By on January 31, 2007

sub_forester_06.jpgBack in the day, Subaru couldn’t afford to build a new vehicle to compete in the smoking hot SUV sector. So they took an Impreza, jacked it up a couple of inches, raised the roof and reskinned the body. The result was a hit, and helped define the modern small CUV. Ten years later, the Subaru Forester battles on, facing its third gen competitors (Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4) with nothing more than a few questionable sheet metal creases, a spiffed up interior, and the addition of the turbocharged XT model. The CUV pool’s getting more crowded by the day, and, compared to the Subie’s well-worn REI fleece, the competition looks like its wearing designer duds. We checked out an XT to answer a simple question: is it a classic or a relic? 

The basic package hasn’t changed, nor should it. The Popemobile proportions (tall windshield and high roof) are a motorized mitzvah for tall drivers. While the result flies in the face of history– when Chrysler President K. T. Keller insisted that tall men should be able to wear fedoras in his cars, he almost killed the company—the resulting visibility is virtually unparalleled. Swoopy cars, low angle windshields and obese pillars be damned; Forester owners want to see who they’re cutting off where they’re parking.

sub_forester_04.jpgThe Forester’s boxy exterior has suffered a reverse face lift (a face drop?): folds and lines have replaced youthful smoothness. Or is it just aging naturally? Something short, ugly and Russian comes to mind; either a Lada Niva or an old babushka. Who cares; the Forester was born ugly, but it remains true to its mother’s wise admonition: “It’s what’s inside that counts.” 

And mother’s advice has been well heeded. Compared to lesser Foresters of yore, stepping into the ’07 XT is like visiting your favorite old diner after it’s been turned into the Trattoria de Toscano. Subaru’s replaced the old fabric booth with heated leather seats that wouldn’t be out of place in a German motor. The steering wheel is like putting on expensive leather gloves. The instruments are clean and classic; no trendy gimmicks. The aluminesque center panel is a la mode, but the controls are logical and obvious. Workmanship: a solid B+. A good thing too, because with that lovely big sky-light overhead, flaws have no place to hide.

sub_forester_14.jpgUnfortunately, there’s one less-then-salubrious carryover: rear leg room. The Forester’s second row is as ergonomically challenged as the third row of a transplant CUV. My teenage son’s solution: stretch his feet out between the front seats. How safe (and smelly) is that?

The Forrester XT’s inner beauty really shines in the engine compartment. The 2.5 liter flat four cranks out 224 horsepower and 226 ft/lbs of torque, and with its inherent nigh-perfect balance, it always stays cool and smooth. It lets you know it’s there with that turbo-whistle, but it’s never objectionable, unless Lexus is your benchmark.

sub_forester_17.jpgLike most turbos, it’s a little coy at low revs, but once past 3000rpm the sex bomb explodes all the way to its 6500rpm redline. With AWD keeping the XT’s footwear firmly in contact with the pavement, redlining first gear is like high school hot-rod antics for grown-ups: all the fun, but none of the attention-grabbing tell-tale of burning rubber. Second gear takes you to 60mph in just 5.3 seconds. Keep rowing and the quarter mile arrives in 13.8. There’s more bang on offer than you’ll find at a percussionist’s convention.

The XT’s traction, ride and handling are up to the accelerative challenge. The all-season 17” rubber sing their surrender to lateral g-forces too early, but that’s a fair trade-off for getting to the ski lodge. With its low center of gravity (a la boxer engine), SUV vertigo is noticeable by its absence. Whether throwing the machine sideways on blind-corner gravel logging roads, bumping down a rocky path to a hiking trail, making high speed runs on deserted desert roads or barreling through snow, ice, wind and rain; the XT is always supple, accomplished and confident.

sub_forester_03.jpgWhen cruising the freeway, the XT’s low gearing is a lot less helpful. I kept reaching out to the shifter in hopes that it had miraculously grown a sixth gear. At 75mph or so, an extra cog would put the revs right at the intersection of turbo-plateau and turbo-boost, in that preferred state of restful alertness rather than futile restlessness. Sigh.

After the styling miscalculation with the B9 Tribeca, trepidation as to what Subaru will throw our way with the next gen Forester is warranted. They seem to be chasing an Audi/Volvoesque styling direction, with highly uneven results. The current Forester may well end up being the last in a long lineage of Subaru funky boxes. Buy or wait? My take: better the devil you know.

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92 Comments on “Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Review...”


  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Coming soon: The Forester STI.

    And yes I agree about the gearing. It’s a jackrabbit, but if you’ve got a highway commute…

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    For all that room, you think they could have moved the second row back a few inches. It’s rare flaw on what is otherwise a good vehicle, but I know a friend of mine specifically did not buy a Forester for that reason. Any word on this being fixed in the future?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Cowbell: It shares Impreza platform/hard-body points; it would have been impossible to move the seat back without major surgery. I assume the next gen will presumably be a bit better in that regard??

  • avatar
    tms1999

    5.3 secs to 60? really? The gearing is short and the power is a plenty, but this car is not that light. So this number is amazing. And the 1/4 miles too.

    My onl gripe with Subaru is the price. It’s not inexpensive. I’m willing to bet that more than one will exclaim: “How much? for a subaru?”

  • avatar
    ash78

    Why the French pics? Just curious…from a Japanese company with huge US market.

    I like these a lot, but the rear seat room was a shocker to me. The vehicle just seems large enough, but I was unaware that it was just an Impreza, not a Legacy base. That’s too bad, because we need to see more of these instead of SUVs. Great cars, and that thing is really quick!

