Off-Road In the All-New 2019 Subaru Forester – Capability Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

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We took the new Subaru Forester through a Land Rover-designed off-road course. What we learned will warm the hearts of Subie fans.

When Subaru launched the all-new 2019 Forester, it was easy for reporters to focus on the practical. The new Forester has a wider cargo loading area for example. That’s something every Forester owner will appreciate. The Forester has not just Apple Car Play compatibility, but also Android Auto. You won’t find that in a Toyota Rav4, Mazda CX-5 or BMW X3. Subaru also built the 2019 Forester on a new and much more stable platform. That means better handling and a safer vehicle. Who doesn’t want these things? However, this week BestRide had a unique opportunity to go off-roading in the new 2019 Forester and what we discovered was that this crossover has added more off-road capabilities as well.

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Our testing was done at the fabulous Monticello Motor Club in New York State. Monticello may be best-known for its 4.1-mile race-grade asphalt track and country-club amenities, but the club also has off-road courses designed and staffed by Land Rover experts. These courses have every type of off-road scenario. Rocky hills strewn with boulders. Wash-out areas with water running left to right across the course, mud pits deep enough to swallow a wildebeest, grassy wooded sections with extreme yaw and pitch angles and even a bit of sand and gravel here and there just for grins and giggles.

Land Rover has segmented the courses with three color-codes. Red is for lifted vehicles with front and rear locking differentials and off-road tires.

We took our familiarization run in lifted a 2019 Jeep Wrangler wearing BFGoodrich’s newest mud whomping tires, the KM3. 80% of this course is also rated for the second-tier vehicles with four-wheel drive, special off-road capabilities and more ground clearance than a typical SUV. These were the sections we ran with the bone-stock Forester on its standard all-season tires.

The first thing that strikes you when off-roading in the Forester is that it does not bottom out. The 8.7-inches of ground clearance is more than enough to carry you over sections that have far more than an 8.7″ obstruction. Generally, you are lifting the vehicle by driving over things at one or two corners, giving the bottom more room. With its new longer wheelbase, the Forester is more capable than ever at creeping over boulders and stumps. As you can see from our images, off-roading involves quite a bit of tipping the car sideways and making contact with just three, or sometimes two wheels. The Forester never creeks or flexes during these extreme maneuvers. The new platform is made from adamantium and has zero flex (as far as we can tell).  Lift a wheel or two and apply throttle and the Forester will send the power to just the wheels with contact and stop the free wheels from spinning. That keeps you going.

The 2019 Forester features not just an X-Mode for extreme snow and mud, but two enhanced X-Modes. These modes allow you to prepare the car for some serious conditions.

If you are driving over a wet grassy area (no challenge at all) you won’t notice it. However, if you then put the car in a tricky situation, X-mode automagically starts to decrease wheel spin and apply corner-specific braking to control the vehicle.

During our off-roading testing, we did many things wrong on purpose. For example, get the Forester into a sloppy mud hole filled with water and then stop. Then apply way too much throttle. Without X-Mode, the tires will spin and the Forester will start to wiggle its way forward spraying mud up the side glass. This is fun, but not the fastest way out of the ditch. With X-Mode engaged, the Forester very methodically inches forward until it is up to speed and the wheels barely slip. There are situations where you need X-Mode or the Forester will not move forward without a lot of rocking and the use of reverse. X-Mode makes the Forester a beast in the worst situations. And let’s not pretend other serious off-roaders don’t use these same tricks. Toyota’s TRD Pro, one of the world’s most competent off-road vehicles, uses a similar technology on its most extreme off-road truck. Finding it in a vehicle that is plush and luxurious on-road as the Forester is the only odd thing.

Images of off-road scenes don’t tell a story well, and for safety reasons, we stayed in our vehicle during the course runs, so pardon our lack of action shots. Let us just say that if you are a Subaru Forester owner, like some of us at BestRide, your wildest imaginings are possible in the new 2019 Forester. What is also for certain, is that the Forester can simply shrug off any sort of wet roads, or make trips to your snowed-in ski lodge fun rather than stressful*.

Image Notes: All images except the last two by BestRide.

* We at BestRide run winter tires on our personal Subaru vehicles when the white stuff falls and always suggest the same to our readers.