Two years, two CUVs. Yes, I might have a thing for chaperoning our long term small 'utes. Well, the time has come to take on another, and I couldn't be more enthused. Ideas and questions flowed from my brain to my notebook as soon as the key to our 2014 Forester hit my desk. It's a rugged, all-wheel-drive CUV, so where should I take it? What cool pictures can I snap? Will I like it?

I imagine some perfectly framed shots: a profile view atop a rocky hill, easy-peasy with 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Muddied Nikes on the 31.5-cubic-foot trunk's rubber lining. Friends seated in the 60/40 folding rear seat, the middle armrest down and the panoramic roof open. I picture the smile on my Oahu-raised girlfriend's face at the sight of the seat warmers. I envision toys attached to the roof rack.

The Forester feels and looks like I can take it anywhere, any time. Challenge accepted.

Our 2.5i Touring came ready for all sorts of fun. It's the fanciest of four models powered by the 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder. A Lineartronic CVT delegates its 170 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque to the 17-inch alloys. Items such as a 10-way power driver's seat, reclining rear seats, leather-wrapped surfaces, bag hooks, navigation, and harman/kardon audio system with Bluetooth are included in the $30,820 base price. Foglamps, spoiler, rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, and body-colored mirrors also come at no cost. The optional Keyless Entry and Start + EyeSight System + HID ($2400) package was added as well.

First impressions: The Forester is comfortable, capacious, and powerful. It hits 60 mph from a standstill in 9.0 seconds, while a panic brake stop from that speed takes 120 feet. However, owners will likely brag more about its 2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and 24/32 city/highway fuel economy ratings. Subaru's Forester is a natural-born adventurer. It welcomes rutted dirt paths as gladly as quick runs to the mall. With enough luck, planning, and time over the next 12 months, I'll make my imagined adventures reality.


2014 Subaru Forester 2.5 Touring
BASE PRICE $30,820
PRICE AS TESTED $32,220
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/170-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve F-4
TRANSMISSION cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3444 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 103.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 180.9 x 70.7 x 66.4 in
0-60 MPH 9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.9 sec @ 83.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 120 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.78 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.6 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 24/32 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 140/105 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.72 lb/mile