The Subaru Forester and I
I bought a new 2014 Subaru Forester in the fall of 2013 and managed to rack up 54,000 miles within only two years! Where did I go, you may ask? Well, I’ve covered the Western United States, from Southern California to South Dakota, and all points in between. There’s no better feeling than to cruise into South Dakota and Colorado in December in a Subaru, let me tell you! No weather is too tough for it, and I’ve owned a Chevy Tahoe and two Ford F350 trucks, all with four wheel drive. The Subaru does 80% of the things those vehicles do better. It only yields in towing capacity and interior space (for the Tahoe only – it has more space inside than the F350 crew cab imho).
Fuel economy – I can confirm 24 MPG city, 31 MPG highway on a trip-to-trip basis, but the overall economy (on fuel tank basis) is never that good. That I can see the promised EPA figures at all confirms (to me at least) that they are not lying with the figures.
The CVT automatic transmission is largely credited with the excellent fuel economy for a full-time AWD vehicle, and the feeling of driving a CVT is something you get used to quickly as a vast improvement over the regular geared automatic gear-boxes. Going back to a traditional automatic will make you wonder how you got along with shift-jerks in the driveline before the CVT came along.
Towing – having installed a 2″ received on my Forester, I had the opportunity to tow a couple of jet skis, with a total weight of about 1500 lbs, for about 1,400 miles. No problems with power or driveability. Fuel economy on the highway dipped about 4 MPG, but that is more than understandable given the horrible aerodynamics of what was dangling behind my Forester.
Interior space – for a vehicle that looks tiny from the outside, even in white, the Forester has an amazing amount of room – 9 foot long objects fit easily along the middle and the rear 60/40 split seat with arm-rest does an amazing job of providing convenient combinations of seating-cargo arrangements.
This video pretty much sold it for me before I decided to buy my Subaru Forester:
Since buying my Forester I’ve been hit twice by at-fault drivers – once by a girl changing lanes into me, and once by a car with no brakes coming down highway 18 from Big Bear Lake. Both hits were, thankfully, minor, but I did come across an interesting video of a Forester (the previous body style) rolling off a cliff (!) with really only minor damage and what looks like no injuries.
Now, if you follow what the guy was doing right before the crash, you have to chuckle at his boneheadedness, but the car did pull through admirably! I’ve driven my Forester on sand, snow, ice, and everything in between, and I can say that making this car lose control and skid off the road takes some real hard work! This guy succeeded. Not the car’s fault, though – laws of physics apply even to Subarus.
Standard Yokohama Geolandar G91 tires that come on current Subaru Forester models aren’t good, though they did last 53,000 miles
Do yourself a favor and get a set of Continental ContiTrack 225 60 R 17 tires! (affiliate link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K542R6Q/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00K542R6Q&linkCode=as2&tag=hollyw0a-20&linkId=7M7QTO4S4KVC2MKR ) Fuel economy increased slightly, much better snow and ice traction!
Right-front half-shaft CV-boots will fail first due to the exhaust manifold passing near by. My CV joints failed at 53,000 and I will have the whole axle replaced at dealership under the 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. On the upside – the price for a brand new OEM axle (and the front two axles are interchangeable!) is only $439 straight from the Subaru dealer. Do yourself a favor and buy an OEM replacement, and not one of the Chinese aftermarket axles – from what I read on owner forums, those rarely last even a fraction of the time that the OEM axle will last. Not worth paying half price, then changing it several more times.
Its not the most beautiful vehicle around, but beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. I love it still, after two years and 54,000 miles, and look forward to getting into my Forester each and every day.
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A couple of very useful accessories for any owner of the Forester, especially those that will go long distance with kids in the back are these:
CD smartphone mount – perfect to hold any smartphone – just the right angle. I tried the vent-holders, the cup-holder-solutions, but this one really works best.
Rear center iPad mount – if you own an iPad or any other tablet and have kids – this is a lifesaver!!!
Rear headrest smartphone mount – again – if you have kids that have a smartphone – get this to solve a bunch of problems – from ‘Dad, I lost my phone!’ to ‘My arms are too tired to hold the phone up to my eyes!’
Radio auxiliary cable – the advantage of this particular cable is that it has a narrow body on both plugs so it works just fine with all iPhone cases. My son’s iPhone 6 case did not allow a standard cable to make full contact, but with this cable it works great. Plus – the coiled cord means that there will be less of a cable mess in your car! I got one and love it!
I changed the brake pads on all four corners myself, and it took only 40 minutes or so – most of that time removing and re-mounting the wheels. This is a simple job that ANYONE should be able to accomplish, and I had to do mine at about 43,000 miles. From the looks of the rotors, they should be good until the next brake change, so I estimate their life-span at about 90,000 miles. I do drive a lot of city, traffic miles, so YMMV! The specific replacement brake pads I bought for my 2014 Subaru Forester are these: REAR and FRONT (about $80 for the whole set from Amazon).
You cannot go wrong with a Subaru Forester! Since the 2014 MY Subaru has made improvements, too!
UPDATE 2/26/2016: A bit more unpleasantness comes out – my power locks stopped working in the front doors – the rest are fine, but it looks like the driver’s side door has to have the actuator assembly replaced – solenoid not moving the lock mechanism. This is about $300 in total. At only 55,000 miles and 2.5 years of age, this seems very premature on a Japanese vehicle, but I’m still a fan.
UPDATE 3/23/2018: I am now at 112,000 miles after four years and the car is mostly great, mechanically, though a few problems crept up along the way. First problem – and its a design problem – is the repeated failure of the right front axle. The exhaust pipe is designed to run too close to the CV joint boot, which causes the heat to break down the rubber and leads to it ripping, which in turn allows lube to escape and dirt to get into the CV joint which destroys it in short order. I am on my third axle now, and they tend to last from 40,000 – 60,000 miles each. Luckily this is a cheap repair when you go to an aftermarket axle from a rebuilder. The factory axle is $450, while an aftermarket one costs $150, with low labor rate. Small price to pay. Door locks have been the next MAJOR problem – the right front door lock has been replaced twice now and is not working once again. The rear locks fail periodically, with the left rear having been replaced as well. CVT is running ok and economy has not fallen at all. Seems to be seeping or burning a little oil, but at 112k miles that’s not a big deal. Overall I still love this car and highly recommend it to anyone who is considering an economical go-anywhere wagon.
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