By Sean Tucker
It's new look is evolved from the old one and carries new cabin technology that should impress longtime fans. Look for it in spring of 2024.
The Subaru Forester has a formula that works. It's carved out its own niche in the compact SUV segment over almost 30 years with a reliable set of virtues and has won a loyal fanbase stretching more than a generation. When it's time to start from scratch on a new one, engineers don't want to risk all that.
So they don't really start from scratch.
The 2025 Subaru (FUJHY) Forester is technically all-new. But engineers took no risks with it, and Subaru fans don't want them to.
Mechanically, little has changed
So the "all-new" 2025 Subaru Forester uses the same chassis as the outgoing 2024 Subaru Forester (though stiffened with additional welds). That gives it the same track and wheelbase, and largely similar dimensions inside and out.
It uses the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine with the low center of gravity (the secret to its pleasant and planted handling feel). That powerplant still makes 180 horsepower.
Power still goes through a continuously variable transmission.
It keeps the proven go-anywhere moxie of Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel-drive system.
That's not to say there's nothing new. Handling is enhanced by a steering rack borrowed from the sporty WRX.
The next Forester wears a new look evolved from the old one and carries new cabin technology that should impress longtime fans.
But engineers didn't mess with what works, which is exactly what Subaru buyers want from them.
A hybrid is coming
There will be one major mechanical change eventually. Subaru CEO Atsushi Osaki, introducing the car at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday, promised that a hybrid version will follow "in another year."
He gave no details beyond that. Subaru has built one hybrid before, a plug-in hybrid version of its Crosstrek subcompact SUV. No company shares parts between cars as efficiently as Subaru -- the Subaru Global Platform chassis underlies everything the company sells except the BRZ sports car and Solterra electric vehicle, both of which are built by Toyota (TM).
More: The 2023 Subaru Solterra reviewed: Price, range and more for this new electric SUV
But we doubt the 148-horsepower drivetrain of the Crosstrek Hybrid is powerful enough to carry a Forester-sized vehicle convincingly. So we expect something all-new in a year.
No one will mistake the 2025 Forester for anything but a Forester. But car design -- particularly SUV design -- is heavy on accent lines and character folds this year, and Subaru designers don't sit out trends completely.
The 2025 Forester gets a larger grille with headlights that are no longer separated from it by body-color sheet metal.
The fender flares are more pronounced and angular, making the vehicle look wider (it's technically half an inch wider, but the difference seems bigger than that). Fog lights now seem half-hidden in folds where they sat in big black surrounds before.
The rear, though, looks simpler, with the taillights smaller and integrated into a black bar that stretches across the tailgate. Stretched across the D-pillar and essentially bisecting it are the words "symmetrical AWD" set against a black strip.
The Sport trim level gets bronze trim accents. Those have long been a staple on Subaru's truly sporty cars, but we're a bit surprised to see them on the least sporty, most practical model in the lineup.
There's one significant exterior change between trim levels. The base, Premium, and Limited trims get the standard roof rails Subaru owners are used to. Sport and Touring trim levels get flush-mounted rails that can't hold crossbars. Those might get slightly better fuel economy from the aerodynamic change. But many Forester buyers plan to mount bikes, kayaks, and more to the roof. They'll need the raised rails.
Read: A hybrid just won 'vehicle of the year.' Here's why the EV case has been hard to crack.
Biggest changes are inside
If you've been in the 2023 or 2024 Subaru Forester, the 2025 Forester's interior will look very new. If you've been in the most recent Outback, Crosstrek, or Ascent, it will look familiar. The new family cabin look includes diamond-pattern textures on the dashboard and door panels. Subaru says the contours help "avoid visible damage from daily use." So does a dark headliner.
Every trim but the base model gets a portrait-oriented 11.6-inch central touchscreen equipped with wireless Apple (AAPL) CarPlay and Android Auto. An optional upgrade package gives it voice-activated navigation powered by what3words integration -- a technology that can navigate you to sites as specific as a particular trailhead or the loading dock of a building.
Base models get a dual 7-inch screen setup instead. The top screen handles CarPlay and Auto (not wireless), while the lower screen controls climate and vehicle settings.
The Forester introduces a new seat design that Subaru says "increases overall comfort and minimizes fatigue." The new seats are also thinner to improve "visibility and access to the rear seats."
A new climate control system keeps track of which seats are occupied and heats and cools only the relevant areas.
"Available for the first time on a Subaru model, a new kick sensor-activated Hands-Free Power Rear Gate enables owners to open and close the rear gate automatically simply by placing their foot under the rear bumper cover," Subaru says.
You might like: 10 new SUVs coming soon--and worth the wait
Safety equipment includes the latest version of Subaru's EyeSight driver assistance suite. Subaru says it "can identify cyclists and pedestrians at intersections sooner and, when necessary, alerts the driver and applies braking to avoid collisions." The sensors have a wider field of view than prior generations, and increased processing power means it "operates more smoothly and quickly and under a greater range of conditions than prior versions."
Keeps its place in an improving segment
All told it should be enough to keep the Forester exactly where it has always been -- an excellent choice for small SUV buyers who plan to venture off paved surfaces. It will likely remain a pleasant daily driver with that planted feel Subaru loyalists love and a slightly more modern sense of luxury. And you'll still be able to strap a canoe to the roof and get to the boat launch without hassle.
In recent years, many automakers have inched into Subaru's home territory with light off-road versions of their SUVs. A Kia (KR:000270) Sportage X-Pro or Toyota RAV4 TRD model might be tempting for similar reasons. But if Subaru feels like home, the 2025 Forester will likely feel just right. The 2025 Subaru Forester is slated to go on sale in spring of 2024.
See: The 2024 Kia Sportage review: an attractive mix of sport, luxury and tech in one of the roomiest SUVs in its class
We can't vouch for its long-term future in a gas-powered format. Subaru has promised to bring out three new EVs by 2026. The company knows where its bread is buttered. One of them will almost certainly be a Forester-like compact SUV. That could make this the last time Subaru brings out a new Forester almost identical to the old Forester.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.
This content was created by MarketWatch, which is operated by Dow Jones & Co. MarketWatch is published independently from Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
11-28-23 0501ETCopyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.