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2018 Subaru Forester

$22,795 - $36,090
Price Range (MSRP)
Subaru Forester

2018 Subaru Forester Review

by Roger Biermann

The Forester has always been a kind of dark horse in Subaru's stable, fusing the characteristics of a family station wagon, off road capable SUV and in some cases, an all-out sports car. This combination may sound nuts, but it has translated into an accomplished and much-loved car that is a jewel in Subaru's crown. With two available engine offerings, including a 250 hp 2.0T four-cylinder, and Subaru's signature all-wheel-drive system, there's versatility not seen in some of their other offerings, or those of rivals, either. Nearly a quarter of a century worth of development has transformed the Forester into a car that has a number of personalities, but whichever one you happen to meet will impress you with its sheer capability.

Read in this review:

2018 Subaru Forester Changes: What’s the difference vs 2017 Forester?

2018 sees the introduction of the Black Edition, which is basically a trim package that adds some menacing black-finished wheels as well as touch-ups to the grille and body trim. The theme continues on the inside where the Black Edition is wrapped in, you guessed it, black cloth upholstery and a black gloss dashboard. Limited spec Foresters get a new cargo area cover and the top of the range Limited steps up its game with Subaru's first-rate EyeSight safety systems as standard. For 2018, the 2.0XT Touring now benefits from Active Torque Vectoring.

Pros and Cons

  • The 2.0XT is a WRX wrapped in hiking boots
  • Superior cargo and interior space
  • Great visibility
  • Safety, safety, safety
  • Twitchy throttle response
  • Trails competitors in terms of features
  • Aging interior

Forester Exterior

The Forester has, since its birth in 1997, prided itself on its no-nonsense styling that champions function over form, yet there's something beautiful about it nonetheless. As of late, the Forester has grown into a car that looks more SUV than station wagon, and strong lines that swoop to the rear-end still gives off the sense that the Forester likes to party, especially in Black Edition trim, which doesn't leave anything to the imagination. The aforementioned Black Edition gets a range of black exterior trim items, while if you're looking for a panoramic sunroof, it's to be found on Premium and higher models. 18-inch alloys are found only on the Touring and 2.0XT, with lesser trims sporting 17-inch wheels - steel items on the base 2.5i. LED headlights are available on all but the base and XT trims, and a rear spoiler is standard on all but the base.

2018 Subaru Forester Front View
2018 Subaru Forester Three Quarter Front Right Side View
2018 Subaru Forester Three Quarter Front Right Side View In Motion
See All 2018 Subaru Forester Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Forester lives within the realms of the compact crossover segment and thus its dimensions follow suit. The Forester measures 181.5 inches long, 68.2 inches tall, 70.7 inches wide, and rides on a wheelbase measuring 103.9 inches. That second dimension suggests that the Forester sits quite high, partly thanks to the generous 8.7-inch ground clearance, and has a longer wheelbase than most others in its class. Because the Forester was designed for light to mild off-roading, the approach, departure and breakover angles should also be mentioned, and are quite impressive for a car that's not an all-out trail machine: 23.0/25.0 degrees approach/departure and 21.0 degress for breakover. The base model weighs in at 3,322 lbs, not too hefty for a compact crossover, comparable to a Jeep Compass, while heavier iterations weigh 3,653 lbs.

Exterior Colors

The 2018 Forester's color options are a mixed bag of urban cool and outdoor tough, so you'll be able to find something that suits your Forester's personality. The safest option here is the Crystal White Pearl, but the rest all suit the Forester's hard lines, including Ice Silver

Metallic, Sepia Bronze Metallic, Quartz Blue Pearl, Venetian Red Pearl, and Jasmine Green Metallic. Choose the Quartz Blue Pearl and add some gold wheels and you'll have yourself a modern-day Forester STI. All options are available at no cost, and if the colors seem familiar, it's because the palette has carried over from 2017 completely unchanged.

  • Crystal Black Silica
  • Dark Gray Metallic
  • Ice Silver Metallic
  • Quartz Blue Pearl
  • Venetian Red Pearl
  • Crystal White Pearl
  • Sepia Bronze Metallic
  • Heritage Blue Metallic
  • Jasmine Green Metallic

Forester Performance

The Forester's performance is comparable to that of a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd. The 2018 Forester offers two engines: the base 2.5-liter flat-four that will happily putter along, just like a good 'ol Goldie, and a potent turbocharged unit that brings out Shepherd's growl. In either guise, the Forester lives happily in the suburbs, on the open road or on the trails and has enough grunt to get the job done. The turbo will be best suited to high altitude driving, as the 2.5 flat-four tends to run out of breath. Seven seconds is the magic 0-60 mph number, as the turbocharged Forester XT manages to just undercut that number from a standstill.

