Our 2014 Subaru Forester was a pre-production model, according to our Subaru media contact. Therefore, you wouldn’t be totally surprised if it had a couple of issues during our week-long test, right?
The first issue was related to the car’s Tire Pressure Monitoring System and may not have been the car’s fault at all, according to Subaru National Manager of Product Communications Dominick Infante. While driving along in a somewhat spirited manner on a twisty state highway that is a favorite of motorcyclists, the TPMS warning light illuminated in a series of flashes, then went on solid.
I pulled over as soon as possible to check the tires visually and realized, furtively, that I didn’t have a tire pressure gauge on my person or in the car. But all tires looked normal and sounded normal given a hearty thump of the open palm, and I couldn’t hear any air escaping. I drove a couple of miles into a nearby town and obtained a tire pressure gauge from a local two-bay tire and auto parts garage. All tires showed slightly higher pressure than the listed cold maximum on the Bridgestones’ sidewalls. Instead of the recommended 45 PSI cold max, I was running at 50 PSI on all four tires. But, I reasoned, the tires were hot from all those curves I was carving earlier, so that’s probably nothing to worry about.
“The TPMS light is usually just due to temperatures causing the psi to be out if range,” Infante told me when I asked about the light. “I spoke to our engineers, and they think it was a case of over-inflation.”
Fair enough. Upon discovering all four tires uniformly inflated, I read the owner’s manual. The TPMS light had flashed for a period before illuminating solid, which the owner’s manual said could be caused by the TPMS system failing to receive a reliable signal from one or more of the sensors in each wheel. So it’s possible that was at fault, as well. But honestly, I trust the Subaru engineers more than my second guess. At any rate, the TPMS light went out later that day and never came back, even though I did not adjust the tire pressures at all during my possession of the Forester. Lesson learned: Always carry a tire pressure gauge, and always check cold tire pressures on a test car as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of seeing this kind of TPMS warning light again.
The second issue came the following day. Upon loading my son into the car on a balmy, 50-degree morning, I turned the key, and the engine cranked as normal, but would not turn over for a good five seconds or so. This was notable because the car had started so easily the rest of the test week. Normally upon turning the key, you could give a good “one-one-thousand” count, and the Forester’s engine would come to life. This one time, it took about five times that. I actually stopped cranking after about five seconds, turned the key to the “OFF” position, and turned it over again. The second try, the engine turned on, but seemed to run sort of rough for the first couple of minutes. Once it cleared its throat sufficiently, all seemed to get back to normal for my commute.
Disconcerted by the odd behavior, I again sent an e-mail to Infante.
“As for the hard start, if temperatures dropped to very cold, maybe that would do it,” he said. But temperatures didn’t get all that low. The weather report from that day showed my start-up temperature of 50 degrees was as cold as it got.
“Sounds like an anomaly. These are pre-production units, but they are close to spec. Not sure I could explain that from just the one instance,” Infante added.
Though it only happened that one time in my week with the Forester, I’m apparently not the only Forester driver to experience this kind of behavior. But given the inability of most Forester owners to reliably replicate the behavior, and the fact that even I couldn’t get the start-up sequence to go awry again despite performing several starts with that very goal, I wouldn’t let it discourage me from owning a 2014 Forester. The car was too much fun on curvy roads, especially considering its size, and had a decent infotainment system.
Disclosure: Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.