By on August 25, 2008

Boxy is out, SUV-ish is in.The Forester XT is living, breathing proof that Subaru has lost its way.  The Toyota-fication of the brand has now reached its pinnacle in the redesigned Forester, and it stands tall (really, really tall) as the perfect example of how to alienate the hippies and hoons that bought Subaru after Subaru.  To put it succinctly, driving the new Forester XT is like answering the door expecting Ed McMahon with a check for a million dollars and finding your mother-in-law standing there instead.  At least the MIL eventually goes home.  The Forester XT just hangs around and keeps disappointing.

The illusion starts at the exterior.  See that hood scoop?  You may think that like the WRX and Legacy GT, the hood scoop means performance and fun.  Instead, all it means is "Turbo inside" and nothing more.  But even with the lump on the hood, the new Forester is definitely more attractive than the old one (kudos to Subaru for bucking the trend, there), but it represents a sharp shift from "boxy tall wagon" to "SUV."  Why is Subaru making SUVs?  Beats me, ask Toyota.

There\'s a road out there somewhere.  I think.Step on inside.  See that hood scoop?  Yes, that bulbous nostril encroaching upon your field of vision that mocks you mercilessly day after day that you should have purchased the WRX.  The ridiculously low front seats give occupants a nice view of the dash, hood scoop, and little else.  The driver seat is thankfully height adjustable. Not so for the passenger, who peers out the window like a five year old struggling to see the road ahead. The seat bottoms are too short as well, providing about as much thigh support as a barstool and leaving both driver and passenger looking for somewhere to prop their knees.

But boy, are the rear seats gloriously spacious.  I found myself thinking could I could overlook the front seats' shortcomings for the rear leg room alone. Then the cold hard reality hit me that (A) I'm going to be riding in the front 99.995% of the time and (B) it is wicked hard to reach into the baby's car seat to retrieve a pacifier when it's a half mile back.  Families with long-legged teens will love the stretch-out space and the trick reclining rear seats.  The rear seemed much more comfortable than the front– but the driver doesn't sit in the rear.  The interior looks nicer than the WRX; quite nearly as nice as the Legacy, actually. 

A great engine, wasted.Let's make no bones about it, the only reason anyone would look at the XT over the base model lies beneath that functional hood scoop: the turbocharged 2.5L YEEEHAWWWW factor.  The new Forester, like the WRX, packs more low-end torque at the expense of the high end but unlike the WRX it feels oddly sluggish overall.  Want to add insult to injury?  Here are your four automatic gears.  The base Forester comes with a manual option; not so the XT.  In fact, it doesn't even warrant the five-speed automatic.  By this point, I'm starting to wonder if Subaru doesn't just want to discourage their hoon-oriented customers– they actively want to crush their spirits.

The overall experience feels like the last two Matrix movies.  You know how much fun it could be, yet it's a stunningly horrible disappointment through and through.  The handling, absolutely atrocious even by SUV standards, betrays Subaru's integral brand image.  The loosey-goosey steering wheel feels like  the ‘91 Explorer my parents drove. Understeer makes cornering an exercise in unexpected surprises. This fact might make you a safer driver, but not by choice.  The whole thing handles like a sack of cornmeal being hauled by sled dogs – it's all mush. 

Makes you long for boxyExcept instead of sled dogs, it's being hauled by nearly the best powerplant Subaru has to offer.   Straight line motivation is an excellent adventure but God help ye otherwise.  I can only imagine that such a ridiculously soft suspension and mammoth ride height gives it a passable ride in the rough, but if you have off-roading in your plans, why buy one of these when you can get a bargain bin Jeep instead?  There's precious little to set the XT apart from the rest of the crop.  Sure, it's fast(er), but who cares when driving it sucks the very soul out of you?  Piloting it is an exercise in irritation and you feel like you're actively fighting against the Forester just to keep it on the road.

SUV-ish from this angle tooIf you're looking for a sporty, fast CUV with room for the family, go buy an Acura RDX.  It may be more expensive, but you'll never regret it.  I can't fathom why anyone would spend their hard-earned cash on a new Forester, unless you're in that small group of Subaru lovers that won't have anything but a Subaru, and you live in the snow belt and/or need the extra room over an Outback for camping with the family.  However, like Subaru, you can do better than this. 

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120 Comments on “2009 Subaru Forester XT Review...”


  • avatar
    Ryan

    Wow… I could not disagree more with the review. This is coming from a long time Toyota/Honda customer. The current RAV4 and CRV are whitewashed in almost every category when compared to the new Forester. I drove the naturally aspirated premium version so I can tell you this. When our CRV is up for replacement we will be giving the Forester an honest look.

    From the sounds of things I would guess Ms Benoit has spent little time behind the wheel of the Forester. Not to mention it’s previously mentioned direct competitors. I am not saying this rig has a stunning appearance but Subaru must be doing something right. Take a look at last months numbers for Subaru if you need supplementary proof. Skewed? I think so…

  • avatar
    rochskier

    Sorry but this vehicle is far less attractive than previous XTs.

    From some angles the 09 XT looks like a RAV4 knockoff.

    I knew Toyota would have some influence over Subie going forward, but this is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      excavator

      i went to a acura dealer to test drive their suv. guess what? they were sittin down waitin for me, they were ready to sell one, off the floor, from the holding yard, or from interstate, kept reducing the price till i finally said in just not interested. drove straight into subaru, they were so busy, they had reps around 2 floors of this subaru dealership, busy as anything on a sat afternoon, i had to wait in the que for service, after seeing other customers leave with massive smiles on their faces, i took my turn and after being impressed i was ready to buy, they did not have a forester XT available to take home for the next 3 months so everyone was backordering their new foresters, and they did not budge a dollar on the price. they did not bragg on and on like in other make dealerships, they were so confident that they were going to sell, they didnt need to put me under pressure, and when i told them i wanted to think about it, they politely showed me the way to my car.  having test driven the Forester XT prmium 5sp manual, with leather trim, sat nav, bluetooth,  moon roof i could swear it was made just for me, i was shown demonstation of this vehicle that did incredible things for an suv.  i havent bought one yet, but when i go back i will order mine in a black even if i had to wait 6 months

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      @excavator:
       
      I’m not sure where you are, but in the US and Canada there is no way to get a 2009 or 2010 Forester XT with a manual transmission. I checked MSN, Edmunds, Subaru.com, and the EPA.  They all list the turbo Forester (XT) as being available only with the 4-spd auto.