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    subarus, for all their inherent goodness, have gotta be the homliest line of cars in existance. This from the company that produced the SVX, one of the most gorgeous cars ever!. I wonder if Guigaro pissed them off.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    “How much? for a Subaru” My tester was about $29k. Not bad, if you can see it as a poor man’s Cayenne Turbo.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    60 mph in 5.3s/13.8s quarter?? You mean from the point when you hit 2nd gear right? If not, I crown this the ultimate stock sleeper!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    It’s been wearing the crown for several years now.

  • avatar
    jet_silver

    guyincognito, the XT beats the Legacy GT in 0-60 time. The GT will do the job in about 5.8. This is irritating to GT owners, but we get it back in increased composure through corners. A well-driven XT on aftermarket tires is able to surprise and annoy many Audi and BMW owners.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    “…The Popemobile proportions (tall windshield and high roof) are a motorized mitzvah…” is colorful writing, but inaccurate. A “mitzvah” is Hebrew for “command.” Perhaps you meant blessing, boon, or benefit. By the way, one of my two 2006 Foresters has 60,000 trouble-free miles.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    I absolutely love this car. There definitely is something charming about its practicality/performance combination. But I’m still not secure enough to buy one. Even in the [snowy] Northeast it has a 40-year old independent bookstore owner image.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    are those performance numbers correct?

    Cause a much lighter WRX with a slightly higer-tuned engine hits 60 in 5.6 or so and dusts the quarter in 14.3

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    SLLTTAC,

    Not totally inaccurate — there are positive and negative mitzvahs — as in “Do do something” and “don’t do something.”

    So, a “motorized mitzvah” means that the engineers did it right and brought great mazel to Mr. Niedermeyer, who then proceeded to kvel about it.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    My dictionary defined mitzvah as “a blessing given by or to a Jewish person”. I’m one-eighth Jewish; I felt blessed.

    Jonny: dig this: As per Subaru:
    Weight: Forester XT Limited: (manual) 3320
    Impreza WRX Limited: (manual) 3294
    Impreza WRX (manual) 3252

    Sometimes more is (almost) less.

    If you check around, other reviews show numbers right about what I have here for the XT.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Paul, not trying to snipe at you here, I just don’t think those numbers are correct.

    to wit: here’s C&D’s “Ten Fastest Cars under $25k” thingy.

    The Forrester XT is tenth of ten, clocking in a 5.9 seconds to sixty, running the quarter in 14.3 and tipping the scales at 3324lbs.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/features/12239/2007-subaru-forester-25xt.html

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Jonny-
    Maybe they’re not so good rowing the gears at C&D compared to Paul.

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    I checked several on-line dictionaries and all defined mitzvah as command, obligation, or precept. None defined the word as blessing. Nonetheless, I liked your report, though I may be biased because I have four Subarus, including my 2007 spec.B.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Dorktastic!!!

    And I was raving about the F-XT on the Impreza hatch post. I had no idea you were about to double-Sube us today!

    While the sticker is high for your loaded tester model, you can get a XT with less content. Our local Sube beggars dealers still had a 2004(!) Forester XT on the lot BRAND NEW six months ago. I wasn’t buying that day so I didn’t get serious with them but I suspect that $25K sticker car could be easily had for the mid-to-high teens.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Jonny: Keep looking, there’s several others similar to mine. Here’s one:

    http://dragtimes.com/Subaru-Forester-Timeslip-6090.html

    Maybe Subaru’s fudging the power numbers, but I keep seeing faster times for the XT than the WRX. Sorry.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    SLLTTAC,

    Please take it from someone whose first language was Yiddish — he used Mitzvah absolutely correctly.

    Not bad for an Austrian.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Encarta was my dictionary; blame Bill Gates

  • avatar
    carguy

    The Forester is a sweet car. My brother had one and after some suspension modifications to keep the body roll under control and some ECU tweaking it was a sleeper rocket. On the track it was faster than a stock WRX and not that much behind his STI.

    I hope Subaru doesn’t mess it up with a B9esque redesign.

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    Yes, the 0-60 time is correct. And actually the Forester is lighter than a WRX. So it has some advantage, but two totally different cars.

    The only thing I don’t like about the Forester is the exterior styling (too boxy and the headlights need to go) and the body lean. Other than that, it’s pretty amazing.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    13.8 in the quarter? Sorry Paul, I’m not buying it.

    Your link is to a modified Forester. Those who have modified a turbo car know how much faster they get when you dump the OEM exhaust, ECM calibrations and run a boost controller. The short shifter doesn’t hurt, either.

    JL’s figures make more sense.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Ugh, I’m getting shpilkes in my geneckteckessoink!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    how come last year the Forester XT and Legacy GT and outback XT had 250hp and now they have 224hp from the same displacement?

    maybe the performance numbers are correct and they are underrating the power figures

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    NICKNICK:

    My guess is that it’s because the SAE revised horsepower ratings standards, and most companies saw downward adjustment even though the engines are identical.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    that identical engine makes 300hp in the STI — it is a matter of tuning and exhaust — all set to various price-points.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Turbo engines are the marketing department’s dream.

  • avatar
    Turbo G

    I think at that price point I would shell out the extra dinero for a outback xt or legacy gt wagon and shed the “female physical education teacher” image of the Forester.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Sajeev: Man, you guys are doubting Thomases. Are you too WRX invested? I kept looking, and found this; it is a little old, but then so is the Forester:

    http://www.caranddriver.com/roadtests/6854/subaru-forester-25xt-page2.html

    Can I go have my (WRX) lunch now?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Ringer.

  • avatar
    kph

    Nice review. The Impreza WRX got the Forester XT’s 2.5L turbo for 2006. Previous WRX’s had the 2.0L with noticeably less torque. So I’m in the WRX camp on this one, especially if we’re talking about the stripped down “tuner ready” trim. But hey, nobody’s calling the XT slow.

