It will take a sharp eye to note the styling changes to the redesigned 2014 Subaru Forester, introduced Wednesday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Subaru wants consumers to see a familiar look but focus on improved fuel economy – traditionally not a strong suit – along with more power in the turbo version.
The automaker understandably treaded lightly in redesigning one of its most popular models, second in sales only to the larger Outback and catering to a similar niche for quirky SUVs. The car, now in its fourth generation, retains a tall-wagon profile, although front and rear fascias have been made over. Fans of Subaru's oddball styling may lament the passing of the hood scoop on the turbo model.
Whatever it may lose in styling flair, however, it gains in power. The turbo version of the boxer motor now packs 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, enough to escape most mud bogs and more than enough to navigate the suburbs. That's up from 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque in the current model. Power in the standard boxer engine remains unchanged, at 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque.
The turbo comes with just one transmission option: a continuously variable automatic with a manual mode simulating six or eight speeds. The naturally aspirated model offers a more basic CVT and a six-speed manual option.
By replacing the outdated four-speed automatic transmission with the CVT, Subaru makes impressive gains in fuel economy. The base engine with the six-speed manual transmission will get 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway, versus 21 mpg and 27 mpg on the outgoing model. Those figures rise to 24 mpg and 32 mpg, respectively, on new models with the CVT. The new turbo Foresters will get 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Subarus historically have posted mediocre fuel economy figures, but the company has announced a goal to achieve 30% efficiency gains on all models by 2015. The Impreza, a small sedan and hatchback redesigned for 2012, starts the automaker down that path with ratings of 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, impressive for a four-wheel-drive car.
Both models keep the outgoing Forester's standard all-wheel drive, 8.7 inches of ground clearance and basic exterior dimensions. Subaru gave the SUV a more rugged face with sharper angles. Turbo models get a slightly different front bumper and larger, more aggressive wheels.
Inside, Subaru says it has tweaked the cabin for more legroom and cargo room. It has also added in-dash features, including a navigation system, backup camera and Harmon/Kardon audio.
Pricing details haven't been released, but don't expect it to deviate much from the current model's range of $21,000 to $30,000 when it goes on sale in the spring.