    • 0 avatar
      excavator

      Im downunder in australia, and they are available here, and if they are here then they sure might be soon available there as well, coz they do exist and boy are they fun to drive. and its not just me that reckons so, ive seen the que at the dealer. when it gets to where u guys are, dont take my word, have a crack at the 5sp manual and ull see what i mean coz i know subarus good with their manuals. ive given this car a bashing, and over here we got plenty of terrian, city drivin and hiways. cornering is amazing, take 90 degree turns at 60 k’s. came to complete stop from 80 k’s within 20 metres. i was also impressed with the panoramic views from the front seat and the rear. the moonroof was huge, the only letdown is the cargo area was a little smaller than my 201kw 3.5l v6 rav4, reason being, the spare is a full size alloy wheel inside the floow of the cargo area, and the rav4 has it on the outside of the tailgate, but it would take it on in terms of acceleration with less consumption of fuel. also i like the fact that the rav4 tailgate opens to the side. but nevertheless, it was perfect for someone who is 1.8m or taller like me, i just didnt wanna get out of this thing at the end of a test drive

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Megan,
    Great to see you back in the Driver’s Seat. Sad to see Subie losing its way with the Forester. Looks like Subaru focused their limited engineering resources on the WRX, which apparently quite improved for ’09.

    I know the die-hard Subie fans will hate me for writing this, but I think Subaru should refocus its efforts. Drop the unique platforms and the boxer engines. Switch over to the Corolla/Matrix, the RAV4, and the Camry platforms, and concentrate Subaru talent on engineering vehicles which are the best performing, affordable AWD vehicles in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      johnnycrash

      You must be out of your mind. Megan is also out of her mind. She must drive a porsche as her daily driver if she felt this way about the Forester Xt. I have one and love it. I would say Toyota vehicles you mentioned are kind of boring and bland as well as underwellming.

  • avatar
    cynder

    I couldn’t disagree with this review more. The new Subaru Forester including the XT is perfect for real world conditions rather than hoonage.

    The Forester is more of a no-nonsense vehicle. It’s not glamorous or a track star but it operates swiftly and adroitly for nearly all conditions.

    Why not a Jeep indeed. Have you tried to get road service on the Denali Hwy at -40F? You’ll die trying, literally.

    Subaru is the official vehicle of Winter for a reason and it’s not measured in 0-60.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Drop the unique platforms and the boxer engines.

    I see the words…

  • avatar
    barberoux

    It doesn’t make sense for someone looking for performance to look at the Forester as the answer. My wife would probably enjoy the base version of this car and would laugh at the whole concept of a hood scoop and a turbo. If one wants hoonage look to the WRX.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    I was thinking more about the influence Toyota is clearly exerting on Subaru, and I am wondering if we are going to see Toyota pull a ‘Saab’ on Subie.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    The last Forrester was a quirky, fun-to-drive vehicle. Now….I mean….look at it. Looking at the pictures, it could easily be mistaken for either a RAV4 or an Outlander. At first, Subies were distinct vehicles in both looks and performance. Now they just….blend in.

    Toyota-fication indeed.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Couldn’t agree more with this review. Saw this development coming a year ago when the new Impreza debuted in August.

    The new Impreza has short seats on the floor rather than the old upright stance, ditto Forester on the same basic chassis. The dash and door panels made of Rubbermaid-reject plastic add to the mess.

    The WRX automatic lost the VTD planetary center differential, and all WRXs lost the rear LSD. Ditto the Forester. That’s a couple grand of decent stuff chucked out the window right there. Now there’s only electronic nannies to apportion torque side to side with the brakes, and the cheapest automatic tranny AWD system Subaru makes shoved into this highline vehicle. For shame…

    That’s why I bought a 08 Legacy GT while it still had the VTD center diff and rear LSD and an interior that doesn’t suck. That’ll all be gone next year (2010), mark my words.

    And for those who don’t think my carping makes any difference — here in the Nova Scotia snowbelt, my Legacy GT ended up with much better traction on ice than my old cheapy Impreza (with same brand and type of snow tires), which had the same auto these new Subarus have. The LGT also has electronic traction control, which never operated ONCE through one of the worst winters in years. Didn’t have to due to basic good engineering. The old Forester XT had the same system, now all gone.

    To all those of you happy to be wobbling around in your new Forester with its set of high heels, I’m glad you like the car. You’ll never know what you are missing.

  • avatar

    The new Forester seems to be selling very well. Apparently the roomier rear seat and more attractive exterior have hit the mark.

    That said, here’s the reason I didn’t write a Forester XT review: I went and test drove one a couple months ago, and the performance was so much as described here that I feared I’d gotten a bum example. Or maybe they’d told me I was driving an XT, and the badges said XT, but it had actually been a mis-badged Limited.

    I just couldn’t believe that the Forester XT could feel so sluggish and clumsy.

    But apparently I drove an XT after all. It’s attactive, spacious, and not badly priced, but fun it isn’t.

    I do hope to have some reliability information on the new Forester in November. If you know someone who owns a 2009 Forester, please send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    From the sounds of things I would guess Ms Benoit has spent little time behind the wheel of the Forester. Not to mention it’s previously mentioned direct competitors.

    *snort* Actually, it took me about 30 seconds to give this car one star… it took the rest of the time to earn the other two. I’ve never hated an SUV (and yes, at this size it’s an SUV, more or less) more, and I actually like small SUVs/CUVs for the most part. I just can’t convey how awful it was to actually drive this thing.

    Now that Subie has un-f*cked the WRX, I hope they do the same to the Forester XT.

    • 0 avatar
      johnnycrash

      WTH do you drive to bash the Forester so, a Porsche or something I would assume. If you want a beastly car look elsewhere in stock form. This car is all around great. Good performance, good handling, and good looking (depending on what you like). I love my XT. I think it handles great for what it is. Some of you guys are just out of your minds and unfair

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Why not a Jeep indeed. Have you tried to get road service on the Denali Hwy at -40F? You’ll die trying, literally.

