2014 Subaru Forester XT 2.0 Premium review: Adding turbo for instant relief

2014 Subaru Forester XT 2.0

2014 Subaru Forester XT 2.0

The new 2014 Subaru Forester XT addresses a problem. If there’s one flaw we found in the new  2014 Subaru Forester, it’s the relative lack of power. With just 170 horsepower to propel Subaru’s crossover/SUV, the acceleration proved less than sparkling. While that’s far short of lethargic, those who want to tackle the cut and thrust of the freeway and merge with authority—or who just find the standard Forester deficient in zip—the turbocharged 2014 Subaru Forester XT is a quick solution.

Literally. The two-liter turbo engine increases underhood output to 250 horsepower. That’s roughly a 50 percent increase. You can drop the adjective “significant” anywhere you want. Turbocharging the Subie woodsman means the Forester XT can be a plaid streak through the traffic.

“Streak” may be something of an overstatement, but the Forester XT will get to the merge point on the other side of the toll booth before the guy in the other lane, instead of behind him. If that’s important to you. And we all know sometimes it is, a slightly acceptable form of road rage. Eat my 0-60 mph in the low six-second range, among the best in class. So there.

2014 Subaru Forester XT 2.0 Premium dash

The 2014 Subaru Forester XT 2.0 Premium lacks the Times Square-like multi-information display of the Touring edition. (click to enlarge)

What makes the difference, of course, is the engine. It replaces the standard engine—also new for 2014, and if not more powerful, a lot more fuel efficient. The new two-liter is a turbocharged variant of the FA-Series horizontally-opposed engine that debuted in the new Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins, adapted for its application in the Forester. The engine uses a combination of port and direct fuel injection, a high-for-turbo 10.6:1 compression ratio, variable valve timing on intake and exhaust, turbocharging with an intercooler for the peak 250 horsepower output at 5600 rpm, and  broad spread of torque, 258 lb.-ft. from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm.

A special high-torque continuously-variable transmission is standard in the Forester XT. Drive ratios are altered not just reactively but the electronic control unit is “adaptive,” altering ratio selection based on the way the vehicle is being driven and road conditions.  The 2.0XT models feature paddle shift controls for the CVT.

2014 Subaru Forester back seat

The 2014 Subaru Forester back seat has a lower floor hump than its predecessor. (click to enlarge)

The Forester 2.0XT comes with “Subaru Intelligent Drive,” or SI-DRIVE,  which sets the Forester’s transmission and throttle response to one of three modes, “Intelligent,” “Sport” or “Sport Sharp,” via a switch on the steering wheel. Intelligent is the default, or normal mode, which Subaru defines as “a more relaxed throttle response curve, making it useful for commuting in traffic.” Sport mode speeds up throttle responses and lets the CVT mimic a 6-speed transmission, using steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Sport Sharp mode makes the engine’s electronic throttle even quicker and the CVT gets an 8-speed manual mode.

The Subaru all-wheel drive system was improved for 2014, now adding input signals from steering wheel angle, yaw rate, and lateral acceleration from the Vehicle Dynamics System for the all-wheel drive system to help in maintaining control in slippery conditions, rather than just individual wheel braking in the typical stability control system.

The Subaru Forester 2.0XT, along with the 2.5i Limited and Touring, comes with a new X-Mode feature further optimizes control of the engine, transmission shift pattern, the active all-wheel drive front/rear clutching force, brakes, stability control for particularly slippery conditions. Engage X-Drive—there’s a silver button on the center differential—and the electronic grubbins slow down throttle response for easier control on slick surfaces, and it alters the clutching to mimic more of a limited-slip differential, making the wheels with less traction less likely to spin, sending torque to those wheels with grip. X-Drive also includes hill descent control, which maintains a slow constant speed on steep downhills.

The 2014 Subaru Forester XT’s ride is smooth, though getting serious in the twisty bits will make the Forester XT feel tall, with more lean than the typical sedan would show. Of course, the Forester isn’t a sedan but a crossover/SUV, so that’s to be expected. The cornering feel isn’t helped by the Forester’s front seats, however, which are short on bolstering, making it feel more like you’re sitting on rather than in the seat. The front seats were also short on thigh support.