Subaru Forester — A solid compact crossover

By David Finkelstein

Competing in the arena with compact sport utility vehicles is the two-row, five passenger imported 2016 Subaru Forester. Subaru Motors has raised the bar with their addition of new safety enhancements for this model year. It's referred to as their Subaru Starlink safety and security system.

This technology employs connected services to vehicle owners with the added peace of mind from such benefits as SOS emergency assistance, automatic collision notification to the authorities, a downloadable monthly vehicle health report as well as updated diagnostic alerts. Additionally, it also includes remote lock and unlocking services plus stolen vehicle recovery support.

The car's multimedia systems are also tied in electronically with Starlink. It provides Forester drivers with more options for their entertainment pleasure coupled with area-wide driving information (by way of their personal smartphone) with complete seamless integration.

Under the umbrella of vehicle trim levels made available for 2016, versions are sold in a base/entry level model, Premium edition, Limited configuration and the top-of-the-line Touring Trim level. Seventeen-or 18-inch tire and wheel packages are also available.

All Forester models feature black side body cladding and matching color door handles plus the use of an aluminum engine hood bonnet for weight savings. Of course, the body design itself is somewhat boxy in character, regardless of the viewing angel. Its large surround window glass helps to eliminate any blind spots. With their 2.0XT option package, it features an exclusive sport design front bumper along with a one-piece front mesh style grille assembly.

You'll also welcome the wide-opening rear passenger doors. They're engineered to help aid with ingress/egress plus assisting in hauling cargo and gear. Maximum rear cargo area capacity with the standard 60/40 split rear seats (folded forward) is just under 75 cubic feet. According to the factory, this number is quite large for the segment.

The two front bucket seats are comfortable and the dash/gauge assembly is easy to interrupt. The Forester base model is featured with their 6.2-inch single-touch in dash display screen as well as AM/FM stereo with HD Radio including the popular radio data broadcast information system, single-disc CD player, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, iPod control, iTunes Tagging, a USB port and an auxiliary input jack. Smartphone integration features Aha and Pandora, along with their Starlink cloud applications, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, Calendar, Music Player, and News and Weather services.

The screen also provides the display for the standard rear vision color camera. The Premium, Limited and Touring trim models have a standard high-resolution 7-inch LCD screen featuring multi-touch controls of which most of us are accustomed to if you use a smartphone or tablet regularly.

Under the heading of “multimedia features” it also includes Bluetooth hands-free SMS text messaging and dual USB ports and adds SiriusXM All Access Radio and SiriusXM Travel Link. The optional navigation system features voice-activated controls and also adds SiriusXM Traffic. As expected, a subscription is required for SiriusXM products. Navigation-equipped models come with three years of complimentary North America map updates.

When equipped with the available EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, integrates Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Pre-Collision Braking and Lane Departure plus Sway Warning, all resulting in a Top Safety Pick+ crash test rating. The underside reinforced frame structure also helps the car meet that safety achievement.

With a choice of two engines offered, the 170-hp, 2.5-liter duel overhead cam 4-cylinder BOXER engine achieves EPA fuel economy estimates of 24 mpg city/ 32 mpg highway/ 27 mpg combined with the CVT automatic transmission. Worth noting, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard.

Subaru's Premium and Touring trims are powered by a 250-hp, 2.0-liter intercooled, turbocharged 4-cylinder direct injected high compression BOXER style engine. All 2016 Forester models come standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system. Therefore, as a consumer, you don't have an option choice if you want FWD, RWD or an AWD chassis setup on their models. Taking advantage of their Intelligent Drive system, the driver can tailor the vehicle’s powertrain performance and driving characteristics by choosing from among three selectable modes — Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp — using a switch on the steering wheel.

The Forester offers a blend of SUV-type capability and car-like ride and handling with it's four-wheel independent suspension system. The ride itself can be a bit taunt when operating Forester on less than smooth driving surfaces.  At road test, the Japanese-manufactured 2016 Forester Limited I drove had a retail price of $31,790. This price point included the factory's $850 shipping and destination charges plus one of their premium option packages.

The base warranty is for 3-years/36,000 miles. That also includes roadside assistance. The engine and powertrain components are covered by the factory warranty of 5-years/60,000 miles. Subaru of America, Inc. offers a full line of all-wheel drive sedans, crossovers and SUVs, along with the rear-wheel drive BRZ sports car.