2020 Subaru Forester

I kind of like it now. Dammit.

By Whitney Ellis

I’m a fan of Subaru products despite their flaws. Even though I had to replace an automatic transmission in my Legacy, I’d much rather have that instead of a CVT. I’ve been a fan of the Impreza, the Legacy and the Outback – but one product I’ve really not been a fan of is the Forester.

I liked the second generation – I had the opportunity to drive the boxy base model and although slow, I liked the roominess and gas mileage. Since then, no matter the generation or the features, I just haven’t been a fan. The seating position isn’t great, the cabin seems to be louder than the Legacy and Outback models and, although they have the same base engines, every Forester I’ve driven just seems ridiculously slow.

I was expecting the same when I picked up my brand new 2020 loaner while mine was in the shop. When I say brand new – I mean it. There were seven miles when I hopped in the driver’s seat and they just took the plastic off the seats right before they handed me the keys.

This Limited model had everything – but no real power. After everything I heard about the new infotainment systems the Legacy and Outback have, I was disappointed to see that it hadn’t made it into some of the higher-end Foresters yet.

I thought this Forester would be exactly the same as all the other ones – just a basic SUV (or, is this a CUV… or whatever this class is now called). Look, until they put a real transmission and more power in this thing, it’s just a basic SUV.

The issue now is it’s starting to slowly grow on me. 

The first time I had the chance to drive one of these for more than just a test drive was when I had to leave the Legacy overnight for (warrantied) service. Looking back, I was not too far removed from daily driving a 400-horsepower CTS-V. Moving down to 250-plus horsepower was a drop, but I was still able to have some fun when I wanted to. I’ll tell you now, and I’ll tell you honestly – 180 horsepower out of a 3,500-pound SUV isn’t shit.

Don’t get me wrong – having a car that can take you to 60 miles an hour in less than four seconds is fun and opening it up on an empty road is exhilarating. But it seems as I’ve gotten older, traffic prevents you from hitting the speed limit and roads aren’t quite as open as they used to be.

I’m now valuing things like comfort and gas mileage a bit more than what I can get on the skid pad and how fast a car goes from 60-120 miles an hour. And the Forester, while I can’t seem to get the seating position as right as I’d like, is overall a comfortable vehicle. The seats won’t wear you out on a long trip and will get 33 miles per gallon doing normal highway driving. Visibility is good, although there seems to be a blind spot near the cargo space where you’d have to do a double take before you switch lanes. Of course, with all the safety features in this Limited model – Subaru EyeSight – you’ll have all the warning signs to ensure nobody is in your blind spot before you even try and move over.

Is it age that’s changed me? Heck if I know. The Forester won’t stick out in a crowd, it won’t win any races and probably won’t get you any cool points with anyone. 

At this point, a Subaru Forester is like one of those better-than-average movies that feature one of your favorite actors. By the time you finish watching, you can say you saw a movie. Was it the best movie you’ve ever seen? No, probably not – however it had its moments. You can say you were entertained for two hours.

For better or worse, the Subaru Forester is the same – not bad, but not great – a better-than-average SUV.