    Given the experience I’ve had with Subaru’s reliability, I’d buy the Jeep and take the money I saved and invest it moving out of the wilderness. Oh, and have you ever tried to get Subaru service in ATLANTA?

    Michael, generally you and I are pretty opposite when it comes to cars, but for once we appear to have agreed on how disappointing the XT is. ;)

  • avatar
    DrBiggly

    Honestly, I drove an Outback not long ago and had the exact same impressions. I did not drive an 08 WRX (have been avoiding it for not wanting to get more angry at Subaru for being ridiculous) and the Outback was by accident. I can see why folks would prefer the LegacyGT honestly; it’s a fantastic car. I did not know that they dropped the rear LSD and now have open differentials rather than at least some form of LSD; this means that the WRX will be far less competent on snow than has been. Subaru really has lost their way. The original Forester XT is a fantastic car to drive, with handling dynamics that are right in line with what one expects from a Subaru. This latest crop of most Subarus in general is just like a bad dream but it is actually happening. :(

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The overall experience feels like the last two Matrix movies.

    Epic take, Megan. It’s sad to see Subie’s performance character being tossed under the bus a piece at a time.

    barberoux:
    My wife would probably enjoy the base version of this car and would laugh at the whole concept of a hood scoop and a turbo. If one wants hoonage look to the WRX.

    Subie’s image has always had a handling component. By ignoring that, they become Toyotas with flat-fours and (optional) turbos.
    That said, your wife should probably drive a V6 RAV4.

  • avatar
    virages

    It seems to me that Subaru is making the conscient choice of making a car that can appeal to more people by making the car more boring and less quirky (by quirky, I mean not offering MT with the XT). But the question for Subaru is: does selling more cars to indifferent people outweigh selling less cars to a passionate and loyal customer base?

    Subaru has to defend the brand niche that it created first, and then look out to expand if they have that wrapped up. Being know for selling AWD doesn’t cut it. Every car maker can do that now. Subaru should represent engineering for practical cars (AWD sensible vehicles for northern luberjacks) and all out crazy powerful rally cars for the hooning crowd.

    If Subaru doesn’t offer some sort of blown flat-4, MT and a wagon, I ain’t buying.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I saw one for the first time the other day. I thought it was an Escape/Tribute.

  • avatar

    Megan–when did they, um, fix the WRX? Was there a mid-2008 patch?

  • avatar
    ash78

    First they kill the Legacy GT wagon, then they water down the Forester?

    The other quirky, somewhat affordable brand (VW) started edging away from their identity a couple of years ago, save for a few standouts like the GTI. Now it looks like Subie is doing the same. I wonder if the used market will soon be the only place to find anything interesting.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Oh, and have you ever tried to get Subaru service in ATLANTA?

    The Emory area is Subie Central due to all the displaced New Englanders who couldn’t get into an Ivy League school, yet the nearby Subaru franchise has closed up shop. Subaru sent a letter claiming to be looking into establishing another dealership in the area, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    The Forester is getting taller.

    It looks like the Mitsubishi Highlander and Outlander.

    STRIPPO:

    What do you mean displaced New Englander’s who couldn’t get into an Ivy League school? Do you have a lot of people from New England who live in Atlanta? I’m from New England moved here not bred.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Strippo, there’s a new dealership going up in Kennesaw. They should be open soon, but even then they’re 20 minutes from us.

    Michael, have you been hiding under a rock? The 09 WRX is supposed to be all that and a bag of chips.

  • avatar

    Michael,

    I think she is referring to the fact that Subaru has upgraded the power numbers on the WRX to 265 horses for 2009. That 224 just wasn’t doing it in today’s market (thank you MazdaSpeed 3).

    Anyow, I haven’t driven the new Forester but I have sat in it and found it to be an ergonomic delight, the cabin is a very inviting place and has a sense of just-rightness about it. I still think the Forester provides a compelling purchase proposition to a buyer who isn’t looking to get F1 performance from their mini-ute. This is also one market segment where Subaru’s mpg numbers are very class competitive; I think it’s a good overall effort.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    when did they, um, fix the WRX? Was there a mid-2008 patch?

    The 2009 WRX (with the MT) gets a few bits and pieces from the STi plus a power upgrade to make it the dirt-loving, road racing WRX it was meant to be. The 224hp unit stays in the automatic version as the Impreza GT (probably directed at girls or something…no offence Megan).

    I hope Subaru does the same with Forester and at least give it some sporting characteristics (the hood scoop ain’t enough).

  • avatar
    Subifreak

    Disappointing review to say the least. No mention of the Subi AWD system at all….and the hood scoop is functional by the way.

    The fact that you mentioned that one could buy a “bargin bin” Jeep instead tells me everything I want to know. Which Jeep(s) are we talking about exactly? Perhaps reading some of the Jeep reviews on TTAC would serve you well. Some of the features that the Forester has you can not get on any Jeep model at any price.

    Subaru did a fine job (with the exception of still offering the 4 speed auto which is inexcusable for a 2009 vehicle) of the Forester redesign…..they will solve the transmission oversight in 2010.

  • avatar
    TheRedCar

    So your telling me that my wife’s Legacy GT MT wagon was the best of the good ole days? I drove it yesterday and was reminded why I couldn’t stand to drive it daily without some significant changes.

    The brakes are big and look up to the job, but the brakelines feel like they’re made of balloons that clowns use to make animals for kids. The seat bottoms are about 6 inches too short. The clutch has always felt like there was a large amount of Crisco used in it’s manufacturing process. The handling is only competent at best as well.

    All can be fixed for a price, but if that’s the best they ever did for the big side of a WRX, I’m out.

  • avatar

    This is an unfortunate turn for the brand.

    Part of me wonders if the lack of US-based engineering/tuning operations yields this. The Legacy is viewed as a sport sedan in Japan, so the suspension tuning is spot-on. The Japanese view SUVs as big cushy vehicles, so the marshmallow suspension tuning follows suit. Toyota and Honda both have US-based engineering arms which are tasked with tuning the suspensions for American tastes, which are admittedly more spirited than Japan (but not so much as Europe). I don’t believe SoA does the same. My Outback XT is a prime example of too much power overcoming a squishy suspension which makes for a schizophrenic driving experience. The Legacy GT is far more composed.

