Subaru Forester remains spunky, sure-footed
Subaru’s Forester remains one of my favorite small SUVs because of its handling, spunky power, smooth CVT, quiet interior and sure-footed AWD capability.
That doesn’t even get at its other attributes, like reasonable starting price, good gas mileage, comfortable interior, top-notch safety rating and its overall usefulness.
The Forester was redesigned for 2014 and just keeps getting better with little tweaks. The handsome metallic (Venetian) red test model was the mid-level Limited that includes leather seats, an automatic climate control system, and power hatch.
Like its stablemates (there are four trims, plus the XT models that include a gutsier 2.0-liter turbocharged engine), the Limited delivers good interior space with wide comfortable seats and one of the quieter small SUV interiors.
The 2.5-liter boxer (horizontally-opposed) 4-cylinder engine is strong, delivering 170 horsepower and 174 ft.-lbs. of torque. While some small SUVs and crossovers may offer more pony power, few feel as spunky as this Subaru engine. Touch the gas pedal and the Forester jumps away from stoplights. In fact, it takes a couple days to get the feel of the pedal. You can startle yourself a bit the first few times you accelerate. Continue reading 2016 Subaru Forester Limited
2014 Ford Escape SE FWD
Ford’s Escape is a pleasant compact sport-ute with quick handling and edgy stylish looks.
The tested metallic blue SE is the mid-level model, with the S being the base and the Titanium being the high-end model that I’d previously tested.
Starting price is $25,550 for the SE and it features one of Ford’s efficient EcoBoost engines, a 1.6-liter that’s turbocharged and has direct injection to give it 178 horses and a torque rating of 184. That’s a jump up from the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that’s in the base S model and generates 168 horses and a torque rating of 170.
This engine is fairly strong, offering mild acceleration through the 6-speed automatic with SelectShift that allows you to manually shift the gears if you want. Yet because it has a turbo, if you slap the accelerator to get onto a highway the tranny downshifts and the turbo kicks in to boost it to highway speeds relatively quickly. There’s some engine noise, naturally, but it’s short-lived.
Gas mileage is modest. I got 22.1 mpg in cold and somewhat snowy weather, while the EPA rates this model at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. I got just 20.5 mpg with the horsier 2.0-liter turbo in the Titanium model previously.
What sets the Escape apart is its quick handling that makes this small ute fun to drive and an easy lane changer on the highway. Parking lot maneuvering is good too, although its turning radius is a full 4 feet more than a Subaru Forester, another worthy small SUV. Continue reading 2014 Ford Escape SE