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2025 Subaru Forester Review: Full Redesign Better On Road and Off, but Needs More Power

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Subaru doesn’t really do “new” very often. It’s not that the company doesn’t completely redesign, restyle, and re-engineer its vehicles. It’s that those changes are hidden under nearly identical wrappers.

The latest Forester is another example of that. The 2025 Subaru Forester shares nothing at all with the previous generation, but if you had told me it was just a new front grille, I wouldn’t question you. Slip behind the wheel, though, and it’s immediately obvious that this Forester is a completely different vehicle.

Subaru brought me to the mountains east of Missoula, Mont., to find out just how thoroughly it has improved the Forester for 2025. The drive route for the media drive was more gravel and dirt than pavement, and includes at least one ghost town.

In short: Subaru understands that Forester buyers want loads of space, excellent visibility, and a ride that’s comfortable on rough surfaces. The all-new 2025 Forester delivers all of those attributes and ditches the tin-can feel that has plagued the model since its inception.

  • Engine
    2.5L flat-four
  • Horsepower
  • Torque
    178 lb.-ft.
  • Mileage
    26/33/29 mpg city, highway, combined
  • Cargo
    29.6 cu. ft. with seats up, 74.4 cu. ft. folded, 27.5/69.1cu. ft. with panoramic roof
  • Towing
    1,500 lbs.

  • Excellent visibility

  • Smooth ride on or off pavement

  • Spacious cabin

  • Tons of safety features

  • Sluggish engine

  • Slow infotainment

  • Disconnected steering

  • Anonymous styling

2025 Subaru Forester Review

New From the Frame Up

OK, the last-gen Forester wasn’t exactly a tin can, but noise, vibration, and harshness were not areas where it scored well. To fix it, Subaru has completely redesigned how it builds the model.

The 2025 Forester starts as a full inner frame, where the pillars are welded to the rest of the model’s structure before the exterior sheet metal is attached. It used to be the other way around, and the pillars were attached after the rear fenders.

This technique lets Subaru add more welds and use three times the structural adhesive it used before. The factory robots can get to places they couldn’t reach before. The result is a stiffer unibody that you’ll notice the first time you leave the pavement.

Combine the stiffness with more sound insulation, and it’s a significant improvement. To prove it, Subaru sent us down more gravel roads than any other crossover drive I’ve ever attended. More than 100 miles of unpaved roads and paths. Washboard, ruts, loose rocks, the whole lot.

The new Forester didn’t rattle, and it didn’t complain. Even in a Touring trim with 19-inch wheels, the ride was as comfortable as anything short of a Chevy Colorado ZR2. Or, well, an Outback.

Comfortable Outdoor Adventures

Subaru says that its buyers are far more interested in outdoor sports and activities than its competitors. Several times more interested, depending on which competitor you’re looking at. That makes rough road driving more important to Subaru.

One of the more stressful parts of off-pavement driving is vibration. Spending hours getting the paint-shaker treatment from the suspension is bad enough. Add in the forearm workout you get from a steering wheel doing its best to follow the terrain, and it can be exhausting.

Forester’s long-travel suspension curbs the first part of that. Prior Foresters felt more like other crossovers; they were stiff, not compliant. For 2025, Subaru has softened it. Now the model drives more like a Crosstrek or Outback. It soaks up washboard instead of punishing the driver.

The result is more body roll but more ride comfort. This isn’t a sports sedan, so give me that roll and that comfort every day of the week.

WRX Steering Used to Reduce Vibration

To solve steering shake on rough terrain, Subaru grabbed the steering rack from the WRX. It’s a dual-pinion steering rack, and that’s the trick.

Nearly all vehicle steering systems have their electric assist motors mounted to the same shaft as the steering wheel. It works very well in nearly all situations, but with high-torque electric power steering you can sometimes end up fighting with, or at least feeling, the power steering trying to keep up.

The dual pinion system removes the power steering motor from the shaft that goes to the steering wheel and puts it on a second shaft. The power steering motor turns the rack but doesn’t apply torque directly to the steering wheel like it does in conventional systems.

It isn’t unique to Subaru, but it is still uncommon. The result is virtually zero kickback or vibration through the wheel on some serious dirt roads.

The side effect of that steering isolation is on the highway. On pavement, the Forester’s steering feels like a video game wheel — like it’s not connected to everything.

It’s probably not an issue for most Forester buyers. All you’ll really notice while driving is that the steering is always easy to turn. But it is also vague in highway bends, requiring more correction than most vehicles, even in what should be a constant-radius turn.

Sport Trim Fixes Steering Disconnect

If that slack steering and soft ride are an issue for you, Subaru has a fix. The Forester Sport has shocks that are tuned differently from the rest of the lineup. It’s a small change, but it reduces body roll with just a small sacrifice to washboard road comfort.

Somehow it also tightens up the steering. The 2025 Forester Sport’s wheel feels much more direct, leading to less hunting in bends.

