Quick Drive: 2012 Subaru Forester 2.5XT

By John Beltz Snyder

June 28, 2012

—Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Forester 2.5XT has a couple things going for it that can be found in tandem in many other Subarus, but it is an especially nice combination, and worth mentioning straightaway: its turbocharged boxer engine, and all-wheel drive.
When driven in regular traffic, the engine responds smoothly to the weight of your right foot. It can feel a little slow until the turbocharger spools up, but then there’s a lot more power readily available should you need to pass somebody or shoot for a hole in traffic. With the pedal mashed, this all happens quickly, with only a minor amount of turbo lag—something the average consumer might not even notice or care about. Those who are more familiar with the engine expect can more from it, and they get it with a little work. This makes the XT rewarding to drive fast, exploring its interesting and entertaining power band.
With all-wheel drive, there is no wheelspin off the line, even when putting the right pedal to the floor. The Forester feels pretty sticky across the surface of the road, and grip limits feel high in the corners. It also offers extra confidence when driving across loose or irregular surfaces, or when making fast moves, where the car feels planted and poised. Having the power going to all four wheels is useful in foul weather and on bad roads, but it also adds a sense of poise to normal or enthusiastic driving situations.

[Click here for our review of the 2013 Mazda CX-5.]
On bad roads, the suspension soaks up a lot of the jumble, to help keep the Forester feeling stable. It doesn’t transmit much motion into the cabin, but you can hear it when you drive over cracks and bumps in the road. What is does transfer helps to communicate what is going on between the tires and the pavement. Under cornering, the car exhibits a bit of body roll, which seems to be the only thing really subtracting from its cornering stability. A flatter ride through the bends would make the Forester a bit more adept as a handler, and would also work to improve comfort.
The steering in this crossover feels nicely communicative. It very clearly indicates the condition of the road surface. On-center response is pretty dead, though, but it begins to react nicely with a few degrees of steering input. Plus, It doesn’t jerk around when driving over the rough stuff, even at speed, and it’s especially steady when aimed dead ahead. At any angle, there’s a nice bit of vibration from the road that doesn’t feel bad or harsh, and helps to navigate with confidence.
The Forester’s interior isn’t anything to write home about, even in the top trim. That said, there’s nothing really offensive about it either. The XT Touring comes with nice leather seating, but there’s a lot of plastic on the dash and doors. The doors also have these very soft cloth inserts that are nice to the touch, but don’t feel particularly durable. The instruments are laid out nicely and simply, and dials, knobs, and buttons are uncluttered, if a bit cheap-feeling. The optional touchscreen interface offers navigation and audio controls, but doesn’t integrate things like climate control or other vehicle settings. Also, the buttons on the screen can be quite small, and hard to poke precisely.
It does boast a lot of useable space, though. Even with the rear seats up, The Forester offers a sizable 30.8 cubic feet of cargo volume. Fold both of the 60/40-split rear seats flat, and there is 63.0 cubic feet of space to work with. We don’t think most people will have any trouble taking three other passengers and their luggage on an extended vacation in the Forester.
And should you encounter bad roads or weather along the way, you can rest assured that you’ll still be able to reach your destination. Plus, nobody has to worry about the driver dying of boredom along the way. The turbocharged Forester 2.5XT is a super practical crossover that is spacious, dependable, and fun to drive.
2012 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Touring
Engine: Turbocharged flat-4, 2.5 liter, 16v
Output: 224 hp/226 lb-ft
Weight: 3460 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 19/24 mpg
Cargo Capacity: 63.0 cu ft
Base Price: $29,895
Price As Tested: $31,739