The 2018 Subaru Forester has two powertrain configurations which are based on a flat-4 engine and all-wheel drive is standard. The 2.5i trims are powered by a 2.5-liter engine (170 horsepower, 174 lb. ft.) mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 2.0XT trims are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine (250 horsepower, 258 lb. ft.) mated to a continuous variable transmission. With the 2.0XT engine under the hood, there is a good acceleration to pull it out of most situations. From a halt to 60 mph took less than six and a half seconds, very decent for a compact SUV. For old-school drivers, this performance isn’t available with a stick shift. Handling the Forester through winding roads proved to be capable. Though body roll is still present, the vehicle still felt planted on the turn. The steering is responsive enough with a good weight, but it doesn’t have a nimble feel. All in all, the handles lean towards off-road duties where sportiness is not a priority. The stopping power from the brakes was more than enough for most of the scenarios the Forester will be in. The bite from the calipers is predictable and the pedal has enough firmness to modulate the brakes with ease.
The base 2.5i trim comes standard with a digital instrument cluster, HD radio, Bluetooth, USB port, smartphone app connectivity, a rearview camera, infotainment display with 6.2-inch touchscreen, CD player and four-speaker sound system. Automatic power front windows are optional. Stepping it up to the 2.5i Premium trim then adds a power-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, voice command, satellite radio, and infotainment system with a larger 7-inch display and six-speaker sound system. Subaru’s Starlink Safety Plus telematics now come standard and they include remote access and several advanced safety and driver aids. Heated fronts seats and heated side mirrors are standard for a manual transmission model but are optional for the CVT ones. The All-Weather package adds Subaru EyeSight advanced safety and driver aids as well as fog lights and a height-adjustable power liftgate. The latter options are only available for the CVT models. The 2.5i Premium Black Edition trim now comes standard with the All-Weather package and adds enhanced off-road traction control, hill descent control, adaptive and automatic headlights, and foglights. The Black Edition also adds exterior and interior touches in a dark color scheme. The 2.5i Limited now come standard with a power liftgate and several advanced safety and driver aids, along with upscale interior appointments. Optional features include navigation, an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, adaptive LED headlights, and the EyeSight advanced safety and driver aids. The cream of the 2.5i crop is the 2.5i Touring trim that comes with all the bells and whistles. Standard features include integrated turn signals to the side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, heated steering wheel, driver seat memory settings, and upscale interior appointments. The 2.0XT Premium trim is bundled with the 2.5i Premium trim features but with the 2.0-liter engine and CVT as standard. With the more powerful powertrain, some performance parts and more driving modes are standard but the EyeSight advanced safety and driver aids aren’t available. The 2.0XT Touring trim is essentially the same as the 2.5i Touring but with the more powerful engine and a power liftgate with height adjustment is standard. For all trims of the Forester, auto-dimming mirrors are also available while only the CVT models have the option of a remote engine start.
The 2018 Forester has been tested by the NHTSA and it garners 4 stars for the frontal crash test, 5 stars for the side crash test and 4 stars for the rollover test. Overall it achieves a 5-star safety rating. The IIHS has also tested the 2018 model and rates it “Good” for crashworthiness and “Superior” for front crash prevention. The headlights were only rated “Acceptable” for crash avoidance and mitigation. Advanced safety and driver aids that are available options include emergency assistance, automatic collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, reverse automatic braking, and automatic high beams.
The 2018 model has a length of 181.5 inches, a width of 70.7 inches, a height of 66.4 inches, and a wheelbase of 103.9 inches. The 2018 Forester retains the exterior redesign from last year’s model. New for this year is the Black Edition trim that comes with black wheels, black center grille, black exterior trim and a black paint finish for a sinister look. This is only unique to the 2.5i powertrain with the CVT though. The 2.5i trims come standard with 17-inch wheels and have the option of the bigger 18-inch wheels. The 2.0XT trims come standard with the 18-inch wheels.
Both the front and back doors open generously and the ride height is low enough for a smooth transition into the cabin. The headroom and legroom for both rows of seats are also more than enough and allow for movement with ease. Surprisingly, the sunroof did not seem too near the head of even a taller passenger. Up to five people can sit inside the cabin and seat comfort is good. The cushion is not the plushest but its width is supportive enough and did not induce fatigue on longer drives. Adjustment is extensive for the driver seat and a sweet spot is just around the next press of the button. The height of the seat, however, while offering good visibility, could use more adjustment for the driving position. With off-road capabilities in mind, the ride quality is soft and settled. The imperfections on the road were dampened well by the suspension. Realistically the Forester will have no trouble both on- and off-road, but body roll is to be expected on smoother surfaces.
Behind the second row of seats is 34.4 cu. ft. of space available, and folding down the seats opens the space up to 74.7 cu. ft. for cargo.