2025 Subaru Forester Review: ‘No Longer a Joke’

While you can still tell jokes about Subarus, the brand itself is no longer a joke.

The 2025 Subaru Forester. Subaru

One of my favorite jokes that my grandfather used to tell was, “Subaru spelled backwards is UR A BUS.” He might have repeated that joke too often, but back in the day, when Subaru was a distinctly off-brand machine (before it became the de facto symbolic car of Seattle, Portland and Boulder), it was pretty funny. While you can still tell jokes about Subarus, the brand itself is no longer a joke. And the 2025 Subaru Forester, which will begin to arrive at dealerships at the end of May 2024, is a seriously good car, particularly if you take it off-road. 

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Subaru has sold more than 2.7 million Foresters since they first debuted the car in 1997. This is the sixth generation of the auto, and it finds itself competing with some of the most popular vehicles in the U.S., including the Toyota RAV-4 and the Honda CRV. In terms of pricing and all-wheel drive capability, the Forester is more than competitive. It’s superior in a lot of ways. 

Unlike other vehicles in this compact sports utility segment, which can go off-road in a pinch, Subaru actually builds its cars to go off-road. The new Forester has a number of enhancements and improvements, but the most important ones for the segment are a full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive system, which is unlike competitor cars, where you have to activate an AWD that doesn’t even come standard in base models. The powertrain factor adjusts its steering angle to weight shifts, allowing it to trace a smooth line through tight corners or in ruts. It can handle tough spots. 

The new Subaru Forester features a full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Subaru

In late April, I had the opportunity to drive the new Forester on the highways and in the national forests outside of Billings, Montana. Within 15 minutes of starting the drive, the car was covered in mud—the eventual fate of most Subarus. Then we were on a straightaway smooth highway.

My driving partner said, “Let’s see what this thing can do.” He opened it up. The answer was a rather anticlimactic “not much,” which my hours behind the wheel later confirmed. The four-liter engine generates just 180 horsepower. As my late mother would have said, “it’s adequate.” If you’re looking for speed, the Forester is not your car. 

But if you’re looking for symmetrical all-wheel drive that can handle muddy tracks on a national forest logging road, this car simply kills it. As part of our drive day, we took seven miles straight downhill on a rough logging track, full of pits and huge rocks, and the Forester handled it beautifully. There was zero kickback on the steering wheel, which has traditionally been an off-roading health hazard. The car never wavered over bumps that would have destroyed a lesser vehicle. 

All day, we drove up and down mountain roads, including one toward a historic ghost town that my drive partner handled so aggressively, I almost became a ghost myself. In that part of Montana, at that time of year, there was still snow and ice on the ground, and he was skidding around, clearly trying to kill me. 

And then, up above the snow line, we came upon a Forester from our drive group that had maybe gotten a little overconfident in themselves, or the car, or both. They hit a pile of snow the wrong way, skidded out and got their right front wheel caught in a rut, with several inches of snow on either side. This was not a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, a Ford Raptor or some fancy Range Rover. The Forester is a capable, all-wheel drive vehicle, but it still needs help in the toughest spots. It has no snow mode, and they were stuck. 

A phalanx of Foresters came down the hill. The Subaru rescue vehicle, itself a brand-new Forester, showed up, attached a snow cable to the stuck vehicle and revved into reverse. There was much noise and skidding, and 15 seconds later, the stuck Forester was free. I chalked the stuck car up to driver error—most vehicles couldn’t have even attempted that road. And even if the Subaru was over its skis a little bit, the company is known for pushing its cars past their limits on press drives. In 2013, for the international launch of the Crosstrek, a small car with modest off-roading abilities, I forded a near-frozen river. In Iceland. In November. I’m lucky to still be alive. By comparison, the Forester is a Panzer. 

There are a few package options. Subaru

The base model of the Forester is an inexpensive (for a new car) $29,695, plus destination and delivery, which comes standard with AWD and a roof rack. Most buyers will at least opt for what I drove, the Sport model, which is $34,395 and includes 19-inch alloy wheels, sport suspension tuning and a digital safety package that includes blind-spot detection. The highest-end model, the Touring, is nearly $40,000, and at least approximates luxury driving with leather upholstery, a Harman Kardon sound system, heated and ventilated seats, a 360 degree surround camera and reverse automatic braking. 

It’s definitely not a bus.

2025 Subaru Forester Review: ‘No Longer a Joke’