Redesigned Forester: Familiar out, new in.
The redesigned Subaru Forester is bigger, filled with advanced safety features and has a roomier, more luxurious interior than ever before.
Making its world debut last week at the New York auto show, the Forester demonstrates that Subaru Corp. is not afraid to enhance one of its bread-and-butter products.
The Forester, currently Subaru of America’s second best-selling nameplate, has been crucial to the Japanese brand’s sales growth in the U.S. market since it arrived here in the late 1990s.
The 2019 model redesign mainly focused on its interior and safety equipment. The new version is immediately identifiable as a Forester, given its familiar shape and attributes. But inside are new seats up front, and all Foresters except the base standard trim come with an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system.
The wheelbase now stands at 105.1 inches, Subaru says, up from 103.9 inches, with rear-seat legroom growing by 1.4 inches. Subaru says the Forester will be more spacious overall, especially when it comes to headroom as well as hip and shoulder room.
The cabin will also be quieter, a result of joining the Subaru Global Platform.
“The interior is really the differentiator for this car,” Subaru of America CEO Tom Doll told Automotive News.
The top-of-the-line Touring trim, with a rich shade of brown, is the most visual display of Subaru’s new interior. It includes a 10-way power driver’s seat, an 8-way power front passenger seat, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel to round out what the automaker is calling “the most luxurious Forester ever.”
Subaru also made its EyeSight driver-assist technology standard with the redesign and added a new safety feature it calls DriverFocus.
DriverFocus, standard on the Touring trim, serves as a monitoring system that uses facial recognition software to identify signs of driver fatigue or driver distraction, the automaker said.
The Forester is the first in the segment to offer such a feature. It can recognize up to five drivers and remember their presets for seat position, climate and infotainment.
So how did Subaru approach the redesign of one of its key components in the Forester?
By not being afraid.
“You can never really be afraid to try and take a design that’s worked and try to evolve it and modify it in such a way that it’s going to continue to attract customers to the brand and keep our customers loyal,” Doll said. “If you look at past evolutions of the Forester, it’s done that. It’s been different enough in each iteration since the 2009 model year. That was the big jump. Since then, we’ve evolved it to maintain its uniqueness in the market. But sometimes you can’t be afraid to evolve it because the market is always evolving.”
No. 1 contender
Subaru sold 177,563 Foresters in the U.S. last year. Just 10 years prior, in 2007, it sold 44,530.
Doll expects the redesigned model to climb higher and vie for the brand’s No. 1 sales spot with the Outback.
“We would like it to be a 200,000 unit a year vehicle for us once we get it fully launched and out,” he said.
While the Forester is one of the oldest nameplates in the brand’s lineup, Doll sees more sales potential as people discover it.
“Once people see the Forester and get an understanding of what it’s all about, and the safety aspects that we’ve built into the vehicle,” he said, “we think the sky’s the limit with this thing.”
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