  • avatar

    Fun review. I laughed several times.

    the Forrester is a high wagon. Dimension-wise, it’s like a slightly smaller scale version of an early ’50s wagon (if you don’t remember back that far, think HHR). It is definitely not an SUV, and the CUV concept is all marketing hype, and no substance, unless it refers to a wagon with an absurdly small way-back. I think the term CUV should be banned on TTAC, unless some marketeer is being quoted.

    The Forrester has all the style of a plaid flannel shirt, but it makes up for that with the headroom, the steep windshield, which you could probably see out of even if the wipers failed, and the ample visibility. It deserves praise.

  • avatar

    Justin Berkowitz:
    I absolutely love this car. There definitely is something charming about its practicality/performance combination. But I’m still not secure enough to buy one. Even in the [snowy] Northeast it has a 40-year old independent bookstore owner image.

    Thanks, Justin, for my best laugh of the week so far!!! It’s true! This is the perfect car to drive around western Mass–Lenox, Shelburne Falls, the Edith Wharton house, The Omega Institute (never been), Tanglewood, etc. Road trip!!!

    David (a fellow inhabitant of the snowy northeast–lex, ma)

  • avatar

    Jonny Lieberman:
    So, a “motorized mitzvah” means that the engineers did it right and brought great mazel to Mr. Niedermeyer, who then proceeded to kvel about it.

    All this humor is bringing me some great mazel. Keep it up!

  • avatar
    Qusus

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    I’ll vouch for the validity of Paul’s 0-60 stat. C&D pulled 5.3 seconds in a road test of the ’03 Forester XT.

    However, Subaru seems to slip the press ringers for testing whenever a new model drops. C&D’s earliest tests of the WRX had the cars running 5.4 seconds to 60–a stat that was soon reflected in Subaru’s print ads, replacing their original claim of 5.8 seconds.

    Naturally, C&D hasn’t gotten a WRX (or related 9-2X Aero) to 60 in less than 6.0 seconds since 2003.

    A greater issue, though, is the disparity between turbocharged AWD vehicles’ 0-60 times and how strong they actually feel. Sure, when you rev the engine up to max boost, dump the clutch, and leave the line with four-wheel traction, you’re guaranteed a stellar time. But a rolling start, where wheelspin *isn’t* an issue and throttle lag *is*, levels the playing field.

    Thus, C&D’s 5-60 stat paints a more accurate picture of that 2003 XT’s subjective strength: 6.3 seconds. More recently, a 2006 XT did the same feat in 7.6.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    The exterior design of Subarus is probably going in an “Audi or Volvo direction” because they have the same target demographic. There is a company in Portland, Oregon that made its reputation providing aftermarket parts to Volvo owners – iPd is the acronym it goes by – and they now offer parts for Subaru.

    When they started to do that, they announced, in their newsletter, they’d found through a survey, that most of their customers also had a Subaru. Volvo used to be the unofficial “car of Seattle,” from what I used to see. Now, that car (or SUV) has been replaced, in that regard, by Subaru. Perhaps we could chalk it up to the benefits of all-wheel-drive.

    The Forester, it is an outstanding, well-balanced machine which, to my mind, might really have pioneered the concept of “crossover” vehicles. Mechanically, I can’t imagine improving on it; but as far as the exterior, there’s a lot a designer could do. I saw my first Edge, last night; too bad the Forester doesn’t have its lines.

  • avatar
    krick

    Just curious – why would anyone buy a Forester over a Outback wagon? The Outback wagon has more cargo capacity and ground clearance and handles better. I have no problems with CUVs/SUVs, but this one just strikes me as odd, and I have a hard time believing anyone would by the Forester because of its looks/image.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    krick: it’s shorter, faster, better visibility, and if you’re tall, like me, the high roof is…a motorized mitzvah. There are few “cars” I feel comfortable in, because of the inevitable cranial encroachment. Plus, some (many?) prefer the timeless boxiness of the Forester. BTW, ground clearance is the same.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Subaru is the spiritual successor to the Volvos and Saabs of yore. Why? They’re practical, available in wagon form, fun to drive, safe, a little different from everything else (i.e. they’re not a Toyonda), and most of all, they’re in the sweet spot price range. More expensive than competitors but less than luxury marques.

    My home for 4 years of Ithaca, NY was once a major Volvo town. Now, the (few) rich folks drive Volvo S60s and S80s, and everyone else has a Subaru.

  • avatar
    krick

    Paul: I can’t disagree with the shorter/faster attributes, but in terms of the high roof, I believe the Outback actually has a smidgeon more R1 headroom than the Forester (40.4 to 39.8). Similarly, I think the ’07 Outback has 8.7 inches of clearance v. 8.1 for the Forester.

    As to the Forester being faster, I can certainly see pistonheads who need to have a utility car swayed by the extra speed, but for the great majority of buyers I just can’t see the Foresters advantage over the Outback’s 7 second 60 time (give or take a few tenths depending on who’s testing) being a determining factor.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    ash78: “The vehicle just seems large enough, but I was unaware that it was just an Impreza, not a Legacy base.”

    I was also under impression that the Forester was derived from the Legacy, and not the Impreza.

    It’s a strange thing since the dimemsions of the Forester would seem to indicate that it’s nothing more than a slightly taller, shorter, wider Legacy with slightly increased ground clearance. But, apparently, such is not the case.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    krick: front headroom, with the moonroof: Forester: 39.1″, Outback: 38.7″, whatever, but, the Forester feels more spacious around the head because the windshield is substantially more upright. If you’re tall like me, and hate looking at the sun shade, it helps.

    You win on the clearance, by a fraction. I guess I wouldn’t take the Forester on the Rubicon.

    Anyway, the Forester leaves less shade on the ground, and some folks like that. To each their own.

