Tom Crosby: 2016 Subaru Forester upgrades safety features

Tom Crosby

Two years ago Subaru launched its fourth-generation small crossover Forester SUV to much acclaim and for 2016 has upgraded safety features and options.

Forester is Subaru’s best-selling vehicle and boasts excellent cargo space, top crash safety scores, respectable mileage and better-than-average reliability. Every Forester uses all-wheel drive all the time – a refined Subaru feature producing driver confidence.

The ride is compliant, and the heightened driver view excellent but there is some lean in tight turns and curves.

Two new optional STARLINK™ packages introduced for 2016 include extra features, such as collision notification, SOS assistance, stolen vehicle recovery and security alarms. Our test-drive 2.0XT Touring, which is top-of-the-line among the six Foresters, had a $1,395 STARLINK™ package that included a graphically sharp multi-media navigation system on a 7-inch touch-screen. It also included the award-winning EyeSight with a lane departure warning, forward collision warning, a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking and, new this year, steering responsive fog lights.

However, EyeSight mysteriously doesn’t include blind spot monitoring – an acknowledged safety technology found in competitor vehicles. A standard safety feature alerts when the vehicle in front of you takes off and you don’t follow, like when you are looking at your cellphone at a stoplight.

The top two Foresters – Premium and Touring – use a 2.0-liter intercooled turbo-charged (forced air) BOXER engine that provides excellent get up and go. Our automatic variable transmission could be switched between 6 or 8-speed and off-road in X-mode helped control tire spin on slippery surfaces and steep inclines.

The interior mixes comfort and functionality with leather-trimmed and stitched upholstery and attractive dimpled black interior door and dashboard trim. Seats are ample and comfortable for all occupants and the cabin tolerates little outside noise, amplifying concert-clear sounds from harmon/kardon 440-watt audio. One-touch folding rear seats add cargo space. Storage trays are hidden beneath the cargo floor and above a spare tire.

The touch-screen has a beehive of drill-down icons and allows pinch-and-expand finger movements to zoom in or out on maps upgraded free for three years. Aha, Pandora, iHeartradio and Sticher can be accessed with smartphone app integration.

Outside, high arched fenders sit above 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, contributing to an aggressive profile that includes a sharply raked windshield, rooftop rails, a level beltline aiding visibility and a v-shaped front end that slices air resistance to improve aerodynamics. Subaru means “united” in Japanese.

LIKES: Power, reliability, versatility, spaciousness, ride, quiet
DISLIKES: Lean in turns, no blind spot monitor
BOTTOM LINE: Very price competitive for long-term ownership
Base price with destination charge $34,645 ($36,040 as tested)
Vehicle weight 3,624 lbs.
Wheelbase 103.9 inches
Length 180.9 inches
Width 70.7 inches
Engine 2.0-liter, DOHC, 4-cylinder turbo-charged, Boxer
Horsepower 250 hp at 5,600 rpm
Torque 258 lbs.-ft. at 2,000-4,800 rpm
Transmission Continuous variable transmission/ratio options
EPA Rating 23 mpg city and 28 mpg highway
Range 15.9-gallon tank, regular
Performance 0-60 in just under 7 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.