2016 Subaru Forester Test Drive: SUV Tough and Car Easy [Review]

2016 Subaru Forester

The fourth generation of the popular Subaru Forester was launched as an all-new vehicle in 2014, and continues into the 2016 model year with new features. The first generation Forester appeared in Japan in 1997, making its debut here in the U.S. in 1998. The second-gen bowed in 2003 and the third generation was introduced in 2008. Forester has been and is still one of the best-selling small SUVs in the marketplace. As one of the original pioneers of the crossover SUV, the Subaru Forester is extremely popular in geographic regions of the country where inclement and extremely cold weather prevail. Visit, for instance, the Northwest and Northeast, and the Forester appears to be the “go to” family-friendly sport-ute for its all-weather capability, dependability, and practicality.

The 2.5i models are powered by a 2.5-liter (2,498 cc), DOHC, 16-valve, naturally aspirated, horizontally opposed BOXER® four-cylinder engine with sequential multi-port fuel injection, cylinder head-mounted injectors, and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC). The 2.5i engine produces 170 horsepower at 5,800 rpm while developing 174 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm. The 2.0XT models draw their energy from a 2.0-liter (1,998 cc) turbocharged/intercooled, horizontally opposed BOXER® four-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection and ETC. Power is a healthy 250 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm and 258 pound-feet from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm.

Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual for 2.5i powered models and a Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), with the 2.0XT versions featuring six gear steps in automatic mode and eight-speeds in manual shift mode. Every Forester delivers power to all four corners via one of two AWD systems: Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel drive – a continuous AWD system with viscous-coupling locking center differential for manual transmission vehicles, or an active AWD with electronically managed continuously variable hydraulic transfer clutch; featuring an enhanced AWD control system with X-Mode on high-line models (Limited and Touring).

Forester 2.5i 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $22,395
Forester 2.5i Premium 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $25,295
Forester 2.5i Limited 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $28,795
Forester 2.5i Touring 2.5-liter SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $30,795
Forester 2.0XT Premium 2.0-liter turbocharged SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $29,195
Forester 2.0XT Touring 2.0-liter turbocharged SUBARU BOXER® 4-cylinder $33,795

This latest iteration Subaru Forester retains its utilitarian properties in a large, useful package. The doors and openings are large, allowing for greater ease of entry and exit. Door window frames add necessary structural integrity, but I miss the frameless window advantage of earlier Foresters realized in tight parking situations.

In terms of its appearance, the 2016 Forester is not dramatically different from its predecessors (why mess with a winning formula?). The “A” pillars are set forward, with the front end and hood low and flat, displaying a tall grille that reflects the rest of the Subaru line’s DNA. The new Forester showcases a more SUV-like look, rather than the image of a wagon. Wheel wells are pronounced creating a fender effect. Low door edges extend below the inner sills, protecting one’s apparel or legs from accumulated road grime when exiting or entering the vehicle. The new Forester essentially blends evolutionary design themes with sharply defined details.

2016 Subaru Forester interior

Moving to the interior, the front space and shoulder room is ample and the dash is deep with IP and graphic video displays. The power liftgate has a programmable height setting, and Subaru’s optically controlled EyeSight adaptive cruise control and guidance system are among the feature upgrades and enhancements.

New for the 2016 Model Year

  • SUBARU STARLINK™ Safety and Security debuts in two packages:
    1. STARLINK Safety Plus, including SOS emergency assistance, enhanced roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, maintenance notifications, monthly vehicle health report and diagnostic alerts (standard Premium and Limited trims).
    2. STARLINK Safety Plus & Security Plus adds stolen vehicle recovery service, vehicle security alarm notification, remote lock/unlock, remote horn and lights, and remote vehicle locator (available Premium and Limited trims)
  • 6.2-inch STARLINK multimedia system with touchscreen (Standard on 2.5i)
  • 7.0-inch STARLINK multimedia system with multi-gesture touchscreen (Standard on 2.5i Premium, 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring and all 2.0XT models).
  • Steering responsive fog lights are added to models equipped with EyeSight®
  • Keyless entry expanded with a PIN code access feature that will lock the key fob in vehicle or allow access to the vehicle without fob on Touring trim models
  • One touch lane changer function added to turn signal stalk
  • Welcome lighting added to 2.5i Limited, 2.5i Touring, and all 2.0XT models

2016 Subaru Forester

My test 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i came in Limited trim, finished outside in Venetian Red metallic, with a black interior. The base sticker read $28,795 while the final tally came to $31,790 after factoring in option packaging and destination and handling charges.

SUMMARY: The 2016 Subaru Forester is genuinely “SUV tough and car easy”. It is highly capable when venturing into the wilderness. The off-road prowess of this latest Forester is indeed impressive, as is the on-road experience. Climbing and descending hills are child’s play and freeway stretches all showcase quiet, comfort and stability. Washboard and rutted gravel surfaces with 35 mph designated speeds could be negotiated at 60 mph and above with total confidence and control thanks to the four-wheel independent suspension componentry and the Forester’s low center of gravity.

2016 Subaru Forester

Outward visibility is outstanding as is interior functionality and versatility. The 2.5i-liter four-banger responds quickly when prodded, and the CVT performs with the effect of a conventional gearbox, simulating stepped gear changes – particularly in the manual mode with paddle shifters. The turning radius is remarkably tight, especially for an AWD vehicle.

Bottom-line, the 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited not only gets the job done as one would expect, but it gets it done quickly and in total comfort.

  • Buy itOn the TFLcar scale of:
  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited a ‘Buy It!‘ as an ideally capable and functionally versatile SUV.

MSRP $28,795
Price as tested $31,790
Engine 2.5l DOHC naturally aspirated BOXER® four-cylinder
Power (bhp) 170 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 174 @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission Standard 6-speed manual or Lineartronic® CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)
Drivetrain layout Forward flat mounted horizontally opposed / Subaru Symmetrical AWD
Curb weight 3,366 lbs
EPA-estimated fuel economy (mpg) 24 city / 32 highway
Acceleration 0-60 mph 6.2 seconds
Towing capacity Up to 1,500 lbs
Ground clearance 8.7 inches
Approach/departure/breakover angles 23 / 25 / 21 degrees

See how the Subaru Forester stacks up to the Mazda CX-5 and Honda HR-V in this snowy ‘mashup’ review that tests AWD traction of these compact crossovers.

Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.

Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.