2019 Subaru Forester: A comfortable daily driver [First Look]

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2019 Subaru Forester (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Sometimes you get behind the wheel of a vehicle for the first time, and everything just feels right.

The seats are comfortable; the visibility out the windows is really good; and the HVAC and audio controls are intuitive and easy to reach.

Such is the case for me with the 2019 Subaru Forester.

I’ve been missing this vehicle in the test fleet and finally had the chance to spend a few hours behind the wheel at the recent Rocky Mountain Redline Rally in Colorado.

What I really like about it is the EyeSight safety suite is standard. This includes things like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist.

What’s more, the base price – which includes standard all-wheel drive – is $25,270, with destination.

The vehicle we were driving was a top-tier Touring trim, and it added features such as DriverFocus, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, leather seats, Harmon Kardon premium audio and reverse automatic braking.

All in, the as-tested price was $35,270 – which I thought was decent considering all the goodies you get.

The Forester is all-new for the 2019 model year. The engine is upgraded, cargo space increases by 1 cubic foot, a WiFi hotspot is available and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard.

The coolest thing on the Forester, however, is the DriverFocus system.

This feature uses facial recognition technology. On one hand, it will scan your face as you enter the vehicle and then adjust seat and HVAC settings to your profile. On the other hand, it monitors your face for distraction and drowsiness, sending alerts if it thinks you’re tired or fiddling with your phone.

The system can recognize up to five drivers.

We went through the set-up process, and it was a little clunky to work through. But once it was set up, it worked well – right down to saying hello and goodbye to me.

The engine is still a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder direct-injection Boxer engine, but it has been upgraded for this next generation and delivers 182 horsepower and 176 pound-feet of torque.

I thought this engine was perfectly suited to this vehicle, and being in Denver at high altitude, it still held its own with plenty of get-up-and-go acceleration for passing and merging with traffic.

The engine is mated to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission, and while I’m typically not a fan of the CVT, this one worked really well with the powertrain.

Overall ride and handling were comfortable, and the vehicle tackled rough road surfaces and curves nicely.

Frankly, “comfortable” is an excellent word to describe the Forester all around.

The exterior design isn’t crazy divergent from the previous generation, but it looks more refined and elegant. The interior is plain but intuitive. The infotainment system is a tad lackluster with graphics that are more 2009 than 2019, but if you wire in to CarPlay or Auto, it’s not an issue.

The trim lineup is as follows:

Base ($24,295): At a base level, Forester includes all-wheel drive, EyeSight driver-assist technology, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, cloth seats, auto on/off headlights, 2 USB ports, a 6.5-inch infotainment screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Premium ($26,695): This trim adds a panoramic power moonroof, X-Mode, hill descent control, roof spoiler, body color folding side mirrors, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, reclining rear seats, 4G LTE WiFi capability, removable cargo tray and Starlink Safety and Security app services.

Sport ($28,795): This trim adds 18-inch wheels, LED fog lights, windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, sport cloth upholstery, color multi-function display, passive entry, push-button start, paddle shifters and 2 second-row USB ports.

Limited ($30,795): This trim adds leather upholstery, LED steering responsive headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch infotainment screen, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

Touring ($34,295): This top-tier trim adds satin chrome side mirrors with integrated turn signals, heated rear outboard seats, one-touch folding rear seats, driver’s memory seats, navigation, Harmon Kardon premium audio system, DriverFocus distraction mitigation system and reverse automatic braking.

The Bottom Line:

In the short time I had behind the wheel, I really liked the 2019 Subaru Forester. I love the standard EyeSight, and the overall comfort of the vehicle can’t be beat. Plus the fact that you can get all the up-level features – including reverse automatic braking and DriverFocus – for $35K is impressive.

To tell you how much I liked the new Forester: I’m recommending this to my parents as their next vehicle.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only event that allowed special access to the vehicle and a product specialist. Rocky Mountain Redline covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.