Subaru has gone to great lengths to refine and improve the Forester’s handling, and you might reasonably expect a strong showing, given the low centre of roll implied by the horizontally opposed engine.
But the fact is that this car is larger and taller than it has ever been. It runs on tyres with low rolling resistance. Its suspension is built to withstand fairly unsympathetic occasional service off road. And it shows.
On the road, the Forester doesn’t feel like the modern, house-trained, easy-going SUV that Subaru would have you believe. It’s stable and surefooted.
But on top of the notchy gearchange and slightly hesitant engine, you get limited lateral grip when you really begin asking the car dynamic questions. Not only does it demonstrate at best a vague interest in turning in to a corner, but it also does so with a not insignificant amount of body roll. In other words, the Forester lacks the dynamic facets of rivals such as the Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V.
Subaru has conjured reasonable feel from the quite light electro-mechanical steering rack, but all it really serves to do is tell you that the front wheels are beginning to wash out. And that happens before you’ve leant on them particularly hard.
None of which matters a great deal except that a good-handling 4x4 is a precise and easy one to manage on the road. By the class’s prevailing standards, the Forester is neither.
An absorbent, comfortable, flat ride would be equally welcome, but the Subaru’s low-frequency body control is a bit approximate, and its dampers seem to lack the tuning to be able to switch from a smooth-road ride to greater support over rough terrain with much progressiveness.
On a choppy B-road, at legal speeds, the body fidgets and jigs more than it should. The Subaru's secondary ride is quiet enough, but the net impression is of a car that isn’t agile and, at the same time, is seldom capable of preserving a competitive level of occupant comfort.