    Subaru is also horribly and unacceptably behind on transmission technology and refinement, and it unfortunately saps the life and efficiency out of otherwise excellent powertrains. A tall 4-speed is unacceptable, not to mention class-trailing.

  • avatar
    slinkster

    You know that line in the sand? The one we said we’d never cross? I reached mine when I test drove a 2009 mid-level Forester this past weekend. Sitting in the drivers seat everything was checking out until my eyes got to the instrument cluster. Tach, speedometer. fuel gauge…and that was it. Nothing more. Where was the water temperature gauge? (Sadly, I’m long past expecting to see an even better oil temperature gauge in this level of vehicle). The salesman patiently explained that since the water level gauge rarely moved, it had been been replaced with idiot lights. What!?! Idiot lights are what domestic manufacturers used to sprinkle their dashboards with. A speedometer, gas gauge and a bunch of idiot lights because anything more might ‘confuse’ the driver. And then, along came foreign manufacturers supplying even their base-level vehicles with a full complement of gauges- and guess what? What they did was so well received that the domestics were forced to follow suit. So Subaru, shame on your penny pinching. You can put me in that group that likes to know what’s going on with their vehicles before the point of no return (idiot light going on) is reached.

  • avatar
    olivehead

    if no one’s mentioned this already, the forester is a station wagon, pure and simple. a fat tub of goo i used to work with bought one and went on about wanting an SUV etc etc and bought a forester like he was hot shit. it’s a f**king station wagon.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Thanks for the review, sad to hear as the original one was a bit fun to drive (both on and off-road).

    I guess I’ll cross this one off my short-list as a next vehicle for Idaho. I don’t need a “sport” CUV and I really don’t need it to have more than 200hp, so I’ll wait to hear what the updated 2.5l Escape will do. Although, the CX-7 (with it’s absymal fuel economy is always there).

  • avatar
    bergerjf

    Up until a month ago we had two Outbacks a 1997 and a 2001. With the kids growing and complaining about the lack of comfort in the back middle space we started looking for a new car. Drove my dad’s brand new Rogue. Look and sat in a CRV. Reflected on the fact that Quebec city received 5.4 meters of snow last winter. Looked back at the generally good experience with our dealer and finally drove a 2009 Forester. We’ve had it for a month now and I agree that it does not feel like a 1997 Forester. It’s less sharp on the road and does not inspire as much confidence when tackling a highway ramp. But… it’s much bigger inside and we can now less reluctantly switch places with the tallest kid in back. It’s also much easier on the gas as we go about 60 km further on a tank. We bought a base 5 speed manual and although not peppy it’s a goddam family car and will do what we ask for 99% of the time in 99% of the situations. Did I mention the fact that I would’nt be caught dead driving a minivan ?

  • avatar

    slinkster:

    You probably also remember back when a 3.0 or even 2.8 was enough displacement for a six, and GM’s use of a 3.8 seemed like a quick fix of techno-lag. Because low-end torque wasn’t necessary if an engine was smooth and free-revving, right?

    You probably also remember when 188 (or fewer) inches and 3,000 pounds seemed like plenty of size and mass for a midsize car, and anything larger and heavier was a symptom of domestic excess?

    And yet, in 2008, the imports also offer large, heavy vehicles propelled by large, torquey engines. With a very limited set of instruments.

  • avatar

    Megan,

    As a matter of fact, I have essentially been under a rock. Good to hear about the powertrain. Have they also firmed up the suspension and steering? I assume the IP carries over.

  • avatar
    Adub

    I also disagree with this review.

    The new Forester provides a better ride with less noise (no clunks from the rear or shuddering over bad roads) than the old model, with way more space and a nicer interior. You can also put a rear-facing car seat in the vehicle without making the person in front scoot forward.

    Yeah, it doesn’t have a 5A, but if you are worried about fuel economy you wouldn’t buy an AWD vehicle anyway. Oh, and the old 5MT sucked. Good riddance to bad rubbish. It really was like crushing rocks.

    Subaru also switched to timing chains, meaning no more expensive belt replacements. Aside from notoriously thin paint, I don’t see what’s to like.

    And the new WRX has not been fixed.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Subaru’s been studying Forester revision with focus groups since 2004 and the result is selling well. I own an ’09 XT’s and yes, Hoons should forget it (it won’t spin tires when you floor it, but just go where you aim it). But as small SUV it works just fine, just like CU and some other reviews claim. Subaru stopped offering 5-spd MT with XT because Mt’s were not selling.
    If you want 5-spd MT and nicer trim, get Outback ’08 XT which otherwise rides harsher, leans more in turns, has less rear seat room, burns more fuel and is less responsive. Or wait for ’09 WRX with bigger motor and race-tuned suspension.
    Meanwhile let’s see what TTAC says about VW Tiguan (predict you’ll love handling but will bitch about small motor (“Only 200 hp ??”).

  • avatar
    BEAT

    For those who doesn’t know how Subaru drives on snow and wet pavement. How did I found out?

    I saw one in Front of me on the last Northestern last January.

    A Subaru FORESTER HIT a snow bank on a guard rail. It survived the crash with minimal body damage and compared to any other car out there. That’s how tough the Subarus are.

    Boxer is great engine. There is nothing more I can say about it and they deserve a hood scoop with better to breath.

    I don’t understand the comparison of a Forester and a RAV-4 or Honda CR-V
    The Forester drives like a car AND THOSE 2 drives like an SUV.

    There are no comparison with the Subaru Forester.

  • avatar
    red60r

    I guess we’ll just have to keep our ’04 Forester XS healthy. All its sloppy handling needed was for us to ditch the OEM tires.

  • avatar
    detlef

    When my fiancée totaled her ’02 Camry last February, I campaigned hard for a Subaru as a replacement because she’d moved north to Wisconsin just months before our 100+” of snow began to accumulate. I couldn’t stand her Toyota’s uncomfortably numb steering and road feel, which exacerbated her trouble in adjusting to driving up north, and which reminded me more of my high school whip (a ’68 Chrysler) than anything else I’ve driven in quite a while.