  • avatar
    krick

    Paul: I get it now. I got a little too caught up in the specs and somehow forgot about the intangible and subjective elements.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    is there much difference in the rear cargo area of the forester and the outback? the roofline of the outback looks tapered, but that might just be an illusion from the raised beltline–i’m not sure. the forester looks like it would have a taller rear cargo box, but does it have less square footage since the footprint of the vehicle is smaller?

    anyone compare the two in real world use to see if there’s a significant usability difference?

    and i think it’s JL that frets over the distance from the front fender to the door cut: does it not bother you on subies because you know they aren’t front wheel crippled?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Sajeev: Man, you guys are doubting Thomases. Are you too WRX invested?

    LOL, I never thought I was, but how on earth can a 3300lb car with 224hp pull a trap speed of 97mph? (from the C/D article)

    You need about 280hp to pull that number off…more like the WRX.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    The WRX puts out… 224hp.

    When I bought mine it was 230hp, but then the stupid SAE….

  • avatar
    krick

    NICKNICK: Cargo capacity is 32 (Forester) to 33.5 (Outback) behind the second row and 57.7 (Forester) to 66.2 (Outback) with the second row folded down. In terms of real world use, I guess a lot depends on how you would use the cargo space. I’m pretty sure the Forester cargo bay is taller, but also narrower and shorter than the Outback’s.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I have to admit loving the Forester, having driven my brother-out-law’s 1st gen car when he and my sis visited a few years back. (After two failed marriages, my sister now “leases” instead of “buys”). I “can’t stand” Stupid Utility Vehicles, and hate riding in them (the tall center of gravity makes me feel like my insides want to swap sides on corners). These Subies are virtually as large inside as many on-frame SUVs (excepting rear leg room, already discussed) and maybe an inch or two of width. In other words, they’re wholly practical.

    Kind of like the market American Motors had until about 1967; fully practical, station wagons and sedans; this market was later taken up (and upscale) by Volvo, and to a lesser extent Saab, and now, Subaru.

    Now, how smart was Toyota to buy into Fuji Heavy Industries (of which 80% is Subaru autos)? Very smart. Fuji is big on ni-cad batteries, but were having trouble developing a hybrid drivetrain. Looks like it may be possible to buy, within a couple of years, a HSD Subie Forester Hybrid with ni-cad batteries. If that comes into play, you might see similar performance from a 2.0 liter boxer four with turbo (Miller cycle) and HSD, but with real world 30-35 mpg instead of maybe low-mid 20′s.

    Then, I’d be potentially interested in buying….. (no more non-hybrids for me after having a Prius, thanks).

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    My girlfriend loves these things. It’s her dream car. Yeah, I know…she’s suspect. Did I mention she’s a women’s studies major too? My relationship is a sham.

  • avatar
    amclint

    Nice car…not the best but space + AWD + power = winner in my book.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Weight doesn’t seem to be a factor in the comparisons between WRX and Forester XT…

    I wonder how the weight distribution and tire width/tire compound affect it’s ability to launch. Since the legacy GT, WRX, and Forester now basically use slightly altered versions of each’s other engines (and I’m guessing the forester has similar gearing the wrx since you mention it hitting 60 in 2nd and having a desperate need for revised gearing).

    Lastly….don’t forget that freak track conditions/tracks do exist. I own an SI, and one SI owner repeatedly pulled 14.2′s at around 97-98mph at a track in New Jersey with a stock car. He was powershifting, but it was still impressive. It was a track-specific occurence. Remember, this is in a 197 HP FWD 2800 lb car….

    Anyway…I enjoyed the review. I owned a Saabaru 9-2x aero that I bought in June of 2005….for 18,600 including cold weather package. I drove it for 9000 miles and then was offered 20,500 on a trade in for my SI.

    Subaru has alot of great things going for it. If they get a few pieces of their act together, they will become ever stronger. The interior of their current impreza, the poor gearing, and the overall agricultural feel of their engines/transmissions has been detrimental to some of the honda/toyota owner base switching over to Subaru. Their Legacy GT needs a little more aggressive styling.

    Aside from this, I feel they make cheap, practical driver’s cars for the masses. Name a current subaru (outside of the tribeca) who has numb steering, poor brakes, or a flimsy uncommunicative chassis?
    Joe O.

  • avatar
    amclint

    I’m gunning for a STI legacy or some such. Spec B is nice, but where is the engine upgrade?

  • avatar
    tenmiler

    This is one of the ugliest cars on the road. Only topped by the Tribeca and the WRX. Sorry guys, there’s too much Subaru love going on here. I appreciate all the engine discussion–they truly have dialed this in. But I don’t drive just the engine. And the rest of this dowdy boxy thing might as well have a plaid skirt around the bottom of it.

    The Outback is a great looking car. Apparently the designer of that car went on to greener pastures.

  • avatar
    HawaiiJim

    tenmiler:

    The Forester may not be beautiful, but this car just MAKES SENSE. Besides, how many SUV’s, large or small, are really nice-looking? I can’t think of a single one.

  • avatar
    AllStingNoBling

    HawaiiJim:

    “Besides, how many SUV’s, large or small, are really nice-looking? I can’t think of a single one.”

    You are so right, it almost hurts.

    I also argree with Joe O, Subaru just needs to polish up, just this || much, to get to great to wonderful.

    The power is great, especially since I have moddified mine, I just wish the interior was a little more polished.

  • avatar
    moto

    Subaru is immensely popular amongst only a narrow sliver of the market. Sorry, while the Forester is a fine vehicle for its niche of box-loving drivers, it just doesn’t capture a big enough audience to make sense.

    Think about it. Who really enjoys a Forester? As impressive and versatile as the package seems, it just doesn’t measure up to other vehicles, including superior vehicles in the Subaru lineup.

