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Test Drive: 2014 Subaru Forester XT

Learn what we liked—and didn’t like—about the latest model of the Subaru flagship. It's a more manly ride than you'd imagine.

Fast and aggressive probably aren’t the first two words that come to mind when you’re thinking of the Subaru Forester—fair enough. I’ll admit, the first thing that popped into my head was a suburban mom carting her kids to school in the Northeast. When I took the car off-road and onto some rugged terrain, however, the vehicle changed my mind. It hugged corners in the deserts of Arizona, and chewed up rubbly hills with no issue. The turbo-charged version was especially impressive, giving an extra boost when you’re shooting around corners. 

Handling
All Subarus come with all-wheel drive as a standard option, but what I didn’t know was that this is full-time all-wheel drive. Many competitors feature situational four-wheel drive—if some of your wheels are slipping, the vehicle will try and compensate for that by sending power to the others. If that doesn’t work, however, the car will sometimes just shut down. That doesn’t happen with the Forester.

The 2.0 liter turbo version we enjoyed packs 250 horsepower, which means it feels a little bit more like a WRX than an Impreza. With a wide wheel base and a higher-than-industry-average ground clearance, it definitely had the feel of a vehicle that was designed to go off-road.

The 2014 Forester also features X-Mode, which will help your car get up or down steep inclines that you’d otherwise have an issue navigating. It’s a great tool to have if you live in (or plan on visiting) an area where the weather can negatively impact your drive.

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Design
A simple, clean, and smart interface is easy to wrap your head around as soon as you take a seat. Like most high-end vehicles, the Forester features a central display where you can control entertainment, temperature, and navigation. Aside from a few hiccups (it was difficult to connect a cell phone via Bluetooth, but that’s probably on me), it worked well, and it was remarkably simple to use. The trunk also provided more space than most of the vehicle's direct competitors, which surprised us—you can easily toss a mountain bike in the back, once you’ve put the rear seats down. Thick, aggressive rims add some testosterone to the generally matronly Forester XT, a major positive for guys hesitant to plunk down their hard-earned cash on the tamer standard version.

The Verdict
The Forester probably doesn’t jump to mind as the manliest car out there, but it performed capably in terrain that’s as rugged as most drivers are going to see. The fuel economy was great, and it zipped around nimbly on the highway, weaving in and out of traffic with no sway or bracing against the doors. It’s a solid choice for any guy out there looking to get out of the city and into the wilderness—and back— with no problems.

THE SPECS (per the 2.0 XT version)
Horsepower: 250
Torque: 258 lb.- foot torque
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Width: 70.7 inches
Cargo Volume: 74.7 cubic feet (rear seatbacks down)
MPG City/Highway: 23/28
MSRP: $28,820 (with destination and delivery charge)

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