    Since my fiancée loved her Toyota and wanted to give one another go, we arrived at a compromise, and test-drove both the inline-4 and V6 RAV4s, along with a Honda CR-V, an ultra-low mileage Saab 9-2X, the outgoing-model Forester, and an Outback. The CR-V felt tinny, buzzy, and the dealership was pretty ambivalent about showcasing their product. The four-pot RAV4 felt dangerously underpowered, while the V6 felt like it had too much for the “Chassis by Novacaine” setup, particularly without the full-time AWD I was looking for. I didn’t want to buy a new vehicle and immediately have to purchase snow tires to boot. Plus, $30k for a RAV4 Sport w/part-time 4wd & moonroof and you don’t even get leather? Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot, over. The Saab was a hoot to drive, but the size wasn’t right for our needs with kids on the horizon, and I didn’t want yet another car dependent on premium fuel (I drive a turbo’d Volvo wagon).

    So it was down to the (now old-model) Forester and the Outback. We both found much to like about the Forester, but the front buckets were hard enough to make the most devout Baptist curse, and the rear seat “leg room” wasn’t even enough for the ghost of Eddie Gaedel. Since we do a fair amount of long-distance driving to visit family, we wound up picking a loaded Outback 2.5i Limited and sacrificing something like two cubic feet of overall cargo space. My Volvo’s bigger than either Subie, so this wasn’t a big deal.

    We love the Outback for the most part, but that 4-speed auto my fiancée wanted is pretty infuriating. For a loaded car within spitting distance of $30k to not have a 5-speed auto at minimum is pretty ridiculous, and while it’s nice to see that Subaru addressed the leg room issues in the old Forester (are the front seats at least comfortable now, Megan?), they’d have better ensured future sales by making their 5-speed auto standard across the range of models and kept the iconic squared-off styling instead of churning out a down-sized Tribeca.

    On the subject of Subaru losing its way under Toyota: I see it’s no longer possible to configure an Outback with the flat-6. What gives? Are Tribeca sales hurting that bad?

  • avatar
    TonyTiger

    Megan – I was actually going to give the Forester a test drive this year. Never been interested in the old one. Just too F’Ugly for my taste. And Consumer Reports rates the 09 Forester the BEST little CUV?SUV?Station Wagon/whatever. Ahead of about 20 others. Now you’ve burst my bubble!
    detlef – that Saab you really liked? THat IS a Subaru.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Go Tony Tiger,

    Buy the Forester. I am Mitsubishi fan but I have a lot of respect for the Forester,Outback and especially the WRx.

    Please test drive the WRX and it’s tight handling you won’t get disappointed. if not the Forester try the other models that I mentioned.

    They are very very good on snow and hard body panel that you won’t get disappointed if you heat a Mazda in the rear.

  • avatar
    detlef

    @TonyTiger

    Yeah, I know about the Saabaru’s glorious bastard lineage. Like I said, with the turbo it was a blast to drive, but it wasn’t the right car for the person who’d be driving it 90% of the time, and definitely would have been too small when kids and dogs come along in a few years.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Actually, for those looking for an alternate to the Forester, but something about the same size and with a reasonably nice engine (and that don’t need AWD), the Tiguan was pretty nice (and the jetta sportwagen even nicer, if that’s how you roll). I’m working on that review.

  • avatar

    I thought TTAC had already covered the Tiguan. I guess not.

    I drove one when they first arrived at dealers. Sounds like my opinion differs from Megan’s on this one. Disliked both the powertrain performance and the handling. Drove a GTI immediately afterwards to verify that both the powertrain and the chassis work much better in the hatch. They do.

    I haven’t yet driven the Jetta in wagon form, but based on the Jetta GLI and GTI would much rather have one of those than a Tiguan. I think I’d also opt for the Forester over the Tiguan.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Megan mentioned the VW’s these car are being snob by the consumers or THE Mazda lovers.

    The new Jetta GTI will make your Toupee hide in the glove compartment.

    It is just a very fast car.

    I mean the commercial is right You don’t need a rice rocket to go faster just drive the VW Jetta GTI and you don’t have to paint your brake calipers.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I bet the 2009 Rav4′s new 187 HP 4 cylinder will blow this out of the water in terms of value/MPG/everything!!

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    detlef,

    I hope you are wrong about the Outback 3.0R being unavailable. That is on my short list for the commuter/utility car in the garage. This type of duty is what makes a Forester attractive to alot of buyers. Im no fan of the Forester, but I understand the appeal. For me, the Outback does everything better, though I do long for a manual transmission for the H6.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    You can put me in that group that likes to know what’s going on with their vehicles before the point of no return (idiot light going on) is reached.

    I’ve got some terrible news for you! Such a gauge is virtually nonexistent in new cars, even if there is a water temp gauge provided.

    At GM we used to get a lot of warranty claims for cooling systems in Saturns. People thought their cars were overheating as the needle swung back and forth in response to the cooling fan cycling while at a long stoplight.

    Two model years later and I noticed that the replacement Saturns had temperature needles that just sat in one spot, regardless of actual coolant temperature. I asked one of the powertrain engineers and he told me that GM’s new coolant gauges have only three positions: cold (warmup), “normal” (anything between warmup and overheating), and “point of no return” (overheated, shut down immediately).

    Since then, I’ve noticed this on every single newer car (MY2000+) I’ve owned or driven. You start the car and the needle creeps up to a certain point on the indicator and just parks there indefinitely. You can clearly see on an OBDII instrument that the coolant temp is actually fluctuating, but the gauge is lifeless, stuck right in the middle.

    I haven’t driven a Subaru in quite some time, but I’d make a healthy wager that even if they provide a gauge, it’s just like everyone else’s, with only three real positions: cold, normal, and “oh crap.” If you think that having a coolant gauge in a new car is really giving you any extra information beyond an idiot light, my opinion is that you’re fooling yourself.

    It’s frustrating, very much like the oil pressure gauge on my Miata that actually doesn’t display oil pressure, it’s a computer simulation unless there is a catastrophic loss, at which point it drops to zero. An idiot light would be just as effective.