    - If you want a better performing AWD car, you get a WRX or an Audi.
    - If you want to haul more gear while getting acceptable mileage, you get an Element or Escape.
    - If you want to tow more, you get any RWD vehicle with a V6 or greater.
    - If you want to carry people in comfort, you get a Passat wagon.

    Simply put, the Forester just doesn’t measure up. Subaru must diversify its lineup, not just jack up an Impreza and call it something new.

    My suggestion: benchmark Audi A3 quality and refinement in a package the size of the current Forester, but with more cargo-specific features of the Honda Element. Don’t make it another 5-door, that’s what the Outback is. Offer Element-style suicide doors and a cargo area that will hold 2 adult bikes (front wheel off, dropped seat) upright inside. Now wrap it in an aerodynamic body, make it perform like the rest of the Subies on all conditions, but increase fuel economy to 29mpg on freeway by adding a 6th speed and cleaning up the aerodynamics. Voila, instant cult vehicle in the image of the Chevy Nomad concept. Build it and they will come.

  • avatar
    Subifreak

    Should anybody want to better educate themselves on the Subi Forester…..I refer you to http://www.subaruforester.org

    Nuff said.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    For those doubting the 0-60 and 1/4mi abilities of the Forester XT versus the current (2.5L equipped) WRX, look no further than the rear-end. The vehicles have the same powerplant (2.5L turbo, non-STi) but the final drive ratios are quite different with the Forester XT being much steeper. The ’04 Forester XT had a 4.44 final drive as I recall (not quite as steep for the newer models) while the WRX is more like 2.9x if I remember right. I’ll have to go look those up to be exact. The weight difference between the WRX sedan and Forester XT are definitely minimal, with the weight distribution on the Forester XT being a bit more ideal with having that weight in the back. :)

    -Biggly

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    Update on the final drive specs:
    Forester XT from 2004 to 2007 retains the 4.444 final drive ratio. The WRX has final drive ratios of 3.9 up to 2006, where it dropped to 3.7 so it looks like I was off by quite a bit earlier! The nearly identical weights and difference in final drive ratios will account for the 0-60 and 1/4mi differences between the two. Paul Niedermeyer wasn’t dreaming this all up, the Forester XT really is quicker by a touch making it quite the sleeper. :)

    -Biggly

  • avatar
    bmilner

    Interesting comment about how a 5-60mph rolling start test might more accurately convey how fast a car feels in real world driving. Would be interesting to get that stat for more cars.

    The other stat I think is really useful is the 30-50 and 50-70 passing numbers.

    Case and point, my Passat V6 2.8 wagon AWD feels pretty fast. It is far more responsive than then that years 2.0t (turbo lag etc.). … if you measure the numbers, it gets crappy 0-60 times…BUT everyone who drives it seems to think it’s a pretty fast responsive car. Something about the throttle response/engine sound/tourque curve.

  • avatar
    jayinPA

    Hi all,
    Looking for some help deciding between the 2007 Impreza (sedan, though) and the 2007 Forester. I would buy the stripped-down, basic, manual tranny of either. I don’t care about the image I project, the “spiffyness” of the interior, or the stereo system, etc., but I do care about gas mileage and any upkeep issues that I should be aware of. I commute 50 miles one-way. My concerns are economy- and safety-related, and have zero to do with looks or so-called comfort issues. (I’m driving a banged-up car with no heat right now, so anything will be an improvement.) Do the Imprezas and Foresters hold their resale values equally well? I live in the snowy (esp. today) northeast. Which is going to handle better and be more reliable?

    Can anyone think of a good reason why I should spend the extra $3k on the Forester? OR, is the Impreza truly the best value. All I want to do is get to work in the most reliable, economic, and safe manner possible (which necessitates AWD where I live).

    If I am totally off base, and there is a more reliable, lower-cost, more fuel efficient AWD vehicle out there, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Jay in PA

    PS I posted this under the Imprezza review, too, since it involved both vehicles.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    Jay in PA,
    From what I have seen the Forester seems to hold its resale value better and typically go unmodified. They don’t have the boy racer image so much as the hot rod Imprezas. Imprezas might get better gas mileage due to less steep rear end ratios, but I’d equate that to 10% and the rest to driving style between the two. Gas mileage can only be as good as the person operating the car allows it to be. The mechanicals are nearly identical with only struts/springs being significantly different on the Forester. For ground clearance alone it might behoove you to go with the Forester if snow is that large of a concern. In the end, though you will have to decide if pragmatism weighs heavier than the few plusses that the Forester has to offer. :)

    -Biggly

  • avatar
    moto

    Jay in PA,

    If economy matters to you, then it’s hard to beat the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix. It’s a more compact vehicle, but surprisingly roomy. Both the FWD and the AWD versions are much more fuel efficient than any of the Subarus. Reliability supposedly quite good too.

    But honestly, a good set of snow tires is a much less expensive solution over AWD for getting through slippery conditions. If you frequently experience ice, I recommend Nokian tires with Eco Studs: http://www.nokiantires.com/en/winter_passenger.aspx

    Otherwise, AWD is an expensive way to avoid installing tire chains or snow tires when the going gets tough. Having driven for years in New England and the upper midwest, i know that AWD is not the most economical solution to the problem of winter traction. AWD helps get you going, but all other things equal, it makes a vehicle worse in braking, handling, fuel economy, purchase price, and maintenance costs. The right tires for the right conditions IMPROVE traction, braking, handling, and fuel economy.

    Subarus are excellent vehicles, far superior to almost any trucks, but they are not the most efficient cars out there.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    JayinPA: We’ve owned a non-turbo forester for seven years, so I’ll take a stab at your question. Between the two, reliability and other performance issues are immaterial, because they’re mechanical twins.