2018 Subaru Forester Three Quarter Front Left Side View In Motion
2018 Subaru Forester Three Quarter Rear Left Side View In Motion
2018 Subaru Forester Turbo Engine

Engine and Transmission

The 2018 Subaru Forester is powered by either a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four, that pushes out a mild 170 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque and, despite the growing shift towards smaller turbocharged units, serves the Forester well as a base powertrain. What the engine lacks in outright performance, it makes up for with a predictable powerband and a good balance between in-town tractability and lowdown grunt for the dirty stuff. The 2.0-liter turbo motor is a winner, and with 250 hp and 258 lb-ft on tap, it turns the Forester into one of the quickest soccer-kid delivery systems on the market. Interestingly, the Forester's turbo-four delivers 18 hp less than the WRX at the same RPM range, but both deliver the same torque figures. The turbocharged Forester will do a 0-60 mph time of just under seven seconds, and with the magic of modern flash tuning, you can be guaranteed to see some on the road that will embarrass its big brother the STI.

The 2.5-liter flat-fours come with a 6-speed manual as standard, and the Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is available higher up in the range. The CVT continuously adjusts gear ratios which means there is no loss of momentum. It does a good job of mimicking a traditional auto in terms of replicating shift points. The gearbox helps the Forester stay within the optimal rev range for whatever situation you find yourself in, meaning the fuel consumption stays as low as possible; an important factor in a car with permanent AWD.

  • Engines
    2.0-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas, 2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The 2018 Forester strikes a good compromise between car-like handling and comfort, and SUV off-road capability. Electronically assisted steering makes the steering feel overly light sometimes but in general, delivers enough feel and accuracy to keep the driver engaged.

When pushing the Forester through a set of bends, the SUV-biased suspension and chassis setup comes to the fore. The standard tires offer a good amount of grip but expose the Forester's body roll. Don't let this deter you though; the Forester is quite capable of dealing with the bends. When taking the Forester off road, the elements that detract from its on-road handling abilities become its greatest benefits. A generous amount of ground clearance (8.7 inches to be exact) and appropriately sprung suspension allows the Forester to handle mild off-roading. Driver selectable X-Mode activates hill descent control and allows the power to be shifted to the corners with the most grip.

Forester Gas Mileage

Subaru claims a figure of 22/28/25 mpg city/highway/combined for the manual 2.5 flat-four engine and 26/32/29 for the CVT auto. The 2.0-liter turbo returns figures of 23/27/25 mpg. Keep in mind that the Forester has to spin all four wheels on a permanent basis. The CVT auto gearbox truly shines in this department because it keeps the engine running in the optimal rev range, meaning the engine doesn't have to burn any fuel unnecessarily. Fuel economy is on par with its class: the Ford Escape's base model features the same size base engine that produces 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque and returns numbers of 21/29/25 mpg when power is sent to the front wheels (all-wheel drive is not available on the base engine). The Escape's 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine pushes out 245 hp and 275 lb-ft and in all-wheel-drive spec chugs down 20/27/23 mpg. The Ford Escape makes use of a six-speed automatic across the board.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    15.9 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 22/28 mpg
* 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5i Manual

Forester Interior

The 2018 Subaru Forester's interior won't blow you away, but what it does offer is robust build quality and clean and easy to read layout that will hold up to the wear and tear caused by small children or an active lifestyle. Compared to its rivals, the Forester's interior is starting to look somewhat dated, although the optional saddle-brown leather looks really good. Interior noise levels are low thanks to an update in 2017 that saw the addition of extra sound insulation, an acoustically optimized windshield, and thicker glass for the door windows.

2018 Subaru Forester Infotainment System
2018 Subaru Forester Infotainment System
2018 Subaru Forester Infotainment System
See All 2018 Subaru Forester Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Forester seats five adults and a good amount of cargo thanks to a tall and boxy design. The front seats aren't anything to write home about and don't offer enough bolstering, but thanks to a high seating position and a low window line, the Forester offers class-leading visibility, and really opens up the front interior. The dashboard sits rather low and will see taller passengers' knees making contact with center console and door panel. The rear seats are more shapely and rear legroom and headroom are good. For those who want the numbers, the Forester's interior gives you 40.2 inches of front headroom and 43.3 inches of front legroom. Back seat drivers get 37.7 inches of headroom and 39.4 inches to stretch the legs.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The 2018 Forester is layered in soft touch plastics and metallic trim, all treated to a matte effect that plays into the Forester's earthy and robust feel. The standard trim cloth seats feel durable and should last as long as the rest of the car. Touring spec cars get sumptuous Saddle Brown perforated leather with contrasting stitching. Other leather color options include Touring Black

Leather, Platinum Leather, and Black Leather. The Forester 2.0XT Premium comes with Black or Platinum Cloth and sport bolsters.