  • avatar
    detlef

    @socsndaisy

    If you go to the Subaru NA website, they won’t let you configure/order an Outback with the flat-six, so I’m guessing they’ve discontinued that level of spec, looking forward to bringing over an Exiga 3.0 at some point.

    If you’re looking for an Outback with the six right now, you might still be able to find one at a dealer. It just doesn’t look good going forward.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    Megan, at first I thought that you were simply insane for the way this review portrays the new Forester, but the echoes of confirmation seem to validate your prose.

    I once lived in Portland, Oregon and the Subaru population there is simply immense. Easily a quarter of vehicles on the road, and for good reason.

    Well, it was for good reason. If they’ve switched from durable, tossable, rugged vehicles with nimble handling and highly sophisticated AWD systems to dolled-up RAV4s, well, that makes me sad.

    Between this and the new WRX-Corolla, maybe they lost the plot. For shame.

  • avatar
    deskofipps

    Let met get this out of the way first: I am a Honda Loyalist. I own 2 currently, and have owned 8 total. I was very very excited when the new CR-V was released, and then bought an Element SC. We also shopped the 2007 Outback & Forrester. The wife LOVED both Subies, but didn’t really love the lack of space. The current gen Forrester fixed that.

    It no longer looks like a tiny Volvo Wagon with a hood scoop, and yes, it could get mistaken for a Hyundai, Kia or Toyota. The DNA of the vehicle is still there though… Still has the stupidly large sunroof, the bulletproof 4wd & engine, and much to my (F*cking) chagrin, the room I had wanted out of the CR-V.

    I have driven the XT, and its not a corner scalpel in the least, and the quirkyness has been dialed back just enough to draw the ire of the Subaru Loyalists. But guess what… it sells, and it introduces people to the brand, which sadly, is what they wanted it to do. Its not perfect, but it solves (for the brand and Subaru) a lot of problems that the outgoing Forrester had.

    I hate saying this, but the comment about getting an RDX is SO off base… That poor thing is a tank, and can ONLY seat 4. Yes it hauls becky, but damn, its such a one trick pony. There’s no 4wd, you would never want to put a roof rack on it or get it muddy.

    As far as the Tiguan… ha ha ha… VW’s… I am not sure they can ever remove the stigma of the previous generation of Jettas that were riddled with problems, and the first generation of Touregs.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I hate saying this, but the comment about getting an RDX is SO off base… That poor thing is a tank, and can ONLY seat 4. Yes it hauls becky, but damn, its such a one trick pony. There’s no 4wd, you would never want to put a roof rack on it or get it muddy.

    It seats 5, same as the Forester XT. Perhaps with a bit less leg room… it’s a little smaller overall (tank? hardly). It also has AWD, but a different system than Subaru uses. It’s also powerful and handles superbly, two things the Forester XT is lacking. The Forester XT is a zero trick pony, as far as i can tell. Another dullmobile for the masses… it was sheer incompetence to put a turbocharger in it and do nothing else.

    The Tiguan isn’t being built in Mexico, which is where all the bum Jettas come from. Interpret that how you will. I’ve had my GTI a year and a half now and I’ve had to replace the passenger seat airbag sensor… and I’d take up half a post listing the woes we’d had with the LGT by that point. Anyone who is buying a Subaru for the reliability is kidding themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      excavator

      I read all the review and the comments and decided ive got to take this forester for a test. i own a v6 rav4 wich has lots of guts and output of 201kw of power. i tested a lot of compact 4 wheel drives under $50,000 before  i purchased a rav4 and found it to be the overall best and reliable. after testing the 2009 subaru forester xt premium 5sp manual, i thought it put all other compact 4×4 to shame. there was only one other i hadnt tested, and that was the all new mitubishi outlander and that landed at the bottom of the list along with Tiguan and Hyundai Tuscan. i dont know how well other people drive, but this 4×4 was good enough to turn the sharpest corners, no lag in accelleration, continuous power, excellent braking and auto levelling suspension, very sensitive steering, and i could take corners so sharp at 60km/h with two fingers on the steering wheel, i can confidently argue that anyone incapable of cornering with this vehicle needs more experience driving.

    • 0 avatar
      robert_h

      Megan, in your review of the 2009 Acura RDX on this site, you wrote: “What I want is the RDX’s engine and AWD system in a 3,200lb car, not a 4,000lb tank. “

  • avatar

    2 Questions:

    If you hated it so very much, why 3 stars?

    And, sorry for being stupid and all, but what is a “hoon”? Is that the latest word for tuner? Somehow sounds like it should be offensive to somebody. Just not sure who.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Isn’t “hoon” an abbreviation of “hooligan”? A number of car sites use both interchangeably. It appears to refer to a class of drivers who live for showing off their vehicles by burning rubber, squealling tires, parking lot drifting and otherwise “unruly” car behavour.

    Wrt Honda RDX, I’ve read it has a very stiff ride and less suspension travel than Forester does (the youtube vids of Forester climbing the Catalina Island hills speak for themselves; the CR-V they had there got nowhere), along with some turbo lag. The ’09 Foresters I drove went up a 500′ 45 degree pothole filled public road hill without breaking a sweat. But different spokes for different folks – you can get lemons from any auto manufacturer. I know Honda didn’t lift a finger to help me with my Accord lemon – time will tell wrt Subaru.

    The XT’s a more responsive drivetrain compared to other Foresters (on order of 3 seconds or so 0-60 time) and is more torquey at lower RPM (Outbacks by comparison need higher revs). Still it does need Premium due to engine heat issues. Subaru gives you a choice to turbo or not.

  • avatar
    deskofipps

    The RDX also gets terrible mileage, EFFECTIVELY seats 4, has no cargo room, and is heavy for its size (hence “Tank”). Yes, it does fly, and it really handles well, but its overpriced and hasn’t found a market. Again, from Subaru’s standpoint, this vehicle introduces a LOT more people to the brand than the previous vehicle.

  • avatar
    msowers1

    “unexpected surprises” is redundant

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    deskofipps:
    Again, from Subaru’s standpoint, this vehicle introduces a LOT more people to the brand than the previous vehicle.

