The Subaru Forester doesn’t really need any introduction.
It was one of the first compact family SUVs that ever went on sale, and over the years it has matured, seasoned by experience, to be one of the best options for buyers who want a high-riding wagon with pedigree.
The marketplace doesn’t stand still, though – there are more than a dozen rivals to the Forester now, all vying for a share of the sales on offer for customers in the market for a family crossover.
Does the Forester still stand out? And should you look at a top-spec example like this 2.5i-S AWD? Keep reading!
At $46,340 plus on-road costs, the 2.5i-S AWD sits at the top of the Forester model range, if you’re looking at the non-hybrid versions.
My personal opinion is the Subaru Forester Hybrid aren’t really effective enough in terms of fuel savings to justify spending an extra $3000 on, so I’d suggest you reconsider that if you’re in the market for a Forester.
I’d also say that this 2.5i-S, while very well equipped (see detailed rundown below), is a little bit pricey.
2023 Subaru Forester pricing:
- Subaru Forester 2.5i AWD: $37,890
- Subaru Forester 2.5i-L AWD: $40,290
- Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium AWD: $43,090
- Subaru Forester Hybrid L AWD: $43,290
- Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport AWD: $44,840
- Subaru Forester 2.5i-S AWD: $46,340
- Subaru Forester Hybrid S AWD: $49,340
Prices exclude on-road costs
Now, for the eagle-eyed; you’ll realise that’s a bit of a jump compared to the Forester that was on sale in 2022, and that comes “an increase in the costs associated with production and logistics”.
And it does look old compared not only to its stablemates, but also by market standards.
This top-spec variant scores a modest 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, which was great a few years ago, but is looking teeny weeny these days. That’s especially apparent if you’ve sat in either of those aforementioned Subaru models, which run a portrait-oriented 11.6-inch display.
It’s not all bad news if you’re a button fanatic like me, because there are more handy controls that are literally more handy, because you can grip the dials and push the buttons joyfully for the air-conditioning and stereo controls – rather than having to worry about how dirty your fingers always seem to be by interacting purely with a screen.
So, on balance, I actually prefer this setup; smaller screen with less functions, more hard buttons and knobs for physical manipulation of the settings. Disagree? Let’s fight in the comments!
There’s more to it than just the screen, which has satellite navigation, DAB radio, as well as wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yeah, you still need to plug your USB cable into your phone, which isn’t a huge deal, but it again makes it feel a bit outdated.
There’s also no fully-digital instrument display either – instead, you’ve got a small colour info screen with digital speedo and trip info display, and a pair of regular analogue dials. Oh, and the steering wheel is a mess of buttons; like, there might even be a few too many buttons for a toggle-fancier like me.
You get the picture, right? This is a bit more of a traditional experience, rather than cutting-edge modern.
In the plus column for that factor, is the headlining is a light colour, not black like so many others, which just makes it feel even airier – the big glasshouse does it bit for that, too, and the sunroof helps too.
But, it does have heaps of storage on offer, with big door pockets, a decent centre console bin, good cup holders, and a couple of other storage nooks.
In the back, it’s a winner. There’s heaps of room for adults – I’m 182cm or 6’0”, and I could slot in behind my own driving position without a hassle.
There won’t be too many complaints if you need to fit three adults in the back, as there’s good width to the cabin, and three child seats could even be a go, with the right seats.
There are dual ISOFIX points and three top-tethers, but Subaru still has a middle seat belt that comes down from the ceiling, rather than being integrated into the seat backrest. It’s just a bit messy if you need to drop the seats down, for whatever reason.
There are some great family-friendly elements to the back seat, though, including a pair of directional air vents, two USB charging ports, and clever dual-layer map pockets on the seat backs – one of those layers features a double pocket, so you’ve got three pockets per seatback! There are also big door pockets, and a pair of cup holders in a flip-down armrest.
The boot of the Forester is good for the class, too, with Subaru stating that boot space is 498 litres for the petrol, which doesn’t seem huge, but I easily fit in our pram and some luggage with room to spare.
Speaking of spare, there’s a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor, too. That is, unless you choose the e-Boxer Hybrid, then you get a tyre repair kit instead – but you get a slightly larger boot, at 509 litres.
This grade has an electric boot lid, too.
As I’ve already alluded to, there is a choice between a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid, and 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol depending on trim level.
I wouldn’t bother with the hybrid. It’s an underdone application of the tech, and really, the benchmark Toyota RAV4 Hybrid powertrain remains the best bet if you can find one.
So, what’s the regular engine? No surprises for surmising that it’s a boxer motor – a horizontally-opposed non-turbo 2.5-litre four-cylinder with 136kW of power (5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm).
