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2013 Subaru Forester Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Subaru Forester was new.


Performance: 8.1

Reviewers say the 2013 Subaru Forester is plagued by an outdated optional automatic transmission and questionable fuel economy, but most still praise the Forester for its sporty, car-like ride and standard all-wheel drive.

  • "The Forester's crisp steering and tight turning circle make it surprisingly maneuverable in close quarters, while its all-wheel-drive system and generous ground clearance lend it a fair amount of off-road capability." -- Edmunds
  • "Easy on gas, the 4-cylinder Forester combines car-like ride and handling with the ground clearance and AWD tenacity of a light-duty off-road vehicle." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Around town, the Forester 2.5XT Limited proves an easy driver. The seating position is high enough to give a good view of surroundings, yet the car feels light and nimble. The engine moves the car along without strain, and the four-speed-automatic transmission delivers mostly transparent shifts." -- CNET (2010)

Acceleration and Power

The base Forester 2.5X is powered by a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional. Upgrade to the 2.5XT model and you’ll get a 224-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a four-speed automatic. According to the EPA, the base Forester earns 21/27 mpg city/highway with a manual or an automatic transmission. Models with the turbocharged engine are rated at 19/24 mpg.

Some reviewers find the base engine adequate, though a few complain that it needs more power. While getting the turbocharged engine rectifies the power issue, nearly all auto writers dislike the optional automatic transmission. They note that rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape have more gears and that the Forester would have better acceleration and fuel economy with an updated transmission.

  • "Its four-speed automatic transmission also sets it back in terms of fuel economy and acceleration." -- Edmunds
  • "Its outdated 4-speed automatic transmission doesn't provide the best fuel economy and the 5-speed manual isn't available on the sportier turbo models." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The conventional 4-cylinder has no surplus of power, but is plenty adequate for around-town driving. After a brief bout of turbo lag, the 2.5XT's engine delivers stronger acceleration in all situations." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The four-speed-automatic transmission seems primitive compared with the competition." -- CNET (2010)

Handling and Braking

Test drivers praise the Forester for its sporty handling, which is aided by its standard all-wheel drive system. Most agree that the ride is also comfortable and car-like on the highway, which is surprising for a compact SUV that also performs well when the pavement ends.

  • "One of the most comfortable rides in the segment is another boon." -- Edmunds 
  • "Unlike most compact crossovers, the Forester's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is permanently engaged, providing excellent traction in all weather conditions." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Forester has a car-like demeanor. Steering is direct with sporty heft. Lean in corners is kept well in check, though some testers complain of a slightly top-heavy feel." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The Forester responded expertly -- gripping as needed when needed; preventing short turns into skids from becoming longer, more dangerous skids; and handling potentially upsetting vehicle weight transfers with aplomb." -- Washington Post (2010)

All-Wheel Drive

The Forester comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive, which is usually an option in this class. The system impresses test drivers with its abilities in snow and slippery conditions. It even impresses in mild off-roading.

  • "A rock crawler it is not, but its standard all-wheel-drive system that constantly shunts power to each wheel (rather than reacting when the front wheels slip) is well-suited for muddy fields or light sand." -- Edmunds
  • "We took our 2013 Subaru Forester on some light off-road trails, which showcased the vehicle's firmer suspension, direct steering and notable ground clearance, all of which came into play when traversing rocks and ditches." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Trekking through a meadow, the Forester really seems to be in its element, a perfect car for a back country picnic. This dirt road work hardly taxes the all-wheel-drive system, which would find its best use helping the Forester 2.5XT Limited tackle ski trips up snow-covered roads." -- CNET (2010)

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