    Good point, but you mistakenly think it’s a positive. The Subaru brand was not meant to appeal to the typical crap driver “a LOT more people”. If they become Toyota, they’ll eventually lose the brand.

  • avatar

    Megan, it sounds like you got an especially bad Legacy, which was more likely (but still not typical) with the 2005 than with subsequent years.

    With the GTI–one such repair per year is actually about 50 percent worse than the current average. And compact VWs have been doing a touch better than this low average in my surveys. A bit of a surprise to me, but that’s what owners have been reporting.

    What’s this mean? That with just about any model these days (but not quite all of them), you’re looking at the odds of a single repair trip per year, not the number of trips, during the warranty period. Afterwards…

  • avatar

    There’s a clear consensus in this thread: the 2009 Forester isn’t the choice for enthusiasts, but can be a very good choice for non-enthusiasts. And since the latter greatly outnumber the former…Forester sales are up!

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    If you hated it so very much, why 3 stars?

    Because hating it doesn’t make it necessarily a bad car. It just means that personally, I do not like it.

    The RDX also gets terrible mileage, EFFECTIVELY seats 4, has no cargo room, and is heavy for its size (hence “Tank”). Yes, it does fly, and it really handles well, but its overpriced and hasn’t found a market. Again, from Subaru’s standpoint, this vehicle introduces a LOT more people to the brand than the previous vehicle.

    The RDX seats 5 just as well as the Forester does. In fact, the RDX is wider. It also has only marginally less cargo space (about 2 cubic feet, probably because of how the rear isn’t as square as the Forester). Yes, it is very heavy for its size (about 500 lbs heavier)… which is probably why it gets worse gas mileage than the (17/22 vs 19/24). But then, it also has a hell of a lot more power than the Forester, so that gas mileage difference is a shame… shows that Subaru still can’t figure out how to get decent gas mileage out of their cars. I see a million RDXs on the road here in Atlanta so someone must be buying them… but then, they’re dirt cheap now, too. I’d buy one in a heartbeat over a Forester, but I value speed, handling, and the ‘fun’ factor. You may not.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Visit several comparison sites to see the RDX costs $6K more than XT, weighs more, has more interior features, less ground clearance, higher reving peakier engine, uses more fuel, bigger wheels and tires, 0-60 a little faster than XT.

    Magan’s not alone – Edmunds claims the RDX is “the sport sedan of SUVS”. In LA I’d probably be driving that, but not in Portland OR, where roads are too rough for stiffly sprung vehicles.

    Meanwhile there’s the Toyota RAV4 V6 with even more power, but I suspect TTAC will find that too squirrly and soft compared to the RDX.

  • avatar
    bikerguy123

    Can’t comment on the turbo XT model, but I recently purchased a Forester X model, and am very satisfied with it. I would never have bought the old-style Forester (and I’ve never owned a Subaru previously)…it was too boxy and the interior was too small. But Subaru did their homework, and the new version improves upon the previous shortcomings. FYI – I test drove the RAV4 (hate that rear mounted spare tire!) and new CRV (ugly, ugly, ugly!). Neither offered manual xmission w/ moonroof, so I chose Forester.

    The Forester X is one of very few CUV’s you can buy equipped with AWD, manual xmission (5 spd) and moonroof (X3 and Cayenne are two others, but
    cost way more $$$), which were my primary buying criteria. Secondarily, I wanted interior cargo space, towing ability, and good fuel economy. And good safety features/ratings. The Forester delivers on all these. And it only cost $21,800.

    With the 5 spd non-turbo powertrain, this car is a blast to drive. Virtually no body roll, and plenty of power. And the AWD system is superior to most other CUV’s, which you’ll appreciate when you are in the snow or on the beach (the comparo videos are out there on the net). And I am averaging 26-30 mpg in city/hwy driving.

    Could the vehicle be better? Sure – the passenger seat is mounted too low, the factory audio system is not-so-good, etc. But any/every vehicle has it’s tradeoffs…for me the Forester offers tremendous fun, utility, and value.

  • avatar
    rpenna

    While I’m still trying to decide whether I like the new model, I sure wouldn’t even be considering the old body style.

    I have 2 kids, both in carseats. We passed on a legacy because we couldn’t get a rear facing Britax in it and have enough room to drive unless I partially amputated my legs. (5’10″ btw)

    Looks like I’m in the minority when it comes to the looks though. I think this is an improvement over the last model, as I do with the new Impreza’s. Marketing to 65 year olds with one model and 18 year olds with another will only get you so far. I’m in my 30′s, so I like to see a sportier wagon or a smaller hatch that doesn’t have some idiotic race wing hanging off the back.

    Did they really botch this car that bad? I find it hard to believe the old one could corner well. It also had a 4 speed automatic. The backseats had very little room, so they did fix that.

    The RDX had the most punishing ride in any $35,000 vehicle I’ve ever experienced. Apparently in this decade, marketing deams it “sport tuned suspension”. I guess if you can’t reach the pacifier in the Acura, it won’t matter, as you won’t hear the kids screaming due to the deafening road noise.

    My dad just bought 2 Sante Fe’s and I chuckled. Maybe he’s on to something.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I haven’t driven a Subaru in quite some time, but I’d make a healthy wager that even if they provide a gauge, it’s just like everyone else’s, with only three real positions: cold, normal, and “oh crap.” If you think that having a coolant gauge in a new car is really giving you any extra information beyond an idiot light, my opinion is that you’re fooling yourself.

    Just like the idiot oil pressure gauge on my buddy’s Dodge Ram!

    I’m very happy that my ’04 Mazda3 does have a real temperature gauge though. I know because it will never totally warm up if I’m just idling at -40 with the heater on, and I can move the temperature up or down by adjusting the heater fan speed. The needle position doesn’t move much once it’s warm at moderate temperatures, but you can still nudge it up or down a little if you pay close attention.

  • avatar
    cynder

    Because hating it doesn’t make it necessarily a bad car. It just means that personally, I do not like it.

    See, I thought this was “The Truth About Cars,” not “My Opinion and Bias about whatever.”