Forester Trunk and Cargo Space

One of the Forester's biggest selling points is its ability to carry a lot of stuff, and for 2018, Subaru has made sure that you can fit your entire Sunday social mountain biking crew in the back. Talking about mountain bikes, the Forester comes standard with a set of roof rails that technically increase cargo space by a lot (there's a ton of optional roof accessories on offer). Thanks to a square design, the rear cargo area is easily accessible and the space on offer is at the top of the compact crossover class. The rear seats fold down at the touch of a button, creating a completely flat loading space that can swallow more things than a Mazda CX-5 or Toyota's RAV4, but is outmatched by Honda's CR-V.

2018 Subaru Forester Maximum Cargo Space
2018 Subaru Forester Trunk Space with Seat Folded
2018 Subaru Forester Rear View

Forester Infotainment and Features

Features

For 2018 the Forester tries to push key tech features such as its EyeSight active safety package, now standard on Touring models. Self-dimming headlamps and reverse automatic braking also feature. Touring models also get blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts. Optional extras such as a tilt/slide moonroof and an upgraded audio system help the Forester feel reasonably fresh in a market awash with fresh technology and flashy interior specs.

Infotainment

In-car entertainment is handled by Subaru's Starlink infotainment system that has been praised for its ease of use and especially in the fluid manner it allows users to switch between menus. The base model gets a 6.2-inch screen that includes Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher and Aha, smartphone app integration, a high-resolution LCD touchscreen display, 4 speakers, AM/ FM/CD player, HD Radio with iTunes tagging capability, USB port/iPod control, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free phone connectivity, and 3.5-mm auxiliary jack. The Premium and above get a larger 7-inch screen, while the Touring models push audio frequencies through a Harman Kardon eight-speaker system.

Forester Problems and Reliability

The current Subaru Forester has had no recalls in the USA. Additionally, the 2018 Subaru Forester is covered by a new vehicle limited warranty of 3 years or 36,000 miles. Wear item coverage is 3 years or 36,000 miles, which covers brake pad/shoe linings, clutch linings, and wiper blades. The Forester's powertrain coverage is 5 years or 60,000 miles, and Subaru will sort any rust issues out for 5 years.

Forester Safety

The Subaru Forester is a seriously safe car, and Subaru has made this one of its main selling points, not only for the Forester but across their entire range. The 2018 Forester scores full marks with the NHTSA, and bags a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, although this accolade was awarded to those Foresters fitted with optional front crash prevention and the higher specced LED headlights.

Key Safety Features

The 2018 Subaru Forester is packed with safety features. A short breakdown below will give you an idea of why the Forester holds an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. Inside, occupants are shielded from front, side, rear, and rollover impact by seven standard airbags, and a reinforced outer ring built into the frame gives extra protection from the outside in. Subaru's legendary symmetrical all-wheel drive isn't exclusively used for off-road traction and road holding, but helps keep things stable in emergency maneuvers. To back this up, standard electronic stability control keeps things in check. Optional LED steering responsive headlights turn to help you see around corners more easily and reverse automatic braking could save a person's (or your bumper's) life by detecting objects behind the car and braking as necessary. Blind spot detection and lane change assist keep you in the right lane at all times while rear cross traffic alert warns you when you're backing up into oncoming traffic.

Verdict: Is the 2018 Subaru Forester a good SUV?

The Subaru Forester has enjoyed over 20 years of success and has become a household name for people who need a practical and spacious family car that drives well, returns decent gas mileage but can still excite and deliver off-road thrills. The fact that the Forester can do all of these things should drive home the point as to why it's so good and so popular. The 2018 Forester keeps the torch burning bright, and is now safer and more capable than ever. Don't expect limo-like luxury, but the interior, though slightly dated, offers its occupants a comfortable and hard-wearing environment, perfect for families or hardcore adventure junkies. Performance and gas mileage is relatively good in comparison to its compact crossover rivals. The 2018 Forester has been awarded the ALG Residual Value Award for retaining its value better than any other vehicle in its class, and according to an IHS study, 97% of Subaru Forester vehicles sold in the last 10 years are still on the road today. The final feather in the Forester's cap is the fact that it's one of the safest cars in its class.

What's the Price of the 2018 Subaru Forester?

The base model 2018 Forester 2.5i, starts at an MSRP of $22,795. The next step up is the

2.5i Premium, starting at $25,695, followed by the 2.5i Limited, that goes for $29,395. The 2018 Forester 2.5i Touring, with exclusive upholstery and added tech features, starts at 33,090. If you opt for the turbocharged option, you'll be looking at a starting price of $29,495, and the most powerful, top trim Forester will set you back $36,090 to start. All these prices exclude licensing, registration, destination and delivery fees. The Ford Escape starts at an MSRP of $23,490, but the base model only drives the front wheels. If you want an AWD Escape, you'll need to cough up at least $27,050. Jeep's Compass starts at an MSRP of $21,095, but to get all four wheels spinning, you'll have to pay at least $22,595.

