NYIAS 2018 – Subaru Reveals All-New 2019 Forester Small SUV
Bye-Bye Turbo, Adios Manual Gearbox, Hello EyeSight Driver Assist
The all-new 2019 Subaru Forester made its official debut in New York this week, and the small sport-ute will emphasize safety and capability as it faces down its Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 rivals.
Taking the stage at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, the all-new Forester was shown in base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring trim levels. Unlike the outgoing Forester and its 2.0XT trim, there’s no turbocharged engine available, and base models no longer offer a manual gearbox. Instead, every 2019 Forester will come standard with a 2.5L flat-four mated to a Subaru Lineartronic CVT. Obviously, the Forester also comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Styling is very similar to the outgoing Forester, although it does get slightly more aggressive headlights and taillights and a more sculpted side profile, aping the much larger and likewise all-new 2019 Ascent SUV. Inside, the base Forester has an impressive level of soft-touch plastic, which adorns the dashboard, door panel uppers, and steering wheel. Moving up a few trim levels nets leather for the seats and steering wheel, and a variety of granola-chic tan and brown colorways are available. Interior styling is angular and geometric, similar to the smaller Crosstrek.
The engine is an updated version of the 2.5L boxer found in the outgoing Forester, now making 182 hp and 176 lb-ft (up 12 hp and 2 lb-ft over the previous mill). Subaru says the updated powertrain provides better acceleration with no loss of fuel efficiency—in fact, the company claims the 2019 Forester will hit 33 mpg on the highway once it’s certified by the EPA, up a tick over the model it replaces.
The switch to a single powertrain strategy may perturb Subaru’s turbo and stick-shift devotees, but it does make it easier for the company to offer its EyeSight suite of driver-assist technologies as standard on every 2019 Forester. Bundling automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and other technologies, EyeSight should help avoid collisions and reduce driver fatigue in many everyday scenarios.
Boosting the 2019 Forester’s safety quotient is a new set of technologies called DriverFocus. Citing the need to reduce distracted driving—more than 1,000 people are injured every day in accidents involving distracted drivers, says Subaru—DriverFocus helps keep motorists engaged and involved in the driving process. The system uses facial recognition software to identify signs of distraction or drowsiness, then notifies the driver to take a break or reengage in the trip. What’s more, DriverFocus can reportedly recognize up to five different drivers and remember their presets for seat position, climate, and more. DriverFocus will be standard on the top-spec Forester Touring.
Also new to the 2019 Forester lineup is the Sport trim level, slotting in between the Premium and Limited. Black-finished 18-inch wheels, a gloss-black front grille, and dark grey/orange interior finishes set the Sport apart visually, as do somewhat tacky orange-striped underbody guards and roof rails. Building from the Premium trim, Sport adds a higher-grade instrument panel, LED foglights, automatic high beams, keyless access with pushbutton start, and the All-Weather package (heated front seats, heated mirrors, and a heating element to de-ice the windshield wipers). Subaru says the Sport model will appeal to outdoors enthusiasts who need lots of features but want a more unique appearance.
Built from the new Subaru Global Platform, the 2019 Forester is larger than the 2018, with a 105.1-inch wheelbase (1.2 inches). The stretch mostly benefits rear-seat legroom, which is up 1.4 inches over the outgoing Forester. Furthermore, the new ‘Ru has 76.1 total cubic feet of luggage volume, an increase of 1.4 cubes, and it’s accessed through a much wider 51.2-inch rear opening. The load floor is flatter as well.
The new platform, which is also found under the Crosstrek compact crossover, yields a smoother ride thanks to a more rigid body structure and better noise control measures. These improvements provide even greater passenger comfort, enhanced further by the SUV’s longer list of standard features: LED headlights, rear camera, automatic climate control, SI-Drive engine performance management, active torque vectoring, and a space-saving electronic parking brake. A panoramic moonroof is standard on all but the base Forester.
Subaru expects many of its owners to take their Foresters off-road or through wintry conditions. As such, it still gives the SUV with a crossover-impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, as well as X-Mode terrain management (Premium trims and above). X-Mode, which comes bundled with hill-descent control, optimizes the engine, CVT “shift” points, front and rear torque split, and stability controls to maximize traction on slippery surfaces or steep hills. Furthermore, the Sport, Limited, and Touring come with dual-function X-Mode, which splits the feature into Snow/Dirt and Deep Snow/Mud modes for a wider variety of terrains.
The Subaru Forester is one of the small SUV segment’s bestselling models, so it’s not terribly surprising that the company refined the styling only slightly, focusing more of its attention on improving standard equipment and safety. Viewed in that light, the 2019 Forester should continue to be a sales success for Subaru, and although we’ll miss the rorty turbo engine and slick-shifting manual gearbox, we’re sure the company will sell every 2019 Forester it can build.