2014 Subaru Forester includes direct-injection turbo

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  • Image: aei-su-forester-SIDrive.JPG
  • Image: aei-sub-forester-turbo.JPG
Image: aei-su-forester-exterior.JPG

The new Forester (XT shown) has an outdoor action look, comes with traditional amenities, and is expected by Subaru to be rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Yes, it has been restyled, but the 2014 Subaru Forester still carries that “sturdy, built for action” look, and at 180.9 in (4595 mm) overall, it’s just 1.4 in (36 mm) longer than its predecessor. Functionally, it’s a very new model and was introduced at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, although it won’t reach dealerships until spring.

The fuel economy numbers are up 17% with the standard 2.5-L boxer four-cylinder to 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27 mpg EPA combined. They’re 19% higher than previously on the turbo edition, to 23/28/25. In both cases, a major reason for the improvement is the change from the previous four-speed automatic to a CVT (continuously variable transmission). This is a step previously taken on Subaru sedans for a comparable boost, and the fuel economy is impressive for a vehicle line with all-wheel drive standard on all models.

Two versions of CVT

There actually are two versions of the steel link belt CVT used by Subaru. One is for the 2.5-L, which is rated at 170 hp/174 lb·ft (127 kW/237 N·m), and its CVT has a ratio spread of 3.581: to 0.570:1. The second is for the Forester XT, equipped with the optional 2.0-L intercooled turbo that replaces the 2.5-L turbo used on the previous model. This version’s CVT has a ratio spread of 3.505: to 0.544:1, and although the difference isn’t significant, it was the result of using stronger, specially engineered steel links to handle the 2.0-L turbo’s higher torque.

Both CVTs have adaptive learning. That is, the ratios change during driving, according to the road conditions and the driving technique. The CVT on the XT also has a driver-selectable switch on the steering wheel for the type of drive that's about to begin, a feature called SI-Drive (for Subaru Intelligent Drive). It has three choices, two of which provide manual modes for CVT ratios. Default is Intelligent mode, which produces a gentle throttle response, such as for in-traffic operation. Sport delivers a quicker-response throttle and a “six-speed” manual mode with paddle shifters. Sport Sharp produces an even more aggressive throttle and an “eight-speed” manual mode.

A six-speed manual transmission is the base on the 2.5-L. The XT is strictly CVT.

2.0-l turbo has direct injection

The new 2.0-L turbo, rated at 250 hp/258 lb·ft (187 kW/351 N·m), is a healthy replacement for the 2013 model’s 2.5-L turbo that was rated at 224 hp/226 lb·ft. The 2.0-L actually is Subaru’s first direct-injection engine and has relatively high compression for a turbo at 10.6:1. Yes, the naturally aspirated 2.0-L engine in the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ is also direct injected, but although that engine itself is also a Subaru boxer, the fuel injection system is Toyota’s novel “dual” design. That is, it has both direct and port injection.

The Forester 2.0-L turbo reportedly has a fair bit of upside performance potential, so as a more fuel-efficient choice, it also might go into the WRX, which to date is powered by a 2.5-L turbo rated at 265 hp/244 lb·ft (198 kW/332 N·m), and with a six-speed manual carries fuel economy numbers of 19/25/21. The WRX-STI's 2.5-L turbo, which is rated at 305 hp/290 lb·ft (228 kW/394 N·m) and has window sticker numbers of 17/23/19 has not been discussed in the same context.

There are two AWD systems on the Forester. The manual transmission is mated to a simple viscous coupling, which can provide up to a 50/50 torque split. The CVT bolts to an active system, with a variable hydraulic clutch coupling that can transfer up to virtually 100% of available torque to the rear wheels. In all XTs and 2.5-L Limiteds, an X-Mode is included, which adds a high level of integration of related inputs, including engine performance, transmission ratio selection, ABS, and stability control—Subaru’s VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control). The powertrain and driveline controls work together to improve operation on slippery surfaces and steep inclines, and Hill Descent Control is automatically engaged.

The modest increase in vehicle size and more efficient packaging produced an increase in rear-seat legroom to a generous 41.7 in (1059 mm) vs. the previous model's 38.0 in (965 mm). There’s also considerably more cargo area with the second-row seats folded: 74.7 ft³ (2.11 m³) compared with 68.3 ft³ (1.93 m³) on the 2013 model.

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