Auto Review: The Forester looms large

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Sep. 29, 2011
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

It may seem hard to believe, given the family of vehicles they have today, but it wasn’t that long ago that Subaru had no SUVs in their lineup. True, they’ve had a 4WD wagon since the late ’70s, but they didn’t take the plunge into the SUV pool until the late ’90s with the Forester (which competed with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV).  Subaru’s successful Outback Wagon now had a boxier, more utilitarian brother to share the active-lifestyle spotlight with, and over time (as is common practice), the Forester has become roomier and more powerful with each subsequent generation.

Like the competition, the amount of room in the interior of what used to be a compact has swelled so it’s much more comfortable for passengers and more accommodating for cargo, while increasing the level of refinement, as well. That said, it is still a stout vehicle that, with its standard All-Wheel Drive, is an efficient, reliable four-season companion.

We tested the 2.5 XT Touring, which is the top-of-the-range Forester and comes with a 2.5-liter “Boxer” Flat Four with an intercooled turbocharger. Despite this engine’s modest displacement, it belts out 224 horsepower, and unlike some turbo Subarus of the past, the power comes on in a much more linear fashion, without any big peaks or troughs. The four-speed automatic has fewer cogs than most of the competition, however, the ratios are well-suited to the power delivery and shifting is smooth (and as mentioned before, All-Wheel Drive is standard).

The Forester has grown in every dimension (especially wheelbase) since it first appeared on the U.S. market, and while this has been great for interior room, it hasn’t adversely affected maneuverability (which is often the case when you increase vehicle size). As is becoming an across-the-line Subaru quality, the suspension compliance is excellent, while staying firm enough for flat, predictable handling. There’s all the latest software in terms of an ABS braking system and Vehicle Dynamics Control, as well as a full compliment of air bags and Subaru’s Ring-Shape Reinforcement Frame Design to help protect you from unplanned encounters with the outside world.

The inside of the Forester is a pleasant, comfortable, roomy environment, especially at the Touring trim level (which includes leather-trimmed upholstery and heated front seats). Unlike a lot of other manufacturers that are tossing touch-screen interfaces by the bucketful at the control cluster, Subaru keeps things more straightforward, and the controls are familiar and simple. The fronts seat are roomy, with good support, and you’ll hear no grumbling from rear passengers, as there’s room and comfort to spare. When you fold down the rear seatbacks, you have about 69 cubic feet of cargo area to haul your most prized possessions.

The 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Touring is EPA-rated 19 MPG city/24 highway and has a base price of $29,995. With options, our sticker came to $32,320. www.subaru.com


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