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Hello Members,
I just test drove 2021 Forester premium today and the very first thing that I observed was the loud noisy engine. First I thought the windows were not rolled up properly but that wasn't the case. I liked the car overall but the amount of noise that travels from engine to inside the cabin is very annoying and could possibly be a deal breaker for me considering much quieter cabin on competitors like Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in the same price range. This was the first time I drove a Subaru. On further checking looks like this has always been a problem with Subaru's ? I told the sales rep at dealership about it and the response that I got was that he owns two Foresters for 7+ years and never noticed any such issue and that it could be a one off case with the loaner car.
Wanted to understand your experience and thoughts on this.
 

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FOTM Moderator
2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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To each their own.

First know that a Forester uses a completely different motor type than those 2 competitors - really any competitor - in that Subaru uses a flat-4 motor where Honda, Toyota and others use an inline 4 motor. Note that Porsche also uses flat form motors. This means that he pistons move side to side rather than up and down.

This usually does mean more noise from under the hood. Porsche owners certainly are not noting it in a negative way.

A flat-form engine would be like a typical V6 or V8 motor, just laid flat. This may help you visualize the way the engine operates.

Honda uses a much smaller engine (1.5 liter?) 4 cylinder with a small turbo. While the power and MPG ratings are very similar, the real world is a bit less impressive on the Honda, as the smaller engine needs to work that much harder to keep pace. In a review/comparison with a Ford Escape against the Forester in 2013 (for the 2014 Forester), a similar motor in the Escape did poorly in acceleration and MPG in real world driving.

You mentioned that it was a loaner car? That could be part of it just as driving any rental vehicle could have negative impacts with the engine as some people driving loaners and rentals drive them like they don't own them (which they don't).

Part of the noise issue can also be related to perception. In researching this, I can see that the Forester and CR-V have very similar noise levels inside (based on decibels). These were measured at 50 MPH (per the website)

2017HondaCR-V Touring70dB
2015HondaCR-V70dB
2015SubaruForester XT74dB

Oddly, the same site did NOT have listings for the RAV4, but found these two listings -

2018ToyotaC-HR XLE74dB
2018ToyotaHighlander Hybrid LE71dB

The CH-R is the small SUV and the Highlander is bigger. Neither is much quieter (or not at all) compared to the XT from Subaru in 2015.

But comparing dB levels is a bit of a rabbit hole to go down to figure this all out as it has to do more with sound "energy" rather than just want sounds louder.

NOTE that this is also related to ALL sounds, not just engine sound. So this includes wind noise, road noise and other sounds when driving.

Quietness is relative. To put this in even more perspective - the majority of cars tested on the site I found those details on ranged from about 68 dB to 75 dB, some Mercedes models were "as loud" as the Forester, as were some other luxury vehicles.
 

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2014 2.5i Limited CVT
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Yeah - it never bothered me much, either. I just can turn up the radio volume a bit higher...

But then again, I've also added to my noise levels with the roof-top cargo carrier, the off-road lighting, the all terrain tires...

One other question - which trim level on the RAV4 or CR-V are you looking at? The Forester Premium is the mid-level trim (in the US) and so you may find a Limited our Touring to be a touch quieter (but not really much more so) and you could find that a lower trim level RAV4 or CR-V (or other competition) is just as loud or even louder.
 

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Consumer reports did a "Quietest Compact SUVs Tests" report in March of this year.
1. 2021 Mazda CX-5
2. 2021 Rav4 prime
3. 2021 Chevy Equinox
4. 2021 Honda CRV
5. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek
6. 2021 Hyundai Tucson (2.4)

They comment" Its a challenge during a test drive to figure out just how loud a model is ".
 

