Through the experience of traveling on various terrains from streets, highways, and mountain roads, the Subaru Forester clearly demonstrates its strengths: good handling, spaciousness, comfort, and safety.

On February 11, 2023, the distributor Motor Image launched the facelifted version of the 2023 Subaru Forester. Looking at the new features on the media vehicles, an ordinary consumer would surely find it hard to feel that this is an attractive crossover among “a forest” of other options such as Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Subaru is not good at making its image attractive to the public. However, “good wood is better than good paint,” and this is the brand that you have to drive to see its good points. This is also the reason why we joined the Subaru Forester 2023 experience journey, to explore it ourselves, experience it freely, and provide the most accurate assessments.

This road trip started from Hanoi with the destination being Pu Nhi hill, located in Phieng Ban commune, Bac Yen district, Son La province. This land has the atmosphere of Northwestern Vietnam, with high mountains, terraced fields, and lots of fog. Starting from Hanoi, the 11 Foresters crept out of the city and entered the Hòa Lạc highway.

This road is where the new generation EyeSight 4.0 driver assistance technology can be most effective. With outstanding features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assistance, the driver can drive the car in a very relaxed manner while ensuring safety.

The EyeSight 4.0 system works well. In particular, the adaptive cruise control feature has been enhanced with lane centering, allowing the car to always stay in the middle of the lane (even through curves), instead of constantly swerving left and right like some other cars when using a similar feature.

However, it is worth noting that in the case of the Forester following a car in front, and that vehicle leaves the lane, the car will automatically return to the initial set speed with a fairly large acceleration, causing the RPM to suddenly jump high, giving the driver and passengers a feeling of being “jerked” leading to anxiety.

This is something that the manufacturer can update in the control software system; to prioritize smooth experience and ensure comfort for passengers, rather than strictly adhering to the system’s settings.

After going through the Hòa Lạc highway, the convoy continued on the roads to Tản Lĩnh, Ba Vì – Thanh Thủy, Thanh Sơn, and Phú Thọ before reaching Thu Cúc. This is a rural road with many houses on both sides, with low traffic density but frequent unexpected and complicated situations. This is like a “real-life test” for the EyeSight 4.0 system on the Subaru Forester.

The improved dual cameras provide a doubled field of vision, over 100 degrees, and are supplemented with radar to detect rear traffic situations. The new generation Foresters can meet level 2 automated driving capabilities. As a result, the car is equipped with emergency steering support – obstacle avoidance (at speeds below 80 km/h), in addition to automatic braking to avoid collisions.

Advice for drivers when driving the new generation Subaru Forester through this type of national highway is that you can turn on EyeSight to use, but you should pay attention to master the situation, especially when passing intersections.

From Thu Cúc junction, the convoy turned onto national highway 37B to Phù Yên before setting foot in Bắc Yên – Sơn La. This is where mountainous roads with high slopes and continuous curves start to appear. Especially, the foggy and rainy weather makes the road surface slippery. These unfavorable conditions are exactly the moment for the “core values” – the “wooden quality” that each Subaru possesses inside, to be verified and fully utilized.

The 2.0L Boxer engine “obeys” every gas pedal press from the driver in a very obedient way. The power specifications stop at 156 horsepower and 196 Nm of pulling force, which may make many people think that the car is not powerful. However, the actual experience shows that the Subaru Forester has the ability to “handle” any highway or mountain pass comfortably. Of course, there is no excess power, but if you know how to control the accelerator and pedals reasonably, the car will meet all the driver’s needs for overtaking.

In addition, the CVT continuously variable transmission on each Forester has the ability to simulate up to 7 gear ratios. Each simulated gear ratio is designed to provide a very precise shift feel. When upshifting on climbs, power is provided more immediately with each gas pedal press, while when downshifting on descents, the car is held back with very reasonable braking force, helping the driver take advantage of gravity to limit constant braking that can be dangerous.

In particular, the global standard Subaru Global Platform (SGP) frame provides solidity and stability for each seat position inside the Subaru Forester, regardless of continuous left-right steering when overtaking on climbs. Also, the Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive (S-AWD) full-time four-wheel drive system allows precise and confident, neat and flexible operation of the car.

Every steering input into the curves is handled in a non-excessive manner (the phenomenon of “body roll”), thanks to the force distribution to each wheel to optimize the best control capabilities, even on slippery road surfaces. In addition, the Subaru Forester easily “swallows” bumps or uneven road sections.

All the movements in both the horizontal and vertical directions are quickly absorbed and damped. There is no excessive force repeated multiple times, making passengers in the car uncomfortable. In addition, thanks to the low-mounted engine, the car’s center of gravity is also reduced, and as a result, the seating position of the passengers in the car is also lowered compared to other crossovers in the segment. This provides a wide field of view from inside the car, creating a sense of openness and, at the same time, the low center of gravity also makes the car more agile and safe.

However, with the new generation Forester, this is not enough to compete in terms of sales with the current glamorous models on the market, even though it looks more eye-catching.

The good thing about Subaru Forester is that it may not look eye-catching to many consumers, but once you drive it, you will become “addicted,” and this “addiction” is a “hard-to-quit addiction”. Subaru, in general, and Forester, in particular, can provide a driving experience, a comfortable feeling, and a level of safety that is different from the same-origin or wider Asian-origin cars.

Moreover, with today’s very accessible price, starting from 969 million VND for the lowest-priced version, and less than 900 million VND for some cars in the remaining inventory at dealerships, it is clear that Subaru Forester is an extremely worthwhile model and a very, very, very (whatever is important, I emphasize it three times) good value when referring to the price that customers have to pay and the values they receive in return.

However, Subaru Forester is a model that is not pleasing to many consumers’ eyes, so it is easy to be overlooked without fully exploring the hidden values inside. This is really something Subaru needs to seriously consider and improve. The new generation of Forester may be more eye-catching, but it is still not enough to compete in terms of sales with the current glamorous models on the market.

Although, Subaru may have its own charm that is hard to find in other cars, and that charm will only be discovered when you drive it, it’s not something you can see from the outside. Although it may not be at the highest level in terms of exterior design, the essence of the burly characters and untouched values inside Subaru has created a great attraction in customers who have taken the time to experience and understand it. These people will be the loyal customers of Subaru, not those who categorize Subaru solely based on the exterior.

Anh Phan (Tuoitrethudo)