2018 Subaru Forester Models

The Subaru comes in six trim levels, starting with the 2.5i base model, and ending with the 2.0XT Touring.

The 2.5i base model will get you Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive as standard with your choice of a six-speed manual transmission or optional CVT auto. Inside you'll be greeted with a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat and robust cloth upholstery. In-car entertainment is taken care of by a 6.2-inch multimedia system with four speakers, Bluetooth audio streaming hands-free phone connectivity, and a 3.5-mm auxiliary jack.

The 2.5i Premium adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, rear spoiler, power adjustable seats, reclining rear seatbacks and an upgraded sound system. The special Black Edition package is only available on the 2.5i Premium, and comes with 18-inch wheels and all-black exterior trim. Other features include LED headlights, silver interior stitching, and heated front seats.

The 2.5i Limited comes with a power rear gate, leather-trimmed upholstery, and silver metallic and piano black interior accent trim. Added side and rear collision prevention will keep you safer.

The 2.5i Touring adds 18-inch wheels, LED Headlights, chrome accents and keyless access with push-button start. The infotainment system also sees a bump in quality.

The 2.0XT Premium comes with a sport-tuned suspension, Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE), 18-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, and raised roof rails.

The top of the line 2.0XT Touring features LED steering responsive headlights. Chrome accents and a leather interior gives it added charm and you'll be listening to your favorite playlist through an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5i
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$22,795
2.5i Premium
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$25,695
2.5i Premium Black Edition
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$27,345
2.5i Limited
2.5-liter Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$29,395
2.0XT Premium
2.0-liter Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$29,495
See All 2018 Subaru Forester Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Additional options worth mentioning include a trailer hitch for $499, a sports grill that gives the front end some real attitude for $429, a Thule hitch mounted bike carrier for $199 (there's a massive range of Thule roof carriers available) and all-weather floor mats for $79. The 50th Anniversary Edition package is an option to consider if you want to stand out from the Forester crowd. For an extra $300 you'll get the following touches: silver front and rear outer seat belt material, carpeted floor mats featuring the 50th logo & silver stitching, black side cladding, 18-inch high luster dark gray alloys, 50th Anniversary logo on front seats, velour chrome badges, satin chrome foldable exterior mirrors, integrated turn signals, velour chrome frame & wing front grille and a whole bunch of extra 50th Anniversary badges scattered around the car.

What Subaru Forester Model Should I Buy?

The Subaru Forester can be had in a variety of flavors. Gearheads should go for the 2.0XT Premium which will provide enough tech, comfort and safety features to keep them satisfied, but most importantly, keep them moving about at a much higher rate of speed thanks to the WRX sourced 2.0-liter turbo engine. For those who are looking at value for money rather than outright performance, the 2.5i Premium would be our choice.

2018 Subaru Forester Comparisons

2018 Subaru Forester
2018 Subaru Forester

2018 Subaru Forester vs Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is comparable to the Forester in a number of ways but does some things better, and of course, some things worse. For starters, the CR-V has more rear legroom and cargo space. The CR-V drives smoother and has less road noise as well. The CR-V has a better track record when it comes to reliability. The two cars are comparable in terms of engine performance and gas mileage; the CR-V comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-pot and you have the option of upgrading to a more powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pushes out 190 hp. The CR-V can boast that it won KBB.com's small SUV Best Buy of 2018 Award. The Subaru offers better visibility and headroom, and it's standard all-wheel drive and higher ground clearance gives it an edge over the Honda's front-wheel drive base model. The Honda CR-V starts off at $24,250 and both models hold their value really well.

See Honda CR-V Review

2018 Subaru Forester vs Subaru Outback

Subaru's lineup of crossover compacts/SUVs can seem to overlap, but Subaru has been clever in the way that it distinguishes its range. The Outback and Forester might seem like the same cars in a lot of ways, but the Forester is visibly more related to the compact SUV category, while the Outback can be seen as more of a family station wagon that's been lifted for the occasional dirt trail. The Outback is a longer car, suited to larger families, whereas the Forester is a taller and shorter car that's perfect for smaller and more adventurous families. Did we mention that the Forester and Outback don't share their top of the line engines? The Outback gets the naturally aspirated 3.6-liter flat-six producing 256 hp, while the Forester gets the WRX derived turbocharged flat-four that produces an equally respectable 250hp. The current Outback is coming to the end of its lifespan, while the Forester is fresh for 2019. The 2018 Outback is priced from $25,895.

See Subaru Outback Review

Subaru Forester Popular Comparisons

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2018 Subaru Forester Video Reviews