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2002 Forester 5MT, 2020 Forester Touring
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My observation with regard to my 2020 Touring is that it is a bit growly at lower speeds, but at higher speeds I don't really notice the engine noise much. I am willing to overlook that low speed growling because I like the rest of the car so much. I had a 2005 Volvo V70 that was the same way. At low speeds around town it growled quite a bit, compare to, for example a Honda 4 cylinder Accord, but at higher speeds it was very smooth. In fact, I recall that my son, who had a 4 cylinder Accord, asked me if there was something wrong with the Volvo the first time he drove it. So it really depends on what matters to you.
 

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2020 CBS Forester Sport
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Subarus are jack-of-all-trade vehicles that will constantly surprise you with how well they perform in all of the categories you might compare to more expensive vehicles.

However, if you come at it from the perspective of comparing any one trait in a Subaru to one in a luxury or sport brand, the Subaru will always come up short because the point is to be capable at everything, not excel at anything.

You'll never find a quieter crossover/SUV that can go overlanding with just a tire swap like a Subaru can, or a grocery getter that handles snow and rain as well as a Subaru, or an econobox that gets you 25+mpg with the same overall safety features, or a family road trip vehicle that you'd feel safer about traveling across the country in. Are they quiet? They aren't loud. Are they fast? They'll get you on the highway. Are they rock crawlers? No. Can they tow a boat or a camper? Maybe a fishing boat or teardrop... They do a lot of things well enough. And if you don't have a specific need to maximize one single trait, why would any single shortcoming give you pause? It's just nitpicking.
 

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2021 Forester Sport
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I actually sold my '17 CR V Touring for the Forester Sport. I will confess that the Honda is quieter. That said, I gladly got rid of the Honda for the versatility of the Forester (AWD, ground clearance, aftermarket parts and accessories, etc). The Honda, while sleek, had blind spots (have a bad neck) and it was just a boring vehicle. The Forester has a different engine (as others have already mentioned) and larger windows for better views all around but I supposed more glass means less noise insulation so that might contribute to the engine/road noise. If you're just commuting and driving pavement the Honda is a great car but if you want to do that and get some stick time on forest roads than the Subaru wins.
 

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I have the 2021 Touring and was surprised it was about as quiet as my old 2007 Camry Hybrid while driving. The engine noise is different than the Camry, but I don't find it noticeably louder under normal acceleration and cruising on local roads, or the freeway.
 

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2014 Crosstrek Premium XV CVT
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Subarus are jack-of-all-trade vehicles that will constantly surprise you with how well they perform in all of the categories you might compare to more expensive vehicles.

However, if you come at it from the perspective of comparing any one trait in a Subaru to one in a luxury or sport brand, the Subaru will always come up short because the point is to be capable at everything, not excel at anything.

You'll never find a quieter crossover/SUV that can go overlanding with just a tire swap like a Subaru can, or a grocery getter that handles snow and rain as well as a Subaru, or an econobox that gets you 25+mpg with the same overall safety features, or a family road trip vehicle that you'd feel safer about traveling across the country in. Are they quiet? They aren't loud. Are they fast? They'll get you on the highway. Are they rock crawlers? No. Can they tow a boat or a camper? Maybe a fishing boat or teardrop... They do a lot of things well enough. And if you don't have a specific need to maximize one single trait, why would any single shortcoming give you pause? It's just nitpicking.
Just a small quibble. To say that the Subaru brand does not excel at anything, I would say otherwise.

The Outback with a four cylinder engine (non-turbo) is rated to pull a trailer up to 2600#. This is substantially more than most vehicles with 4 cylinders (non-turbo) very commonly at 1500# and rarely at 2000#. My view is that the Outback does excel given its maximum towing capacity. The Outback can tow a great many more boats and campers with its 2600# max capacity. We picked up a 2021 this summer for its towing capacity.
Wheel Tire Land vehicle Car Vehicle
 

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Just a small quibble. To say that the Subaru brand does not excel at anything, I would say otherwise.
I took it more as a way to make a point, than literally.

IMHO, Subaru does pretty well with fuel economy for the vehicle. They have improved on that with the newer models.

