Getting from Here to There Safely: Test Driving the New 2014 Subaru Forester


In the 90s my father was in a fender bender on the Henry Hudson Highway. His little car was totalled, but the SUV that rear ended him was completely fine. My dad wanted to be the SUV guy next time, so he went and got a Subaru Forester. We loved our boxy Forester and when it died my stepmother got another one that was exactly the same. So, when I was offered a brand new 2014 Subaru to test drive, I was thrilled to check out the complete makeover of our beloved Foresters. Would I love it even more or would the new fangled Subaru Forester not live up to my loving memories?

The Subaru Forester hadn't changed much since it was introduced in 1997. You see them all over the road, especially in the countryside of the Northeast where four wheel drive and practicality trump all. But the 2014 Subaru is a total makeover for the old boxy beast. It's sleek and sexy and has a host of hi-tech features that one wouldn't have even dreamed of a few years ago.

We live in an age of constant technological change. Every day we hear about some new something that’s supposed to change everything. But how often do these things really change the way we do the basic every day things? While the 2014 Subaru Forester won’t change your life completely, it may just change the way you drive, at least a little.

The Forester is a comfortable, roomy vehicle that gets decent gas mileage, at least for an SUV. We got about 29 miles to the gallon driving mostly on highways and smaller roads. It’s surefooted on pothole rutted dirt roads and picks up well enough when pulling onto the highway to keep up with the rest of the traffic. More than that, like the generations of solid, well-built Subarus before it, the new Forrester just feels safe. You won’t have any qualms about putting your family into it.

But the most interesting feature is something Subaru calls “adaptive cruise control.” The new Forester is positively bristling with little tiny video cameras. As we expect from larger cars these days, there’s a camera mounted in the rear so you can see what’s behind you when you back up, but there are also cameras mounted in the sides that will warn you about cars in your blind spot. But the adaptive cruise control relies on the two cameras that face forward.

If you’re like me, and do most of your driving on crowded highways in the Northeast, you probably don’t have much use for cruise control. The periods of time between hitting the breaks are so short and the chances you’ll be able to drive as fast as you’d like for very long is so small. But with adaptive cruise control you can just set the cruise control to the speed you would like to be driving and the car maintains the distance you set to the car in front of you, even if traffic slows to a crawl.

In fact I was able to navigate hours of horrendous stop and go traffic on the Henry Hudson and the New England Thruway without touching the gas or the brake pedals once. The car maintained a safe distance to the car in front without any help from me.

It will also alert you if you begin to wander out of your lane or if you’re stopped and the car in front of you starts moving. Handy for all those times you use a stop light to deal with some backseat drama and don't notice that the light has changed. The car also uses the same sensors for collision avoidance, so if the car in front of you stops suddenly, or something suddenly gets in your way, it will apply the brakes before you even have time to react.

Along with a host of other great features, the adaptive cruise control really makes the 2014 Subaru Forrester seem like a car of the future and just working the steering wheel while the car speeds up and slows down in traffic all on its own may be the closest any of us will get to a self-driving car in the near future. After driving the new 2014 Subaru Forester with its hi-tech safety features, it may be hard for me to feel completely safe driving another car.

Disclosure: I was provided a 2014 Subaru Forester for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own.

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