the updates are subtle in the traditional Forester style. While it has grown slightly longer, it still retains its taller, boxier appearance, maintaining its utilitarian appeal compared to the more dynamic Outback, which represents the sportier side of the Subaru SUV range.

Externally, the changes to the sixth-generation Forester are minimal at best. It boasts a dominant greenhouse providing exceptional views atop a rectangular body with a low beltline. Riding on 17- to 19-inch wheels, the restrained cladding, complemented by air vents behind the front wheels, adds a touch of sophistication. A broader and taller grille extends into standard LED headlights accented by slim DRLs that wrap around to the prominent fenders.

The exterior, while appearing square, manages to offer relief from the excessive angular designs and extraneous decorations seen on other compact crossovers, and indeed other Subaru models, attempting to showcase off-road prowess. Despite its familiar appearance, this new Forester sports entirely new sheet metal and glass, according to Subaru. Furthermore, it conceals the most remarkable improvements within the Forester: the interior presentation is…pleasant, moving beyond mere functionality. Notably, it is the quietest riding Forester I have ever experienced, and I have previously owned a second-generation Bubu.

How does the new Subaru Forester perform on the road?

The Forester prioritizes functionality over pure enjoyment. Subaru has fine-tuned the 2.5-liter flat-4 engine to produce slightly less horsepower but higher torque, transitioning from 182 hp and 176 lb-ft in 2024 to 180 hp and 178 lb-ft in 2025. While these adjustments do not drastically improve acceleration, they do result in more usable power for overtaking maneuvers or merging onto highways, with peak torque delivery now at 3,700 rpm instead of 4,400 rpm in the 2024 model. The combined fuel efficiency remains at 29 mpg, with Sport and Touring variants achieving 28 mpg.

A hybrid version of the Forester is expected next year as a 2026 model to enhance competition with hybrid variants of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Hyundai Tucson.

The Sport models, including the one tested in western Montana, are equipped with paddle shifters that provide drivers with some influence over the continuously variable automatic transmission’s shifting behavior. Over the years, CVTs have significantly improved in mimicking conventional automatic transmissions, with Subaru’s version being among the most efficient.

This year, it emulates an eight-speed gearbox instead of seven, allowing drivers to downshift when needed, such as for overtaking slower vehicles or for additional control during steep descents, as opposed to solely relying on the brakes.

Additionally, the tester model featured Sport and Intelligent driving modes accessible through the steering wheel controls. The Intelligent mode is designed for fuel-efficient cruising, while the Sport setting prolongs the rev range for increased power output. Steering remains light and smooth, despite incorporating Subaru’s dual-pinion power steering system from the sportier WRX, resulting in reduced vibrations over uneven surfaces.

Fronted by MacPherson front struts and a double-wishbone rear suspension, the Forester handles well under normal conditions, albeit exhibiting some anticipated sway during aggressive cornering due to its elevated stance.

The Forester sets a high standard in outward visibility within its segment, thanks to its thin pillars and expansive window views that aid in enhancing safety and provide an excellent vantage point for observing the vast landscapes, teeming with wildlife and natural beauty.

Perhaps the most significant improvement in the Forester comes from its exceptionally quiet cabin, achieved through enhanced structural rigidity, additional adhesives, and superior sound insulation. This heightened tranquility within the vehicle elevates the driving experience, especially in serene environments like the open fields and rolling hills near the Blackfoot River, offering a stark contrast to previous Forester iterations.

Does the 2025 Subaru Forester include standard all-wheel drive?

Absolutely, and Subaru has enhanced its full-time all-wheel-drive system in the new Forester to offer improved torque distribution to the axles and wheels, accounting for steering input promptly. Sport, Limited, and Touring trims feature dual-function X-Mode, which introduces a Deep Snow/Mud mode alongside the existing Snow/Dirt mode, resulting in noticeably enhanced off-road capabilities.

In a scenario at an elevation of around 6,000 feet on a warm spring day, navigating a rugged access road leading to a mountaintop ghost town still covered in recent snow, highlighted the significance of capable off-road systems. An instance involving a Forester Premium assisting an Outback Wilderness in a rescue operation underscored the potential limitations of vehicles lacking the dual-function X-Mode.

Encountering challenging terrains where secure footing was imperative, the Forester displayed its capability even in demanding conditions that surpassed the ground clearance of 8.7 inches on all Subaru crossovers.

The single-function X-Mode essentially acts as a hill descent system featuring automatic braking, with limited driver input. To engage these modes, a few taps on the touchscreen’s top menu bar are necessary, although a physical button placement on the console would enhance accessibility and convenience.

Once activated, the Snow/Dirt mode assists below 20 mph by automatically adjusting throttle inputs, aiding in maintaining stability and traction on slippery surfaces.

maintain that velocity unless you increase throttle or apply brakes to override it. Otherwise, setting the descent speed won’t be possible. It would be desirable if there was a steering wheel control to allow the driver to manage some of the, well, functions.

Regardless, I have reservations regarding the driver having configured it because it would have remained at a consistent speed to navigate the 40-foot long embankment instead of what seemed to be a severe braking incident by the driver, causing it to end up buried sideways, with the front elevated on the slope and the rear edging closer to a steep drop-off.

It’s doubtful that the Forester Premium would have gotten stuck with the dual-function X-Mode. The additional Deep Snow/Mud mode restricts the traction control system to permit more wheel spin, ultimately enhancing grip.

In approximately five minutes, and with a gentle nudge to the hood, the Forester Premium was dislodged, and all other Foresters proceeded along the route without any mishaps.

For drivers contemplating engaging in more challenging off-road adventures, the Subaru Forester Wilderness remains unchanged from the 2024 model year. It wouldn’t have been unnecessary up at ghost town road.

Yeah, but how does the Subaru Forester fare for day-to-day driving?

The improvements in the powertrain and the overall silence make the driving experience more pleasurable, and the new 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen present in all models except the base model gives it a modern touch. Although the CD player is no longer available, traditionalists might appreciate the AM radio option.

New front seat designs offer better hip support, and all models except the base one come with a heated power driver seat. Subaru hasn’t compromised on the rear seats either, providing nearly 40 inches of legroom and ample headspace due to its tall design. The use of softer materials, alongside the combination of metallic trim and textured interior elements on the dashboard and doors, such as a diamond-like panel over the glovebox, elevate this Forester above its predecessors.

Naturally, Subaru charges a premium for this, but the enhancements justify the $2,900 price hike from last year. Starting at $31,090, inclusive of a $1,395 destination fee, the base Forester still costs less than a base Toyota RAV4 LE with AWD.

Many of the enhancements may go unnoticed and remain unused. Subaru has added a third camera to its standard EyeSight safety system for a broader field of vision, along with updated software that operates more smoothly and responsively. The alerts for emergency braking and lane control might be more assertive and prompt than some drivers prefer, but they align with the Forester’s top safety ratings. Last week, the outgoing model was the sole one out of 10 popular compact crossover models evaluated by IIHS to prevent a high-speed collision with a car, motorcycle, or semi.

The Sport model, which I primarily tested, is priced at $35,890 and showcases 19-inch wheels accented in bronze, chrome and bronze badging inside and out, black exterior accents, an interior with increased soft-touch padding, and waterproof synthetic leather, among other enhancements. It is priced approximately $1,000 lower than last year’s Wilderness model.

The Forester not only fits within the Subaru family but embodies it completely. That’s a commendable lineage from a small family with remarkable sales figures.

Image Source: Valdis Skudre / Shutterstock

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