Test Drive: 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring w/Tech Package

The boxy, practical and fuel efficient 2017 Subaru Forester tops the charts for Subaru Canada, accounting for about thirty percent of the Japanese automaker’s sales. And up until the Forester’s 2017 refresh, that included a resonant cabin that seemed to amplify road, engine and wind noise.

The interior disruption has been replaced with a refined calm.

Customers complained, and Subaru listened. Driving this 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring will be nothing short of a revelation for those who are accustomed to the 2016 and earlier models. The interior disruption has been replaced with a refined calm. The engine is a distant hum, the suspension no longer announces every road irregularity, and highway cruising is serene experience.

This new sense of decorum is the result of thicker door glass, reworked door seals, an acoustic windshield and added underfloor insulation. I’m harping on this point because, since the rest of the Forester is so agreeable, the old racket and ensuing perception of cheapness did it a real disservice.

This 2017 mid-cycle spruce-up also bestows a reworked front bumper and grill, new LED accent lights front and rear, new wheel designs, quicker steering and available heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. Also on the menu is active torque vectoring (for the 2.0L turbo XT) and the latest version of Subaru’s comprehensive EyeSight safety suite that includes improved pre-collision braking and lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, steering-responsive fog lights, proximity key with push-button start plus Reverse Automatic Braking that detects large objects and applies the brakes if you don’t.

Tested here is a Forester 2.5i Touring with Technology Package that stickers at $33,295. For this we get EyeSight, blind-spot detection, fabric seats, 17-inch alloys, large sunroof, power liftgate and, of course, Subaru’s excellent full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive with X-Drive mode – the latter when engaged ramps up off-road ability by optimizing engine output, transmission, AWD torque split and braking.

Bucking the trend of swooping bodywork and pinched widows, the Forester’s upright architecture and low beltline make for terrific outward visibility. A tight turning circle aids in city maneuverability and the thin A-pillars don’t obstruct cornering sightlines. As would be expected, headroom is generous – Tex with his ten-gallon hat would be content, and since the Forester brags a best-class-cargo capacity (892/1,940 L), he could haul about a fair whack of tack.

The front fabric seats are comfy, and back seat passengers will appreciate the legroom and large door openings – the latter having saved my bacon. More on that later.

Power comes from Subaru’s naturally aspirated 2.5L flat-four that makes 170 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission that blessedly does not act like one. Under normal operation the transmission runs through a series of pre-programmed steps that mimic traditional gears, and there are paddle shifters if you’re feeling sporty. All Subarus with this 2.5L four are now PZEV-rated, which in Subaru-speak means the fuel supply system is completely sealed against evaporation losses. (This was formerly an option.)

The Forester 2.5i always feels alert and willing, partly because of its overly sensitive throttle tip-in and partly because the CVT does a fine job of keeping the engine in its sweet spot of torque. And this CUV is impressively fuel-efficient. My test week ended up at 8.2 L/100 km, and this included our Compact CUV Under 35K Comparison where editors thrashed it for a day, and where it handily posted the best fuel economy numbers.

The Forester 2.5i also has impressive road manners. The quicker-for-2017 steering rack guides a chassis that handles with poise and corners flat yet delivers an impressively compliant ride. Unlike all others in this segment, power goes to all four wheels all the time so there is an intangible sense of planted security here, and bonus, when powering out of a bend you can feel the torque driving those rear wheels.

The Subie’s cabin shows good ergonomics with clear and logical controls. The dashtop screen is a cheery and colourful thing, showing HVAC settings along with outside temp, time and trip computer info, and the standard touchscreen interface is simple and intuitive. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto however, and compared to newer offerings in this segment the Forester’s cabin is a tad low-rent – the biggest offenders being some hard plastics on the centre console and door panels.

Unfortunately, there were a few glitches with this tester (in our experience, uncustomary for Subaru) that we have to mention. The right passenger window wasn’t operable from the driver’s control panel, the fuse panel cover on the lower dash wouldn’t stay closed, and near the end of my test week the powered lift gate decided to pack it in. As in, refuse to open.

And its timing could not have been worse. I had just finished a jazz gig in downtown Toronto on a Saturday night, and found myself standing on the curb with a big upright bass and no way to get it back in the Forester. Short of staying there and busking all-night (I might have got a few pity toonies), my only other option was to attempt to maneuver the “dog-house” through the big rear-door opening. It just made it, which in any other CUV in this class would have been impossible.

These things do happen on occasion with testers, and as Subaru has a history of excellent reliability, we’re hoping this is just an unfortunate and isolated case. Turns out this tester was on the floor at the Toronto auto show, so who knows what abuse it endured.

As a total package, the 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i with CVT is a winner. Okay, it won’t win any beauty contests, but on every other count it excels, and darned if it still has a dash of that Subie personality.

2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring w/Tech Package CVT
Engine displacement: 2.5L
Engine cylinders: 4
Peak horsepower: 170 hp
Peak torque: 174 lb-ft
Fuel economy: 9.2/7.4/8.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo space: 892 L/1,940 L seats down
Pricing: 2017 Subaru Forester 2.5i Touring w/Tech Package CVT
Base Price: $33,295
A/C Tax: $100
Destination Fee: $1,675
Price as Tested: $35,070
Optional Equipment: None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.9
6 Styling
7 Powertrain
7 Quality
8 Comfort
9 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
9 Fuel Economy
8 Features
9 Value