Subaru lifted the sheets on the 2014 Forester last week, so we have a good idea of what it will look like. But we could only guess what it was like to drive. Thanks to Motor Trend's Mike Floyd, we now have a better idea of what the driving experience will be like, although Subaru was quick to point out the vehicles available to drive were still prototypes and not fully indicative of the production models.

Representing a quarter of Subaru's overall U.S. sales, the Forester is a significant model for the brand, so the attributes that made the previous-generation model popular, not to mention the 2009 Motor Trend SUV of the Year, were carefully enhanced and its weak points were improved upon.

Along with the more traditional Subaru look we noted in our first look, the revised styling also improves accessibility and comfort for shorter-statured drivers. A redesigned dashboard with a more horizontal orientation, and re-positioned A-pillars improve interior access and room. Automatic transmission offerings on the 2014 Forester go to CVTs across-the-board, from the entry level to the XT turbo, with the pulley-box being the only option for the turbo, although it does get paddle shifters along with 6 and 8-"speed" modes. But according to Floyd's first-hand account, performance actually improves. Subaru's claimed 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds for the XT model is quicker than the 2009 model's and puts it at or near the head of the compact SUV class for fleetness. For comparison, our latest test of a Toyota RAV4 V-6 provided a 6.3 second 0-60 sprint.

Fuel economy improves on the base model by 3 mpg city and 5 mpg highway, due almost entirely to efficiency gains from the CVT, since the 170-hp, 174-lb-ft, 2.5-liter boxer engine is largely carryover. Economy for the XT improves as well, with the city and highway mpg climbing 4 mpg to 23 and 28, respectively.

More important to the Forester's target buyers than acceleration times is a quiet, comfortable ride and the 2014 model improves in these areas as well. Noise, vibration and harshness have improved significantly over the previous model, demonstrated by back-to-back drives, most notably in the areas of engine, road and wind noise.

Though the Forester does not have a traditional low-range transfer case, it does have Subaru's new X-Mode low-speed traction control system, which optimizes traction and stability up to 25 mph. As with the previous model, the Forester retains its class-leading 8.7-inch ground clearance.

The production 2014 Forester is expected in U.S. showrooms in Spring 2013.

Source: Motor Trend

2014 Subaru Forester
Base price $22,000-$31,000 (MT est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 2.0L/250-hp/258-lb-ft DOHC 20-valve F-4, 2.5L/170-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC 20-valve F-4
Transmissions 6-speed manual, CVT
Curb weight 3300-3650 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 103.9 in
Length x width x height 180.9 x 70.7 x 66.4 in
0-60 mph 6.2-9.3 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 23-24/28-32 mpg (est)
Energy cons, city/hwy 147/120-140/105 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 emissions 0.78-0.72 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. Spring 2013