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Dorky 2016 Subaru Forester contains high-tech practicality (pictures)

The Subaru Forester won't wow you with its looks, but it will prove a faithful companion for the daily slow or a trip to roadside attractions.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Subaru refers to its Forester model as a "compact SUV," although it seems a little bigger than cars such as the Nissan Juke or Fiat 500X.

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For its fourth generation, the Forester gains a few high-tech features, such as adaptive cruise control, and a special traction control program called X-mode.

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The base engine for the Forester is this 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder, with opposed cylinders, making 170 horsepower.

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The Forester's design eschews the fastback roofline and organic cues of so many other cars on the road today.

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All-wheel drive comes standard in the Forester, with a 60:40 front/rear torque default. The torque split changes depending on traction needs.

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With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Forester can handle heavily rutted dirt roads.

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This Limited trim model has a power-operated rear liftgate.

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Cargo space increases dramatically with the rear seats down, from 31.5 to 68.5 cubic feet.

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These well-padded seats make for comfortable road trips.

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Contoured rear seats add to comfort.

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The Forester dashboard has three displays, one for infotainment, one at the center top for driving information and one in the instrument cluster, with trip data.

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Electric power steering shows reasonable heft.

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Not terribly tech-forward, the Forester maintains analog gauges.

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Cameras mounted at the top of the windshield make up part of the EyeSight system, enabling adaptive cruise control, collision warning and lane departure warning.

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The upper display shows a screen for adaptive cruise control.

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The Forester 2.5i Limited comes standard with a continuously variable transmission, although it only features Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low. The X-mode button is in front of the shifter.

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This screen shows the all-wheel-drive system and that X-mode is engaged.

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The backup camera shows distance lines, but not trajectory.

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This touchscreen shows Subaru's StarLink infotainment system, with navigation, stereo, phone, and app features.

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The maps are clear and readable, with nicely formatted street labels.

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Audio sources include the usual suspects, such as Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio and a USB port.

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Satellite radio lets you listen to the same channel on a cross-country trip.

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The music library screen shows up for drives and iOS devices plugged into the Forester's USB port.

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The current track screen shows cover art, when available.

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The hands-free phone system comes standard, but locks out the keypad while driving.

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The Info button leads to these data sources brought in with satellite radio.

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Subaru's StarLink app integration powers Internet-based data services from a connected smartphone.

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The StarLink app includes news headlines and weather.

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The StarLink app also gives access to your phone's music library.

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The weather forecast is one of StarLink's more useful features.

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At its base level, the Forester is an economical and practical car, with better capability than most. Bump it up to Limited trim and add the EyeSight option, and it is ready for the open road.

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