If there’s a great way to piss off Subaru buyers, the quirky Japanese brand hasn’t thought of it yet. Few automakers can boast of Subaru-like annual sales increases, and even fewer can say their customers are more likely to stick with the brand at trade-in time. Actually, only one brand can say that.
Subaru holds the distinction of actually seeing its U.S. sales rise during the recession, and from 2008 to 2017, volume rose by more than 245 percent. One of the models contributing to its success is the unassuming but remarkably capable Forester — a boxy, upright compact crossover with a tall greenhouse and an interior larger than its outside appearance would suggest.
Screwing up the next-generation Forester, which debuts later this month as a 2019 model, could hurt Subaru badly. No surprise, it looks like the automaker is choosing to play it safe.
We’ll see the whole thing at the New York Auto Show on March 28th, but for now, all we have to go on is a taillight and corner of the new model’s liftgate seen in this teaser photo. The shape of the rear glass doesn’t diverge much from the fourth-gen model, which went on sale in early 2013.
Modern, C-shaped taillights mimic those seen on recent Viziv-badged concept cars, signalling the model’s adoption of Subaru’s new design language. Unlike other models, however, the backup lights are located below the taillights, not nestled in the nook of the “c.”
Like we’ve seen with the recently introduced Impreza and its Crosstrek sibling, Subarus are quickly leaving the brand’s chunky styling in the past. It seems the Forester, which grows ever-so-slightly smoother with each generation, is continuing in this direction, but won’t make the mistake of turning into an anonymous blob. (The model moves onto the Subaru Global Platform, shared by those smaller models, for 2019.) Fewer cutouts, and perhaps a flowing line or two could be in the cards. In the photo, the crossover’s fenders, beltline, and tumblehome appear remarkably similar to the current version.
Powertrain information isn’t available, but it’s safe to expect the return of a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter flat-four and a turbocharged uplevel engine, each hooked to a Lineartronic continuously variable transmission. Previous top-flight Foresters borrowed a 2.0-liter unit, but the new Ascent’s blown 2.4-liter makes for an interesting possibility. Base-model purists had best hope Subaru isn’t planning a manual transmission cull.
While the automaker continues to see stellar sales growth, the Forester appears to have peaked. After climbing every year since 2011, Forester sales in the U.S. dropped by six-tenths of a percent in 2017. In February, the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year sales declines, the Forester fell 9.2 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. Over the first two months of 2018, U.S. volume fell 12.4 percent (It’s possible that anticipation of a new model plays into these numbers.)
We’ll have all the details on the 2019 Subaru Forester after it premieres on March 28th.