    The resale on the Forester is excellent; it might offset the higher price. neither one is particularly fuel efficient; it is the price you pay for AWD. If fuel efficiency is more important, than you might look elsewhere. I don’t agree with the other poster about AWD negatively affecting handling,braking, etc. There is no basis for that claim. Also, the non-turbo doesn’t have the lower gearing, as far as I know.

    The Forester is obviously more practical than the Impreza sedan; throw down the seats and it hauls quite a lot.

  • avatar
    jayinPA

    Thanks for your comments, all. I have purchased a 2007 Impreza sedan– knowing that I will just fill it will junk, I decided to not get the Forester. I have *resolved* to keep this new car looking new rather than filling it with rocks, lumber, plants, etc.. If I got the Forester, I know what I would end up doing to it!

    I appreciate your help,
    Jay

  • avatar
    Lamborghini48907

    This is my favorite compact SUV, a classic that isn’t outdated, it’s sporty and it basically showed the segment a thing or two back in the day and hasn’t stopped since. Gotta respect Subaru

  • avatar
    Candy

    To moto re your comment

    “””Think about it. Who really enjoys a Forester? As impressive and versatile as the package seems, it just doesn’t measure up to other vehicles, including superior vehicles in the Subaru lineup.

    - If you want a better performing AWD car, you get a WRX or an Audi.
    - If you want to haul more gear while getting acceptable mileage, you get an Element or Escape.
    - If you want to tow more, you get any RWD vehicle with a V6 or greater.
    - If you want to carry people in comfort, you get a Passat wagon.””””

    I wanted a mix of all those in one vehicle and that is why the Forester sells so well. Actually leads the market here in the softroader class.

    My XT leaves behind an A3 on and off road, is not excessively large, tows more than almost any RWD car up a boat ramp or on a slippery slope and carries just enough people for my needs.

    The Outback/Liberty wagon is fugly, moreso than the Forester. I know of no vehicles in the price range of the Forester that could be called good looking.

    Simple choice really – Forester

  • avatar
    Jon Stack

    I want a fast-ish car. I want something well made. Call me picky but I don’t want it to be German. I have 2 big dogs, I haul lots of music equipment around. I have a 2.5 XT Forester. I tried everything (including the German stuff). There isn’t a better car for me than this at any price, anywhere.

  • avatar
    galager

    I drive an ’05 XT

    - If you want a better performing AWD car, you get a WRX or an Audi.

    The only audi that is going to pull away from me has an S in the model name and is more than twice the money. We have an ’03 A6 2.7t with a 6speed and sport suspension. The Subie is quicker under 75 mph. (my car is stock and we own

    - If you want to haul more gear while getting acceptable mileage, you get an Element or Escape.

    I can drive one of these sleepmobiles, but I wouldn’t have any performance.

    - If you want to tow more, you get any RWD vehicle with a V6 or greater.

    I tow a motorcycle.

    - If you want to carry people in comfort, you get a Passat wagon.

    Don’t really care about this but to each his own.

    The thing is you’ve mentioned a bunch of vehicles that do one thing better than the Forester. Can you find a vehicle that balances all of these things in one package as well as the Forester?

  • avatar
    moto

    Each vehicle has its pros and cons.

    Galager, I don’t disagree that the Forester is a very versatile machine. However, my point is that the Forester isn’t a red-hot seller because it doesn’t offer that much differentiation from the Impreza. Maybe the Forester is perfect for you based on your tastes, but I’ll bet that the Impreza would serve all your needs just as well, plus offer you better fuel economy and better performance.

    As it is, this tall, unaerodynamic version of the Impreza suffers from the same problem that the Baja does: its minor differences from the base model just don’t make it that much better for more people to pay the extra cost for it. If the Impreza doesn’t serve your needs/wants, then chances are, there is another model from another manufacturer that offers MUCH more of that particular key ingredient, which overshadows the Forester.

    As for performance, most of the USA market would be further ahead with 2wd and proper tires rather than the expense and inefficiency of awd. However, to compare apples to apples, it’s hard not to consider VW/Audi’s very competent hardware. True, the exchange rate hurts the German car in a head-to-head comparison, but looking strictly at performance, the Audi A4 Avant will keep up with a Forester in most conditions. The A6 is a much larger, heavier, more expensive car than either and really isn’t a direct comparison. An no Subaru even comes close to the interior quality, design, and ergonomics of the German cars. Don’t forget, too, that VW & Audi offer 6-speed transmissions, which make highway cruising much, much more comfortable than any Subaru.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    VWs and Audis of late unfortunately do not share the reliability ratings of the Subaru. While I really do like them quite a bit and agree on the interior quality (something that Subaru has actually started to work on since about 2004 or so, they’ve made good progress) I’d still be hesitant given the things I hear about electrical issues with the VW/Audis among other things. Personally I feel that electrical gremlins are the worst affliction possible. I am curious though, why the transmission makes highway cruising that much better?

  • avatar
    moto

    Dr Biggly,

    Because the Audi engines (the 2.0T and the 3.2 V6) offer more torque at all rpm than the corresponding Subaru engines, Audi is also able to lower the overall drive ratio. No, it’s not dramatic, but it helps:

    The 2007 Forester 2.5X, with 173 horsepower, is rated for 29 mpg on the highway.
    The 2007 Audi A4 Avant, with 200 horsepower, is rated for 31 mpg on the highway.

    In addition, the slightly lower overall drive ratio of the Audi in 6th gear contributes to its quiet interior, although other factors are more at play there.

