Those of us who love station wagons, and we are many, will love the all-new-for-2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium.
Ignore Subaru’s marketing attempts to portray it as a sport-utility or crossover-utility vehicle. It is neither of those things. It is a wagon, a genuine wagon — with all of the utility, grace, function and common sense of a wagon, family-affordable in terms of purchase and operational costs.
I have driven the three previous generations of the Subaru Forester. The 2014 model, which is to go on sale in late spring 2013, is the fourth generation. It is the best one yet and is arguably better than any of its rivals — the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet Equinox, the Toyota Rav4 and the Nissan Rogue. It even gives the highly touted Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Escape Titanium a good run for the money. It will sell.
If I were in charge of Subaru’s marketing, I would scrap any reference to “sport-utility” or “crossover-utility” for this one. It is far more honest than that. It is, as my friend and frequent collaborator Michelle Dawson puts it, “a wagon that is happy to be a wagon, that is assured of itself and is not trying to be something else.”
And that’s from a woman who has spent most of her adult life in the most expensive Jaguar cars available. That’s saying something. Maybe Subaru’s marketers should listen. Better still, they should reexamine the 2014 Forester itself.
There is nothing pretentious, fake, or “wannabe” about it. It comfortably seats five adults — long-legged, short-legged - all of whom can enter or exit, front or rear, without bending or contorting their bodies.
There is enough headroom, front and rear, for tall bodies and even taller hairdos. The new Forester interior is reserved but classy, consisting of high-quality materials. Even habitual Jaguar owners found it much to their liking.
Buyers of the 2014 model will have a choice of two engines — the 2.5-liter flat-four-cylinder model carried over from 2013, or the new turbocharged (forced air) flat-four offered as an option for 2014.
This column’s advice: Go with the option. Here’s why: The 2.5-liter flat four produces 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. It delivers 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway using regular gasoline.
The turbocharged 2-liter flat-four driven for this column develops 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque with a fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway. That’s more power, more driving pleasure and better fuel economy in terms of fuel consumed per miles driven.
But there is a catch. Subaru’s engineers insist that the turbocharged flat-four can run quite well on regular gasoline. They are right ... for good performance. But turbocharged engines are high-compression engines, meaning they usually require premium-grade gasoline for “best performance.”
The problem was emptying the new Forester’s 16.9-gallon tank, which was filled with regular-grade gasoline upon delivery. I added premium-grade fuel several hundred miles later. Afterward, it felt as if I was getting better performance.
But it really didn’t matter. The new Forester is an easy driver - equipped with a new electric-power-assisted steering system and a revised rear suspension with pillow-ball joint mounts for the lateral links.
The ride is soft but controlled. Handling, even in sharp turns, is excellent. The Forester comes standard with Subaru’s much-praised symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, which gave me driving confidence in the Mid-Atlantic region’s dicey winter weather.
I felt at home in this one. I may not buy the Mini Cooper Countryman after all ...