It makes use of a “Lineartronic” CVT automatic, and has Subaru’s “symmetrical all-wheel-drive” setup, too. It’s a permanent AWD system – no high- or low-range, though.
As you might have been able to tell, the outputs are decent but not dreamy. There’s no word yet on whether Subaru will do the right thing and revive the XT badge on the Forester, as it has just done with the newly introduced turbocharged Outback, but we can hope and dream.
If you’re expecting a corner carver, buy a WRX Sportswagon – that’s the straight-up advice on the Forester.
It’s made for family buyers and those who aren’t fussed about handling prowess and steering feel.
And you know what? That’s totally fine – because in terms of fit for purpose, the drive experience of the Forester is bang on.
It has a lovely soft and cushy suspension setup which, as mentioned, doesn’t hold a tight line through corners. But it does manage to cosset the car’s occupants well, offering a very comfortable drive.
The steering is fine – it is light and accurate, perfectly suited to simple parking moves, highway hustling and country cruising.
And the powertrain is zestier than the outputs suggest it should be – in fact, a lot of that comes down to the transmission.
I know, people hate CVT autos. But this one is actually really good at harnessing the grunt of the boxer engine, and makes it feel a whole lot perkier than it might otherwise.
It’s zippy from a standing start, though it can have that typical CVT response lag under sudden hard throttle. But seriously, you’re not driving a Forester to chop other drivers, so it’s barely a concern.
One thing I appreciated was that there are buttons (not menus on screens that you have to wade through) to deactivate the lane-keeping tech and steering assistance and driver eyesight monitoring tech.
Like, there are three separate buttons – one up near the rear-view mirror for lane keeping, one on the steering wheel for cruise control steering assist, and one down near the driver’s right knee for the eye-monitoring tech. How good!
Forester 2.5i highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Reversing camera with washer
- Automatic, active cornering LED headlights
- Front fog lights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- 6.3-inch multi-function display
- 6-speaker sound system
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Leather-wrapped gear selector
- Dual-zone climate control
- Paddle shifters
Forester 2.5i-L and Hybrid L add:
- Driver monitoring system
- Rear AEB
- Adaptive high-beam
- Front and side cameras
- Heated front seats
Forester 2.5i Premium adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Power tailgate
- Satellite navigation
- 8-way power front seats incl. driver’s memory
- Metal pedals
Forester 2.5i Sport adds:
- LED front fog lights
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror (NEW)
- Orange and gunmetal interior highlights
Forester 2.5i-S and Hybrid S add:
- Leather upholstery
- 8-speaker Harman Kardon sound system
Things the top-grade Forester doesn’t get, that you might find in other rival SUVs? Cooled seats, heated second-row seats, digital instrumentation, a bigger-than-8.0-inch screen, larger-than-18-inch wheels, and third-row seating option… just to name a few things.
The Forester was awarded with the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2019, and it comes comprehensively equipped in terms of safety tech – but the base model misses out on some of the stuff it really should get.
It scored 94 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 80 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety gear includes:
- Adaptive cruise control
- AEB incl. Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Autonomous emergency steering
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Lane centring assist
Choose the 2.5i-L, Hybrid L, 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Sport, 2.5i-S or Hybrid S, and you get additional equipment including a facial recognition camera to detect driver drowsiness or distraction, and rear AEB that can potentially avoid crashes with objects or vehicles (it is not specified as backover AEB to stop for pedestrians).
The Forester – as with all Subaru models these days – comes with the industry-standard five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty cover.
It also has a five-year/62,500km capped-price servicing plan which, if you’re cluey, indicates that the service intervals are 12 months or 12,500km – which shorter than most rivals.
The brand offers the choice of pay-as-you-go or prepaid servicing, though if you choose to prepay, there is no dollar discount. Instead, you get three years free roadside assistance.
Average annual service fees for the Forester range over that five-year period is $534.92 for the 2.5i AWD petrol versions, and $538.72 for the e-Boxer Hybrid models.
The Forester’s official combined cycle fuel use figure for 2.5i models is 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, which you will do well to achieve. Look, you might, if you do long highway driving primarily, but my real-world testing – which included urban, suburban, highway and freeway driving – saw a return of 10.8L/100km.
You might think that would justify buying the hybrid, right? Well, it’s official figure is 6.7 litres per 100km, which is definitely better, but in my experience you’ll still see closer to 8.5L/100km in similar driving.
The Subaru Forester is a good family SUV option that mightn’t have the flair and fancy factor as many of its rivals, but that’s part of its charm, if you ask me.
If it was my money I wouldn’t be spending so much on the 2.5i-S – instead, I reckon the 2.5i-L or the Premium grade, either of which offers a great amount of value.
Tell us what you think – is leather and a premium stereo worth spending extra on?
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