Subaru Forester offers safe, efficient winter-weather driving
We’ve been fans of Subarus for a long time, as have American consumers. As of Feb. 1, Subaru posted 62 consecutive months of yearly month-over-month sales growth in the U.S., and in January the company set a record for sales (6.8 percent over 2016), and it was the best-ever month for sales of Outback and Forester models (the latter posting 42 consecutive months of more than 10,000 units sold).
Subaru cars made news in early February when the top five finishers at the first major North American rally event (the grueling 52nd Rallye Perce-Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec) were taken by Subaru (they also captured 9 of the top 10 spots).
We put a redesigned 2017 Subaru Forster 2.5i Touring to the test in severe winter driving and were not disappointed. The fourth of six Forester trims (top of the 2.5 offerings), our tester performed beyond expectations while traversing three mountain passes, two of which were massively covered in ice and snow.
With its symmetrical AWD system (standard on all models), plus other safety and performance features, the Forester performed as well as any vehicle we’ve recently tested in brutal road conditions, all the time providing us the peace of mind that we were safe and in control of the vehicle.
Power on the 2.5i Touring comes from a 2.5-L horizontally opposed DOHC Boxer engine mated to a six-speed Lineartronic CVT with X-mode that was smooth shifting and reactive to road conditions with the AWD. Fuel economy is rated at 26 MPG/city and 32 MPG/highway for an overall 28 MPG attainment (even during poor road conditions, we experienced 31.7 MPG overall).
A 2017 IIHS Top Pick+, the Forester has a multitude of standard safety features, including the AWD system that provides top-rated and class-leading traction, control, and stability; Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) that prevents skids when cornering, especially during inclement weather; Subaru’s advance frontal airbag system; brake override; blind spot detection/lane departure system; plus the Subaru STARLINK Safety and Security system that provides automatic collision notification, SOS emergency assistance, and more..
The 2.5i had 18-inch all-season tires (17-inch on other models) that gripped the road well.
Our likes on the 2.5i included the STARLINK Smartphone connectivity with apps, the Harmon/Kardon 440-watt audio system, heated front seats and steering wheel, power lift gate, 7.0-inch infotainment system, and the 68.5 cubic feet of cargo space (rear seats down).
Our tester had one option ($1,595) that included a multimedia navigation system, plus the Subaru Eye-Sight Driver Assist system (pre-collision braking, Lane Keep Assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure and lane sway warnings, and more).
With a base price of $31,295, our 2.5i Touring had a final cost of $32,890; very competitive for the comfort and safety it provided us.
Dodge Durango is a tough SUV with large storage capacity
The 2017 Dodge Durango GT AWD (fourth in a lineup of six trims) we recently tested presented us with a rugged SUV that also handled well in some dicey winter weather, and was plush enough on the interior to satisfy our needs.
Likeable features on our Durango included the 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space (when the 60/40 fold and tumble rear seats and third row split-folding third row seats are folded down), heated front and second row seats, heated steering wheel, the large 8.4-inch touch screen display, remote start system, three-zone climate control system, Park Sense rear park assist (and quality rear view camera), and the full-time AWD system that boosts traction in poor driving conditions with its full-automatic two-speed transfer case.
An award-winning 3.6-L Pentastar V-6 engine matched to a reactive eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters allows for exceptional acceleration and shifting capabilities. With the AWD, fuel ratings are 18 MPG/city and 25 MPG/highway (we managed just about the overall rating of 21 MPG during our test that included plentiful snow filled roads).
With a 4-Star Safety Rating, the Durango has generous safety features and creature comforts make it more than usable for everything from city driving to trailering.
While our Durango GT had an MSRP of $40,095 (the base model starts at $29,995), there were six options that increased the final price by $7,545. They included everything from Uconnect 8.4 GPS navigation to a power liftgate, a rear DVD player to a blind-spot and cross-path detection, but we feel some of the add-ons should have been standard equipment.
The Durango does have best-in-class towing capacity as units equipped with the 3.6-L engine can tow up to 6,200 pounds, while those with the 5.7-L HEMI V-8 can handle up to 7,400 pounds. With well-designed All-Speed Traction Control, electronic stability control, and large sway bars, towing, as well as daily driving, are made easier and safer.