The Sport trim also gets StarTex fake leather this year instead of cloth, making the model a lot more appealing than the Sport trim it replaces.

Refreshed 2.5L Four Still Not Enough

Where the new Forester doesn’t have any sport at all is under the hood. Subaru has revised its 2.5L boxer-four, dropping the torque curve’s peak from a frankly silly 5,400 rpm to a still-high 3,700 rpm.

The total output is still 180 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. The figures sound like this engine should be adequate, especially with a wider spread of gear ratios for the CVT promising to keep the engine at optimal revs.

It isn’t. Adequate, that is. The Forester is a slug.

I acknowledge that much of our test route was at altitude, but never over 6,000 feet and usually much closer to 3,000. It was high, but not that high. The Forester, meanwhile, couldn’t break its tires loose on a dirt road even at the lowest point of the drive. More importantly, even with the big sky sightlines, passing on a two-lane Montana highway was a challenge.

Its 60-70-mph times were best measured with an hourglass, and my co-driver on the event had to abort a pass that shouldn’t have required a second thought. Downhill grades made it only slightly better. Its 70-mph cruising had the engine high in the power band, making noise and sucking fuel.

The Crosstrek with the same engine isn’t exactly a rocket ship, but compared to this, it’s downright zippy.

The Forester is big with buyers living on two-lane roads and in the mountains, making this lack of horsepower almost unforgivable. It makes me miss the old turbocharged Forester XT.

Subaru has confirmed that a hybrid model is coming, and we can only hope it has more grunt than this version.

2025 Forester Keeps Massive Greenhouse

Subaru seems to have pegged its buyers better than most brands, or at least it is telling us more about what it knows about them. It knows that they like the excellent visibility, for example, which is why every Forester, including this one, has had so much glass.

It knows they want cargo space, too, but they don’t want a bigger vehicle. If they need a bigger footprint, they get an Outback. So Subaru has tweaked the interior volume, which can now hold 2,160 cans of beans according to the company, but the total is only 0.7 cubic feet bigger than before.

Instead of adding size, Subaru added features. The cargo area is flat, even with the seats down, for a start.

There are new accessory hooks that screw into the side walls and tailgate, too. They can be used to hold multitudes of accessories including a shelf that adds a level of storage to the cargo bay. One is conveniently located to hang a light when you’re camping or working in the dark.

Same Screens as Every Other Subaru

The front of the Forester’s cabin uses the company’s newest infotainment system. It’s the same dual 7.0-inch screens on the base trim and larger 11.6-inch touchscreen on the rest that you’ll find on everything else in the company’s lineup beyond the BRZ.

It’s slightly quicker than the engine to respond to your commands and the graphics are big and clunky. But there are actual dials for volume and tuning, along with always-on-screen buttons for key HVAC features, so it gets points for that.

A new digital rearview mirror is standard on Touring, and that trim gets a 360-degree surround view camera as well. The mirror is great for seeing behind you if you’re loaded with cargo, but the 360 cam’s directly behind view distorts obstacles so much as to make spotting people very difficult.

New Emergency Stop Assist Added

Subaru is big on safety, so one of its more interesting features is Emergency Stop Assist, now on every Forester. It uses the steering and pedal input sensors — or DriverFocus eye monitoring on higher grades — to see if you’re still responsive. If you aren’t, it’ll slow and stop the vehicle and then turn on the hazards. It will also alert emergency services.

What About the 2025 Subaru Forester Wilderness?

If you’ve gotten this far, you might be wondering about the Forester Wilderness, Subaru’s even more off-road capable trim. So were we.

There won’t be a Wilderness for 2025. The very popular trim with extra off-road capability isn’t going away, but for whatever reason a new-generation model isn’t ready.

To address that, the 2024 Forester Wilderness will live on for an extra year or so, sold alongside the other 2025 Forester trims. The company gave us the usual “we can’t comment on future product” response, but I would bet on a new Wilderness for the 2026 model year.

2025 Subaru Forester Review: Conclusions

Forester starts from $29,695 for the base model, which includes roof rails, dual-zone climate, steering responsive LED headlights, and alloy wheels. From there, the lineup includes the $31,995 Premium, $34,495 Sport, $35,995 Limited, and the $39,995 Touring. The new model will be in dealers nationwide by the end of May.

Subaru said the chassis is 10% stiffer than before, and that seems to have been the design philosophy behind the whole model. The 2025 Subaru Forester is about 10% better in every way, from the nicer cabin, to the lower noise levels, to the ride.

The new Forester delivers exactly what its buyers wanted with their last one: a vehicle with excellent capability for lugging gear and rough road recreation plus excellent exterior visibility. It added more of the safety features Subaru customers want and a little bit of extra comfort.

I wish the horsepower had been increased by that same 10%, but with the outgoing model posting record sales, maybe Subaru knows its buyers aren’t in a hurry.

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