My Forester gets about 6 to 8 mpg better than my 2010 Impreza 5MT. And does about as well in overall acceleration.

To the OP:

Yeah it's a little noisy getting moving from a stop/lower speeds, but I don't see that as an annoyance.

But that's me. If it is something that you can't live with, despite the other positives, test drive a new one if available, and see if it is better or the same, and base your decision from that, and not our perspectives.

It's better you're happy with something else, than to be negative towards a car for the time you own/lease it.
 

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I’d like to just point out that tires can be a big source of noise. I bought a set of replacement tires for my 2016 Forester, and have regretted it ever since. On the way home from the tire store, I seriously considered turning around and going back. Now that I need new tires, I am very mindful of the noise ratings. I don’t think that the noise insulation is the best, and is noticeable with snow tires…so it is a tradeoff. Given that, the driving capabilities of this vehicle are truly amazing in snow and ice. If you can stand a very small amount of noise that you get used to, you will love this vehicle in winter weather. I have never seen anything like it before, and loved passing 4-wheelers this last winter. Really.
 

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2019 Forester CVT
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Hello Members,
I just test drove 2021 Forester premium today and the very first thing that I observed was the loud noisy engine. First I thought the windows were not rolled up properly but that wasn't the case. I liked the car overall but the amount of noise that travels from engine to inside the cabin is very annoying and could possibly be a deal breaker for me considering much quieter cabin on competitors like Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in the same price range. This was the first time I drove a Subaru. On further checking looks like this has always been a problem with Subaru's ? I told the sales rep at dealership about it and the response that I got was that he owns two Foresters for 7+ years and never noticed any such issue and that it could be a one off case with the loaner car.
Wanted to understand your experience and thoughts on this.
That's not a PROBLEM!! That's the whole POINT of owning a Subaru. It's DIFFERENT! It's NOISY! It's got CHARACTER! And it will take you places you only dreamed of. Buy it, you'll love it
 

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2011 Forester (sold) 2013 Crosstrek LTD, 2021 Forester LTD with all options, 2018 Outback LTD w NAV
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The higher the option level the more sound package you get. The base will have low end sound package and touring will have the best. The xtrek will be louder than the forester and the Outback will be the better for cabin noise. It is the marketing plan to get you to notice and buy higher end. All mfg's do the same.
 

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You can also consider an application of sound deadening material such as dynamat. I put quite a lot of dynamat in my forester and it is dead quiet inside. It was well worth the investment and time taken to install.
I’ve been seriously considering noise mitigation measures for my 2020. Can you share details—specific product/s, locations, noise reduction characteristics? Noise (mainly road noise) is my main issue with the car.
 

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Subarus have historically been on the louder side, and although the current Forester is quieter than previous versions, I do find my '20 notably loud, especially at highway speeds. At higher speeds road noise (and to an extent wind noise) down out engine noise. At lower speeds the engine noise is certainly most prevalent. Personally, I find the road noise most noticeable and annoying.

The design of anything is an exercise in tradeoffs, and the Forester seemingly prioritizes interior space, visibility, efficiency, and on lower trims, value. I read a review of the current Forester (I don't recall where) that described the experience of driving the car as "being surrounded by very thin walls," which I think is spot-on. It doesn't feel as 'insulated' as many cars these days. Personally, that's proving an issue for me. YMMV.
 

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Some of the noise you hear could be the CVT. They are usually a bit noisier than conventional transmissions.

I used to be the webmaster and vehicle photographer at a Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep store, and drove each vehicle 1/4 mile down the road to the photo spot. Some of the noisiest vehicles were the circa 2010-2012 Jeep Patriots and Compass with the CVT. I thought it was the engine that was noisy. That is, until we got in a Compass with a 5-speed stick. When I drove it the first time, I was amazed at how smooth and quiet it was compared to the CVT. Don't laugh - the drivetrain was almost as smooth and quiet as a Honda Civic or Accord.
 
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