    Bottom line, you get what you pay for. If I drove dirt roads and needed to take 2 kids to their events in all weather, I’d drive a Subaru and pay for the radio upgrade. If I wasn’t saving for 2 college tuitions, I would drive the Audi.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    You have a compelling point, though I think it isn’t due to the 6th gear but rather the final drive ratio and vehicle drag coefficients between the two. (OT, As far as college tuitions I’m of the mindset that they have student loans, but not retirement loans!) :)

  • avatar
    moto

    Damn, and i thought the purpose of blogging was to be able to spout off platitudes without bothering to back it up with facts! :-)

    Well, here you go:

    2007 Forester X (non-turbo): 4.11 final drive ratio
    2007 Forester XT (turbo): 4.44 final drive ratio
    2007 Audi A4 2.0T: 3.89 final drive ratio

    Gear ratios:
    Audi Audi Subie Fstr Subie Fstr
    A4 Manual A4 Tiptrnc X manual XT manual

    1st 3.667 4.171 3.454 3.454
    2nd 2.053 2.340 2.062 1.947
    3rd 1.423 1.521 1.448 1.366
    4th 1.065 1.143 1.088 0.972
    5th 0.853 0.867 0.780 0.738
    6th 0.730 0.691 n/a n/a

    I leave it to you to crunch the numbers, but by my calculation, that means the Subaru Forester XT in top gear will have its engine spinning about 13% faster than that of an Audi A4 in top gear traveling at the same vehicle speed.

    Different configurations and options (including aftermarket modifications) will change the numbers, but it all boils down to the same thing: more gear ratios, spread out over the entire engine range, will make for better performance: economy OR sport, depending on how you drive it.

    With the Subaru, you save money on initial purchase, but with the Audi/VW/you fill in the blank, you may find the refinement worth it.

    But, as many know, the Forester was made to attract would-be SUV lovers who think “boxy is better”. But it’s an Impreza, a very fine utility wagon with an underwhelming choice of transmissions.

    In my mind, the key selling point of Subarus remains the economically priced all wheel drive, not the engine or transmission. If you want the better overall powertrain, well, you will pay more, and it will have Torsen differentials and 6 speeds.

  • avatar
    krick

    Dr. Biggly:

    “VWs and Audis of late unfortunately do not share the reliability ratings of the Subaru.”

    Out of curiosity, what are you basing this statement on? I don’t know how reliable (no pun intended) JD Power rankings are, but the A4, Forester and Passat appear to have fairly comparable dependability ratings in recent years.

    My personal opinion, consistent with yours, is that Audi’s probably are less reliable in an absolute sense than Subaru’s, but I think that’s just a function of the more complex and feature laden designs of Audi’s relative to Subaru’s. Having owned various Audi’s over the last decade, most of the issues that I’ve experienced have been directly related to features that simply don’t exist on Subaru’s. For example, the most persistent problems I had with my last Audi were with its adjustable air suspension. Aggravating, yes, but more than offset by the advantages of having the adjustable suspension in the first place.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Short wheel base dynamics work for me, also 3200lbs, 180inches, AWD and boxer smoothness. Styling hurts a bit, but I can manage.

  • avatar
    Jeff

    I’ve owned 10 different Subies over the years. I test drove the XT yesterday as well as the Baja about 1 month ago. Both 5 speeds. The off the line acceleration was excellent, but 40-70 on the highway was less than stellar. It didn’t feel much different than my N/A Forester. I felt the financial commitment wasn’t worth the extra second between 40-70 where most of my driving is done.

  • avatar
    guroove

    Ok, just to set the record straight, the acceleration numbers of 5.3 for 0-60 and 13.8 for 1/4 mile are accurate for the 2004 Forester XT with a 5 speed manual. The numbers for 2007 are actually a bit slower due to a change in gearing even though the horsepower is up to 224 from 210 in 2004. The Forester is also only marginally heavier than a wrx, by only about 45 to 90 lbs depending on transmission and options. The engine is not the same that is in the WRX, Legacy GT or STI. It has the same 2.5 Liter engine block as the STI with the smaller TD04 turbo that the WRX has. The WRX has a smaller 2.0 L engine, and the gearing is a little taller in the WRX which is why the Forester XT is faster than the WRX. I own a 2005 XT with an automatic, and it is a beast off the line all the way up to 100mph or so. I think the boxy body holds it back about 90mph though. I have blown away G-35s off the line even with a half a car length head start, and this is with the automatic transmission. This car definitely holds the sleeper crown without a doubt. It is subaru’s second fastest car, and is the slowest looking. I love my XT!

  • avatar
    guroove

    oops, I saw some posts that I missed, and apparently I was not aware about the new WRX with the 2.5 L engine. The 2004 – 2005 XTs are still faster though. Also, I understand that the Legacy GT has 250 hp but I’m not sure about what kind of turbo it has. The TD04 from the WRX and XT is great for making power NOW, but is limited in the high rpm range which is why the horsepower numbers are not that impressive. Horsepower doesn’t tell the whole story, because so much of the XT’s torque is available as soon as you stomp on the gas pedal that it really does get moving faster than almost anything that it will pull up next to. I have yet to encounter a car that I couldn’t just go around by putting the pedal to the floor.

