Bigger, bolder, techier Subaru Forester debuts

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

New York – Subaru introduced the fifth generation of its best-selling Forester compact SUV at the New York auto show Wednesday. The latest Forester comes with more of everything: space, power, safety. Even style.

2019 Subaru Forester

Shopping in the biggest-volume class in the market, customers flocked to the Forester for its typically Subaru all-wheel drive value, despite its frumpy exterior design. The third vehicle to be built on the brand’s new global platform (following the Impreza and Crosstrek siblings), the latest Forester sports a bolder appearance with defined wheel arches, more-sculpted body panels and designer peepers.

Under the upgraded wardrobe, the Forester takes on competitors like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V with improved metrics in every category.

Known for its standard all-wheel drive system that has made Subarus ubiquitous in northern climates, the Forester loads on the safety technology with standard features. Its so-called “EyeSight” system includes features found on SUVs costing thousands more: automatic pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and lane keep assist. All for a starting piece of around $25,000 (exact pricing will be announced later this year).

On top of Eyesight, Subaru debuts a driver-monitoring system to address distracted driving. Subaru calls this feature “DriverFocus” and claims it “uses facial recognition software to identify signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction.” The feature will be available on Forster’s top-trim Touring model.

2019 Subaru Forester

Forester’s new architecture builds on the SUV’s reputation as one of the roomiest, most rugged-in-class with 8.7 inches of ground clearance for on- and off-road capability. The longer 105.1 inch wheelbase – up from 103.9 inches – goes to more rear seat legroom and cargo room. But the signature of the new platform is that the rear gate opening increased a yawning 5 inches to 51.3-inches wide – enough, says Subaru, to “load a full-size golf bag sideways without tilting it.”

The bigger ute also gets more horsepower, as the Forester’s familiar, 2.4-liter “boxer” four-cylinder engine gains 12 sporty horsepower over the last generation.

Speaking of sporty, the 2019 also debuts a “Sport” model with a more-youthful appearance. Distinctive features include a blacked-out grille, unique 18-inch wheels and rear spoiler. Standard features include LED fog lights, auto high-beam assist, windshield wiper de-icer and paddle shifters.

Second in sales only to the brand’s iconic Outback wagon, the compact Forester is the anchor of an expanding SUV lineup that now includes the Crosstrek and three-row Ascent.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.