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Subaru's Forester has been completely redesigned for 2014

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Because the snowy season is here, you may have noticed an extremely large number of new Subaru SUVs on the road. Perhaps that’s because they’re selling like hotcakes and despite running three shifts, Subaru is having trouble keeping up with the demand.

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Subaru has made their mark in the automotive market with reliable, AWD vehicles that are sensibly priced. I must admit, my wife owned a new ’98 Outback and it was one of the best cars we ever owned. It was economical, had generous cargo room, had nice styling and was reasonably priced.

While Subaru doesn’t have an extensive line of vehicles, the ones they have like the famed Outback, Forester and Crosstrek fill the niche of many buyers who desire competent AWD. The only vehicles missing in the line-up are a full-size and hybrid that are rumored to be in the mill with the hybrid version likely to be a co-op with Toyota.

Insofar as the current popular three, the Outback and its larger size can be considered a crossover while the somewhat smaller Forester leans more toward SUV while the even smaller Crosstrek, is a sporty SUV.

We tested the Forester, which was completely redesigned for 2014 including a 50 percent stiffer body. It’s also a bit larger than earlier models and as such sports larger windows, doors, interior space and cargo area. In fact rear legroom is up 3.7 inches and the cargo area is up 6.4 cubic feet to 74.7 cubes (it measures 36 inches deep, 43 wide and 32 high - or 69 deep with the 60/40 rear seats folded) over the 2013 model.

Forester’s cargo space is very close to the Outback’s that measures 39 deep, 44.75 wide and 29.5 high with the rear seats up. Forester’s higher roofline not only gives expansive visibility, but also allows stowing taller items in the cargo hold. There’s also a five-compartment foam bin beneath the cargo floor for small item storage.

Forester’s cabin is pleasingly functional. The perforated leather front seats are soft and comfy with decent lateral support. The backs are flatter and can hold two adults or three tweens.

There is, however, a questionable display quirk. The vertical stack houses a 5.5x3-inch LCD screen for GPS nav (that uses an insert able flash drive) and Harmon/Kardon audio settings. Above that is a 4x2-inch LCD screen for a digital clock, HVAC settings, mpg averages and rearview camera. What’s questionable is why Subaru didn’t include the rearview camera display in the larger screen as opposed to the smaller screen where it’s difficult to read.

Power wise, Forester is offered with either a new 2.0L, 250-hp (258 lb/ft of torque) turbocharged 4-cylinder, or as tested, 2.5L, 170-hp (174 lb/ft of torque) horizontally opposed 4-cylinder that couples to either a 6-speed manual transmission or CVT that replaced a 4-speed automatic in earlier models. The result is exceptional power with EPA mileage estimates of 24 city, 32-highway mpg. My local driving averaged (per a dash readout) of 21.6 mpg.

While most motorists won’t notice it, the CVT has its critics, as downshifts are slow, and especially noticeable when going from Reverse to Drive. If you can remember, traditional automatic transmissions allow you to rock a vehicle out of deep snow by quickly going from Drive to Reverse and Reverse to Drive gears. The momentum needed for this is lost with a CVT – and it’s not just Subaru’s but mostly all CVTs.

Now that brings up Suby’s famed AWD system. With a meaningful 8.4 inches of ground clearance, it’s more than on some light trucks, many crossovers and a few SUVs. And it’s helpful when traversing deep snow and mediocre off road hazards.

Ride wise, it was smooth with no noticeable body lean because of its higher stance on 17-inch Yohohama tires. Engine noise is noticeable, but dissipates at cruise speeds.

What is somewhat shocking though was the test cars price. Loaded with a host of most standard features like huge (26x29-inch) sunroof, one touch folding rear seatbacks, power liftgate, Satellite Radio w/nav traffic, Aha Smart phone integration, leather, Bluetooth and more, Forester carried a base price of $29,995. Added to that though was Option Package 30 ($2,400) that included Keyless Access/Start, EyeSight Driver Assist, Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise, Lane Departure/Sway warnings, Pre-Collision Throttle System and HID headlamps. This escalated the price to $33,220 with an $825 delivery charge. For that, you can buy an Outback, which my buddy recently did. After some haggling, he got a loaded 2014 Outback for $29,325 without GPS nav.

But overall, Forester offers a lot of comparable content for the price.

To check out a Forester stop by Faulkner Subaru in Bethlehem or Ciocca Subaru in Wescosville. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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