The 2014 Subaru Forester is an ideal wagon, with util­ity, grace and af­ford­abil­ity,

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - War­ren Brown writes.

Those of us who love sta­tion wag­ons, and we are many, will love the all-new-for-2014 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Pre­mium.

Ig­nore Subaru’s mar­ket­ing at­tempts to por­tray it as a sportu­til­ity or cross­over-util­ity ve­hi­cle. It is nei­ther of those things. It is a wagon, a gen­uine wagon — with all of the util­ity, grace, func­tion and com­mon sense of a wagon, fam­ily-af­ford­able in terms of pur­chase and op­er­a­tional costs.

I have driven the three pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of the Subaru Forester. The 2014 model, which is to go on sale in late spring 2013, is the fourth gen­er­a­tion. It is the best one yet and is ar­guably bet­ter than any of its ri­vals — the Honda CR-V, the Chevro­let Equinox, the Toy­ota Rav4 and the Nis­san Rogue. It even gives the highly touted Hyundai Santa Fe and the Ford Es­cape Ti­ta­nium a good run for the money. It will sell.

If I were in charge of Subaru’s mar­ket­ing, I would scrap any ref­er­ence to “sport-util­ity” or “cross­over-util­ity” for this one. It is far more hon­est than that. It is, as my friend and fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor Michelle Daw­son puts it, “a wagon that is happy to be a wagon, that is as­sured of it­self and is not try­ing to be some­thing else.”

And that’s from a woman who has spent most of her adult life in the most ex­pen­sive Jaguar cars avail­able. That’s say­ing some­thing. Maybe Subaru’s mar­keters should lis­ten. Bet­ter still, they should re­ex­am­ine the 2014 Forester it­self.

There is noth­ing pre­ten­tious, fake, or “wannabe” about it. It com­fort­ably seats five adults — long-legged, short-legged — all of whom can en­ter or exit, front or rear, with­out bend­ing or con­tort­ing their bod­ies.

There is enough head­room, front and rear, for tall bod­ies and even taller hair­dos. The new Forester in­te­rior is re­served but classy, con­sist­ing of high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als. Even ha­bit­ual Jaguar own­ers found it much to their lik­ing.

Buy­ers of the 2014 model will have a choice of two en­gines — the 2.5-liter flat-four-cylin­der model car­ried over from 2013, or the new tur­bocharged (forced air) flat-four of­fered as an op­tion for 2014.

This col­umn’s ad­vice: Go with the op­tion. Here’s why: The 2.5-liter flat four pro­duces 170 horse­power and 174 pound-feet of torque. It de­liv­ers 21 miles per gal­lon in the city and 27 miles per gal­lon on the high­way us­ing reg­u­lar gaso­line.

The tur­bocharged 2-liter flat-four driven for this col­umn de­vel­ops 250 horse­power and 258 pound-feet of torque with a fuel econ­omy of 23 miles per gal­lon in the city and 28 miles per gal­lon on the high­way. That’s more power, more driv­ing plea­sure and bet­ter fuel econ­omy in terms of fuel con­sumed per miles driven.

But there is a catch. Subaru’s engi­neers in­sist that the tur­bocharged flat-four can run quite well on reg­u­lar gaso­line. They are right . . . for good per­for­mance. But tur­bocharged en­gines are high­com­pres­sion en­gines, mean­ing they usu­ally re­quire pre­mium-grade gaso­line for “best per­for­mance.”

The prob­lem was emp­ty­ing the new Forester’s 16.9-gal­lon tank, which was filled with reg­u­largrade gaso­line upon de­liv­ery. I added pre­mi­um­grade fuel sev­eral hun­dred miles later. Af­ter­ward, it felt as if I was get­ting bet­ter per­for­mance.

But it really didn’t mat­ter. The new Forester is an easy driver — equipped with a new elec­tricpower-as­sisted steer­ing sys­tem and a re­vised rear sus­pen­sion with pil­low-ball joint mounts for the lat­eral links.

The ride is soft but con­trolled. Han­dling, even in sharp turns, is ex­cel­lent. The Forester comes stan­dard with Subaru’s much-praised sym­met­ri­cal all-wheel-drive sys­tem, which gave me driv­ing con­fi­dence in the Mid-At­lantic re­gion’s dicey win­ter weather.

I felt at home in this one. I may not buy the Mini Cooper Coun­try­man af­ter all . . .


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