The Subaru Forester has been a crunchy granola favorite since it debuted as a virtual farm implement in 1997. The sixth-generation Forester, which Subaru debuted at the 2023 LA Auto Show, is a far cry from that car and is even a noteworthy advance over the outgoing model.

Structure

Consider the 2025 Forester’s 10 percent increase in structural stiffness compared to the 2024 model. This is achieved two ways; through the simple increased use of structural adhesives, which now total 89 feet, compared to 26 feet before, and increased welding locations through a major change in the car’s construction.

“The vehicle is actually constructed differently than previous Foresters,” said Subaru car line planning manager for Forester, Bill Stokes. “This process is what we call ‘full inner frame construction.’ Previously, the sides of the vehicle, when they were being added to the unibody, had the outer skin already on them.”

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“With the new version, we are actually constructing the full unibody with the pillars, with the B, C, and D-pillars in place before the skin is put on the outer part of the vehicle,” he continued. “That allows us to do more welding and more stiffening to the body because you have access for the welders to get to that space before the outer skin is applied to the vehicle.”

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The refinement this brings, along with added sound deadening in the floor, roof, fenders, and firewall, is evident when driving along Montana’s rural two-lane highways at 70 mph. While the original Forester might have seemed more suited to pulling a plow through the adjacent fields, the 2025 Forester boasts surprising quiet when you could expect wind noise from the speed and road noise from the coarse texture of the pavement.

The chassis also incorporates upgraded crash structure with reinforced structural rails, suspension mounting points, and front impact structure to meet newer, more stringent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash safety standards.

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Steering

Another area of refinement is Forester’s steering, where Subaru has upgraded the previous single-pinion electric power steering rack with a dual-pinion unit similar to the one employed in the sporty rally-inspired WRX. “That brings us less kickback through the wheel as you’re driving off-road,” Stokes explained. “You’ll notice it is more stable and secure as you’re going over bumps,” he said.

Indeed, while driving on the washboard gravel roads Subaru mapped for the test drive route, the Forester had the opportunity to showcase both its increased structural rigidity, with a lack of rattles, and the steering rack’s ability to provide steering feedback without unwanted kickback, even over potholes.

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During the mud and snow portions of the drive, while the Forester’s Subaru-signature full-time all-wheel drive system forged a steady path, the steering continued to demonstrate the value of this new technology, with no kickback through the steering wheel when negotiating through ruts.

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The Forester powers its way down the highway and churns through the mud and snow thanks to the power from its 180-horsepower 2.5-liter horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder engine. That power routes through Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the Forester’s standard, full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.

While this engine is very similar to the previous-generation Forester’s engine, engineers have tweaked many of its components with the goal of delivering its 178 lb.-ft. of torque at a lower rpm than before, also contributing to the car’s increased refinement.

“The accessibility of the torque curve has been substantially improved due to changes to the vehicle for the ’25 model year,” Stokes said. “There are also some changes to cooling, oiling, reliability, [noise, vibration, and harshness] reduction, so all of that is not just improvements to performance and the torque delivery of the vehicle, but also to make it quieter and a nicer experience for the driver.”

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Drivetrain

As with the chassis upgrades, these are incremental improvements that are surprisingly obvious from the driver’s seat, as the Forester continues to move away from the coarse, growly character that made the older Subaru engines seem endearing and toward the refinement that even crunchy granola drivers demand now.

The lowered peak torque rpm also pays dividends when considering the Forester’s CVT. These transmissions have generally been unpleasant to drive, with the tendency to put the engine into its high-rpm powerband and leave it there, droning along, as the driver seeks to accelerate. Subaru’s increasingly proficient transmission calibration has banished that characteristic, and having the torque delivered at lower engine speeds surely is a contributing factor.

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The company has also programmed in the ability for drivers to shift among eight-pre-programmed ratios within the CVT’s range of gearing to simulate an 8-speed transmission that is controlled by steering wheel-mounted shift paddles that are standard equipment on the Forester’s Sport, Limited, and Touring trim levels.

I generally prefer to shift for myself with a manual transmission that has a clutch pedal. For automated transmissions, I generally let them do their jobs, and Forester’s programming is clever enough that I never found myself wanting or needing a different ratio. The ’25 Forester’s gearbox is an adaptation of the one used in the 2024 Forester Wilderness model, which provides a wider spread of available ratios.

Electronics

Electronic safety gadgetry is a component of every new vehicle, and Subaru has introduced an improvement in its camera-based EyeSight collision-avoidance system. In addition to the two stereoscopic cameras used previously, the 2025 Forester’s EyeSight system adds a cyclopsian center camera. The additional imagery from this third camera can help the system identify cyclists and pedestrians at intersections sooner and, when necessary, alert the driver and apply braking to avoid collisions, Subaru says.

The new Forester provides a new system called Emergency Stop Assist that activates if the driver becomes unresponsive to warnings while using the car’s Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control system. This standard safety feature will automatically stop the vehicle, activate the hazard lights, unlock the doors, and place a call through the Subaru Starlink system notifying emergency services.

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At the other end of the technological spectrum, the 2025 Forester also adds simple screw-in mounting locations throughout its cargo area, where drivers can attach mounting hooks where needed to secure whatever load they’re carrying. There are a total of eight locations, three on each side of the cargo space and two on the rear gate.

Equipment

My test car was the Sport trim level, which is a mid-level model that targets more enthusiastic driving. The $35,890 (including destination charges) Sport model can be distinguished by its bronze-finish 19-inch aluminum wheels, gloss black front grille, and “Sport” badging. The available trim levels for 2025 are Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. The off-road-oriented Wilderness trim is not yet available for the 2025 model year, so Subaru will continue selling 2024 Forester Wilderness vehicles in the interim.

A frustration of Subaru’s trim levels is that while the company positions the Sport and Premium trims as essentially co-equal in their position in the product line, with similar pricing but different target customers, the product planners apparently concluded that sporty drivers don’t mind having cold fingers in the winter, because steering wheel heat comes with the Limited package (and the top-of-the-line Touring) but not the sport package.

This will surely frustrate those customers who prefer the Sport model’s other attributes but don’t like having cold fingers. How far we’ve come from the agrarian 1997 Forester!


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