My Fixation With the Subaru Forester


My pal Matt Hardigree asked me about including my Photoshops in his Forester story on The Autopian. I said sure, let me provide a brief bit of context. I wrote way too much, and it was banished to here. Enjoy!

My descent into Forester madness began with a week-long road trip through Oregon. The Foresters were everywhere. It’s fine! They’re not hurting anybody. But when you try to start trying to identify and categorize them by generation, that’s when things unravel.

My travel companion and I swore off Wikipedia, and attempted to taxonomize the Forester generation sequence using only deduction and context clues. For nearly seven days, we observed and argued about Foresters. And it broke my brain in a way that I still haven’t recovered from.

Even if you aren’t a car nerd, you can generally tell when a new Camry is released: it’s the Camry that looks a little newer, and a little shinier. Maybe the lights are more complicated. And soon, you’ll notice this Camry is everywhere. Without making any effort, you absorb some amount of information about the new model, as if through osmosis. 

With Subaru Foresters, I’m not sure that’s the case. 

The ‘new’ Forester rarely looks newer than the previous one. Sure, it’s easy to recognize that any car from 2020 looks different than one from 2007. Trends and cars evolve over time. But put any generation Forester next to its immediate predecessor, and it’s unclear which one came first. And I’m not even getting into the mid-cycle refreshes, which historically have somehow been more visually transformative than the honest-to-goodness generational changes. 

It’s not bad styling (well…), and it’s not even necessarily boring styling! I don’t know what it is. It’s accidentally timeless. It’s “we need to refresh the lineup every 5.25 years,” styling, a styling that’s driven not by focus groups, or trends, or a spark in the designer’s eye, but by, maybe… a calendar? 

One of these is from 2020, and the other is from 2014. I promise these are un-doctored images of two different Foresters on two entirely different platforms. This is not a facelift. 

Lots of cars go on forever, staying exactly the same as they always have. Lots of cars get many updates, only to end up looking basically the same – take the Porsche 911, for example. But, like it not, people look at the 911. For every tweak the factory makes, there are a million nerds to agonize over it, and then a million more nerds to reply to the posts from the first group. That doesn't make that car better or worse than the Forester, it just means that people notice it, study it, and can differentiate small differences.

With the Forester, I’m deeply convinced that almost no one has ever looked at one. Like really taken it in as an object. So it may come as a shock to you (as it did me), that Subaru occasionally will design the same car again on an all-new chassis

If you haven’t truly looked at the styling of the Subaru Forester, don’t start now. All of my problems started once I started looking.


  • The Forester is the only Subaru we haven’t owned, we currently have 3 Crosstreks in the family, a 21, 22, and a 24, we are definitely not fans of the Forester, I won’t knock them, it just seems everyone I see driving one is an older person!

    Jeff Hewitt
  • I love the Subaru Forester, albeit they do not give the manual transmission models any nice trim or turbo. I solve a few of the trim problems in my YouTube channel ManicMods if interested! I’ve retrofitted HIDs and reupholstered the lower trim line (MT) with leather for much needed comfort and facelift 🙂

  • We have owned a 2000, 2004 and now 2022
    All have been a great car and they all share the same design but you can clearly know the different years once you drive a Subaru Forester

  • Yes I got a question to ask you have all the generation years .but you don’t have a 2015 XT that would out do all thos Forester?

    Brandon Simpson
  • Your article was interesting but obviously written by someone who probably hasn’t owned a Subaru or just isn’t into them. Thank you for not calling them ugly. A lot of automotive journalists when criticing Subarus like all or most facites of the car but can’t resist a snide comment on styling. The current and previous 2 generations are good looking cars only maybe a bit conservative. I currently own a 2021 Forester and my previous car was a2016 Forester. Both have been excellent cars. When compared side by side there is considerable difference. The front styling is what I consider evolutionary from previous generations. My 2021 does not look older than the 2016. And the refreshed 2022 looks even better. Maybe now that you have written this article you may be more observant of Subarus and grow to appreciate them for the great cars that they are.

    Steve Allenson

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