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    guroove,
    The 2005 and up Legacy GT share the same motor with the Forester XT, the Baja XT, and the 2006+ WRX. 2005 was the last year of the 2.0L turbo motors for the WRX; 2006 and up are the same 2.5L shared elsewhere. The STi engine is a 2.5L, but a few parts here and there are different, most notably the computer and the turbo itself to make the greater power numbers found there. Though having autox’d many an STi, LegacyGT, WRX, 2.5RS, etc, the real magic for the STi lies within the fabulous differentials, the practically magical center diff controller, and the unbreakable 6-speed. :)

  • avatar
    JB03F20C

    I have been looking for a 4wd vehicle of some kind and have found that the Forester XT is perfect for what I am looking for.
    As a long time Honda fan was not really digging their SUV lineup- Ridgeline= Ugly and to expensive. Element= Weird styling and a whole lot slower than an XT. CRV= No manual tranny option is definite dealbreaker.
    The Forester XT pros:
    A. It has a lot lower insurance than WRX or STI.
    B. You can see out of it better than WRX or STI.
    C. The clutch is not as heavy as the STI.
    D. It shifts smoother than the STI.
    E. It has the mommy mobile styling that no one will ever suspect you being a Mini STI!
    F. Fun to drive plus turbo plus AWD plus low insurance rate plus Consumer Reports Recommended vehicle = Winner!

  • avatar
    yozh

    I do not know much as far as ownership of the new Foresters.

    I have a 98 Forester with 166k hard driven any weather city miles. I love the car because I have been able to go places where other “suvs” couldn’t. I pulled Jeeps, BMW, Porsche, Bends, Lex, Hyundai, and Ford “suvs” out of ditches every winter by attaching a chain to my frame. I was able to (this past winter) park in a very narrow parking spot on top of a snow bank that was three times my cars’ height (with 3 adults in the car!) I have clients who are 4’9″ and who are 6’4″ drive the car without (much) problem.

    I do have a few things to note though: I just replaced all four tires for the fourth time. I had problems with the ignition coil twice, the max air flow sensor once, the seal that holds the two sides of the engine was replaced, the cv joint covers were replaced twice, my inside clock and gear shift lights just blew out, my defroster on my rear window went, and now I am having problems with my eletronics because my locks chose to lock and unlock when they want and my windshield wiper fuses keep blowing.

    I bought the car new in Oct 97 with 16 miles on it. I smacked into another car (minor front fender dammage that was easily fixed) and my wife wedged it between two yellow poles in a parking garage leaving paint scars.

    I only leave these comments to let people know my experiences.

    I would love comments: should keep the car or not…given that the electric problem could cost me upwards of $1000?

  • avatar
    NIBS

    Tried it, bought it, sold it. Seriously needs a 5 or 6 speed auto-tranny. Fuel economy better in an F150 4×4. A telescoping steering w/mounted controsl would bring it into the 21 century. A car wash will do a number on the frameless door seals. Factory tires suck. Felt like the vehicle was made for little people, namely women or at least small/short women.

    So long 07 Forester XT.

  • avatar

    My ’05 FXT Premium (5-spd) put down 271 whp and 300 tq on a dyno that consistently shows stock STi’s laying down 235-240 of each. That translates to 330hp/360tq at the crank. With $1500 in mods (turbo/intercooler/exhaust/tune) it’s faster than an STi and embarrasses my buddy’s ’01 911 Carrera. My suspension mods (springs/Koni/swaybars) have it very flat through the corners as well.

    2006 saw the gearing changed in favor of fuel economy. My ’05 consistently gets 20mpg in town no matter how I drive – and I’m never slow.

    This is the PERFECT car for me in so many ways. My glorious experience test driving a Boxster S and the fact that the new STi has a hatch are the only reasons I’d consider switching. I love it.

  • avatar
    ricpic

    I have owned a Subaru Legacy wagon and now I own a Forester. The one thing no one has mentioned is that you sit higher in the Forester than in either the Legacy or Outback. Although I loved my Legacy I appreciate the view from a (slightly) greater height that the Forester affords. Also, to be blunt, I feel less intimidated by monster SUVs than I did in the Legacy. The one drawback: the loss of about 6 inches of length with the back seats down.

  • avatar
    Joes Kid

    I’ve been looking for a new vehicle, and I’ve been leaning heavily toward a Forester XT. (Going to look at an ’05 this week.)
    I live in Minnesota, and snow is a factor it seems to deal with handily.
    I need to get off the blacktop sometimes and drive up logging roads and other trails to get to some of my favorite fishing holes. Nothing too severe, but still need something to deal with mud and ruts.
    Has anyone out there installed a lift kit on one of these? Is it necessary in your opinion?

    Thanks
    Mike

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    just FYI, the 2.5s were underrated. the old 2.0s dyno at around 175WHP, whereas the stock 2.5 dynos at 190+ WHP.
     

  • avatar
    CCrider77

    Long term report… My wife and I bought our first brand new Subaru; a 2005 Forester XT and loved it. For the first 100,000 miles the vehicle was perfect. Quick, reliable, handled incredibly well and seemed to do everything right.

    Shortly after the 100,000 mark, everything started to break and become insanely expensive to fix. The sunroof cable attaching guides were apparently made of cheap plastic and broke. The cost of replacing the entire sunroof frame assembly was measured in thousands of dollars – hence we didn’t fix it.

    The car went through two radiators, which are primarily made of plastic.

    The plastic driver’s seat trim kept getting caught on our clothing and would get torn off. I finally secured it to the seat frame with a sheet metal screw, which fixed the problem.

    Then the serious stuff started…

    The turbo housing cracked and the cylinder heads cracked. That repair was a whopping $7000! The idler pulley failed. The new cam belt kept skipping a tooth causing engine lights and a “safe mode” driving experience. Latest is a report that the bottom end of the motor is now shot at 155,000 miles? Minimum cost to fix this with a low mileage used engine is $6000.

    We realize cars don’t last forever, but our last 1995 Mitsubishi Galant was still going strong after 367,000 miles, requiring only basic maintenance. In today’s world, 150,000+ miles is nothing – unless you own a Subaru.

    This has been by far the most expensive car we’ve ever owned, when you combine the ~$28,000 purchase price and the $15,000 in repair costs over the past 7 years. Sadly when we purchase our next car, it will not be a Subaru…


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