Full disclosure: Until a few weeks ago, I was one of the few Midwesterners who had never driven an SUV.
There are two reasons for this. 1) I’m short, so when I drive big cars, I tend to feel like Toonces the Driving Cat from that ’90s SNL skit, my little head poking above a massive steering wheel. 2) Even though I got a perfect score on my driver’s test, parallel parking – often the only option where I live, in Chicago – gives me SAT-taking levels of performance anxiety. Sedans make the job much easier. Or so I thought, until I spent a week driving the newest Subaru SUV, the all-new 2019 Forester Touring.
“After I pick up the Subaru, we’ll go to Target,” I tell my boys as I rush out the door to retrieve our new ride. “Yay!” Theo, the 8-year-old, screams. “Cool,” Saul, the 13-year-old, says. Both, naturally, are on their devices, not paying much attention to me. But when I pull up to our house, they’re waiting outside. My little guy sprints to the car. The older one maintains a more distinguished saunter, but I can see his eyes widening.
I don’t blame him. My eyes probably looked the same when the retailer handed over the key fob. First of all, my worries about feeling like Toonces were unfounded; it turns out that this Forester model is the perfect size. I immediately felt safe and comfortable perched in my roomy, 10-way adjustable leather seat.
“I get to sit in the front!” calls Theo, ever the dreamer.
I tell him he has to sit in back – safety first! – but add an enticing, “I think you’ll be happy with what you find there.” I already scoped things out and knew there were two USB1 chargers awaiting my children. Theo would have no reason to despair over only having 1 percent juice left at a critical juncture in Crossy Road.
Saul inspects the dashboard, which is lit up like a Christmas tree with apps. “Cool ride, Mom!” he says. And then he starts pushing every button he can. I’m all about it. After all, it’s nice to be Fun Mom once in a while.
Photo: Scott Thompson
Photo: Scott Thompson
Photo: Scott Thompson
Photo: Scott Thompson
“Can I open the moonroof?” Yes!
“Can I close it?” Yes!
“Can I sync up my phone?” Yes!
“Can I move the seat back?” Yes!
“Can I drive?” Good one. No.
As I drive, my kids pretend to be car reviewers. “It’s a smooth ride,” Saul says. “I like how it handles.” Theo, for his part, is checking out the generous cargo space. He has a particular fondness for collapsible chairs (don’t ask me why).
“Mom, I think we can fit all our chairs in here and still have a bunch of space left over,” he says. “Can we get more chairs?”
I turn around to make absolute certain he hears me say, “No more chairs!”
At that moment, I hear a beep-beep from inside the vehicle. A polite, yet stern, message appears on my dashboard: “Keep your eyes on the road,” it says. My older son notices this and chuckles. “Mom just got schooled by the Subaru!” He’s right: the new available DriverFocus™1,5 Distraction Mitigation System was doing its job. This is my kind of car.
As we approach Target, I spot rock-star street parking. A jolt of anxiety hits me. Do I dare parallel park this gleaming new vehicle? But then I remember that the Subaru retailer mentioned Reverse Automatic Braking (RAB)3. You don’t, it turns out, ever want to live without this. After you shift into reverse, the Forester helps prevent backing into the car behind you by providing visual cues on the center screen, as well as a friendly chiming sound that alerts you when you’re getting close. If you don’t brake, RAB will apply the brakes before you make contact. So easy, even Toonces could do it.
Ironically, inside Target I get hit by a cart while digging around for a single-subject notebook. I’m safer in the new Subaru than in this store! Somehow, we get out of there alive. Of course, we will be back five more times that week. I don’t mind. I find myself looking forward to time in the Forester. While the kids are at school, after I get some work done, I mentally plan. Maybe I will even drive to the mall.
Later in the week, we have another momentous trip in what we affectionately have begun to call Subie. I drive three 8-year-old boys 17 miles in bumper-to-bumper traffic to go to a place called Safari Land for Theo’s birthday party. That’s where Subaru EyeSight®4 Driver Assist Technology, standard in the all-new Forester, really proves itself. All I have to do is set the Adaptive Cruise Control at the speed I’m comfortable with, and the Forester follows the cars in front of me at a safe distance. When traffic slows to a stop, so does the Forester, automatically. When traffic moves again, I just toggle the cruise control switch on the steering wheel, and we’re off and running again.
Theo is proud to show off the new vehicle to his friends and, at first, is protective of it. “You have to be very careful,” he says, mimicking me. But it isn’t long before the boys are shredding pieces of newspaper and throwing them at each other, while screaming at the top of their lungs. I find solace in the soft leather steering wheel, the ’80s music coming out of the Harman Kardon® speakers, and that inimitable new-car smell. But I can't get too into perfecting my rendition of Madonna’s “Crazy For You.” There is lane changing to be done! I check the side mirror to see if it’s safe to merge into the middle lane and, right then, the car in front of us hits the brakes. EyeSight4 beeps to warn me to brake, too. If I hadn’t, the technology would’ve done it for me, to a full stop if needed. Amazing.
The week also includes haircuts and a moms’ night out. Since I normally drive a sedan, I’m rarely the one behind the wheel when we all go out. To be honest, it’s not much different from chauffeuring a carload of boys. My friends push buttons, turn up the tunes, open the moonroof and snap group selfies as we head out for dinner.
Over dessert, I ask them about their current driving situations.
“I’ve given up on adult life,” says one friend, who drives a beat-up minivan. “When the kids get older, I’ll get the car I love.”
“Oh, no – I need to love my car now,” says another friend.
“It’s my escape from reality. When I sit in my car, I feel a sense of calm.”
Until this point, I always focused more on a car’s ability to get me from point A to point B than the emotions it made me feel. But driving the Forester and engaging with both its safety features and creature comforts – especially during a particularly hectic week – made me realize how much your car can affect your mood.
Was I a cooler mom when I drove Subie? Definitely! And maybe the best part: After not even a week of adventures in the Forester, my kids love it so much, they volunteer to wash it. Now that’s a small miracle. Thank you, Subie.
The all-new 2019 Subaru Forester is now on sale.
Schedule a test drive at your local retailer today!
1 Availability varies by model. See your retailer for details. 2 Compatible smartphone and applications required. For applications to operate, latest version of each application is required. Data provided by smartphone is displayed on the audio system screen. Some state laws prohibit the operation of handheld electronic devices while operating a vehicle. Smartphone apps should only be launched when vehicle is safely parked. Your wireless carrier’s rates may apply. 3 Reverse Automatic Braking is a system designed to assist the driver by detecting objects to help avoid a possible collision when the vehicle is moving in a reverse direction. It is not a substitute for safe and attentive driving. System effectiveness depends on many factors such as vehicle maintenance, weather and road conditions. Always exercise caution and use vehicle mirrors and Rear-Vision Camera when backing up. See Owner’s Manual for complete details on system operation and limitations. 4 EyeSight is a driver assist technology, which may not operate optimally under all driving conditions. The driver is always responsible for safe and attentive driving. Technology effectiveness depends on many factors such as vehicle maintenance, weather and road conditions. See Owner's Manual for complete details on system operation and limitations. 5 DriverFocus is a driver recognition technology designed to alert the driver if their attention to the road wavers or if the driver’s face appears to turn away. The driver is always responsible for safe and attentive driving. System effectiveness may be affected by articles of clothing worn on the head or face. See Owner’s Manual for complete details on system operations and limitations.