    The fact is that it may well be worthy of only three stars as the Forester is competent, reliable, solid and all the other buzz words. The Forester may lack the character needed to allow it stand out from many of the other CUV/SUV’s on the market.

    For crying out loud, I could grab a Honda Civic Si and bitch about how it doesn’t hold up to rutted roads, allow back seat passengers or enough luggage space for a family vacation while towing a boat–it fails to live up to SUV duty.

    Simply put, the Forester XT review is botched since it was reviewed as a sports car, namely the WRX, and not what it is the Forester with more horsepower/torque for towing.

  • avatar
    thoots

    Oh, good, some valuable information finally:

    bikerguy123′s thoughts about the Forester X: good, solid info.

    cynder nails it:

    Simply put, the Forester XT review is botched since it was reviewed as a sports car….

    Absolutely my biggest beef with “reviews” in general, and quite a few of them here at TTAC specifically.

    I’d say that about 95% of the drivers on the planet don’t buy vehicles based upon some need for “hoonage-worthy” performance capabilities. Yet, over and over and over again, we get the usual “It sucks because it doesn’t perform like a BMW 3-series coupe.”

    Enough, please?

    Which leads me to one question that I really didn’t see answered:

    If it may not drive like a sports car, does it at least have “competent” handling and performance for the kind of everyday driving that 95% of the human beings on the planet do 95% of the time? i.e., like cruising down the freeway, commuting to the office, and obeying the speed limit on two-lane highways?

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I did not review it as a sports car, I reviewed it as a CUV/SUV, and as such, I didn’t think it was anything special. I hated how it handled, I hated the automatic transmission, I hated how uncomfortably placed the front seats were, and I hated that Subaru doesn’t seem to know what the hell they’re doing anymore (and I see I’m not the only one). But because this isn’t about my personal bias/loathing of the vehicle, it got 3 stars. Otherwise, it would have gotten one, and y’all would have *really* been complaining. Don’t like my review? Write your own.

    The sad fact is, most SUV drivers will never take their cars off road… now, it may be that many more subaru drivers will take their foresters off road than the average SUV driver, but 99% of their driving will be on city streets… the easy stuff that the forester handles incredibly poorly. Would you rather I write a review about the things you know it will handle well (just like every other review of the forester), or would you rather hear about the stuff that will drive you nuts and possibly make you regret ever purchasing one? Personally, I don’t care for the endless regurgitation of press releases that constitutes most car reviews, so if that’s what you really want, I would not recommend reading any review with my name attached to it.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    bikerguy123, you must be driving your Forester incredibly slow to get no body roll out of it. The one I drove rolled like it was going out of style. But that’s what you get with a soft suspension.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Opinions on ’09 Forester handling vary hugely; Many sites including C&D say it’s fine, others say it leans in turns like a old barge. Perhaps TTAC got a bad one to drive?
    More XT things to diss; interior’s cheap for $30K car (hard or thin painted plastic), engine growls rather than revs endlessly, brake pedal’s soft, front foot room’s minimal, etc.
    Why I bought one; good dealer service, decent AWD for snow, soft suspension handles rough roads well, decent engine response, etc. It’s solid transportation, not a driving rush.

  • avatar
    red herring

    After having lived with a Forester XT for over 3,000 miles, trust me that decisions made about it in “30 seconds” should be viewed with suspicion. It’s everything I was looking for in a small SUV–and who cares, really, whether it’s an SUV or a “tall wagon”? With few exceptions, all of such vehicles necessarily tend to look somewhat alike. I don’t find the XT’s performance lacking in any way, in fact for the price, packaging and efficiency I think it’s exceptional. At 6’4″ 240 lbs. there are precious few other small SUV’s I can even fit in.
    The fact that really caused me to question Ms. Benoit’s credibility in this review and the degree of apparent hatred, however, was her final paragraph recommending the Acura RDX–a car I wanted to like very badly (having owned several Acuras) and over the course of a full day test drive ended up hating as much as she hated the XT. The only seat I fit in was the driver’s seat (all other positions jammed my knees hard into the dash or front seats), the straight-line performance was almost identical to the Forester (6.6 vs. 6.7 sec. 0-60) while the fuel economy was measurably worse (one owner described it as “sucking gas like a cabin cruiser”–and that’s because of “a hell of a lot more power”? 16 hp–Acura 240, Forester 224–is a hell of a lot of power in what world? Lawnmowers?), and worst of all the handling, though sharp, created a ride quality like a coal cart. I couldn’t wait to bring it back to the dealer.
    My advice–spend some solid time with these cars and don’t put too much credibility to any one person’s opinion; what works for them may not work at all for you.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Just about any car reviewers opinion should be tested out by an actual test drive…the car review is to bring things to attention, summarize a vehicle in a short period of time, and test one vehicle against a multitude by a person who does it for a living (i.e. comparing the free-revvingness of various engines can only be done by…you guessed it….freely revving multiple engines).

    Megan – Great review. Makes me want to look into Polygamy.

    Sorry to hear about the LGT problems….my 08 LGT, after a brief period of almost 7000 miles now, has not had a single problem yet. Short shifter installed (that’s a wonderful thing), Sway bars and some slickoils going in the trans/diff coming soon.

    From reading lots of posts, I tend to think Megan’s review came out as “spot on”. People are deriding her for giving it 3 stars, but it seems she was very blatantly giving it 3 stars as having lost it’s athletic capabilities. I don’t know about you Megan, but I’ve driven Subaru’s turbocharged engines with a 5-speed manual and with a 4-speed automatic, and the 4-speed tends to make any athleticism get sucked up into the giant torque converter in the sky.

    One thing I give apropos to the Forester for….it lost weight. It got bigger in every direction, and is overall less hefty than it’s previous iteration.

    For those of you who seem a touch sensitive…isn’t Subaru losing some of it’s “street cred”?

    The 2008 WRX re-do wound up with a too softly sprung car with an engine putting out the same approx. amount of power it was 6 years before, the same wrongly-ratioed clunky 5-speed, a better designed interior with most of the same cheap materials, etc.

    Of course, they rushed to fix this by adding 41 HP in a 2009 refresh as well as a better suspension and tires.

    The Legacy GT has had 4 years of greatness…we’ll see what they do in ’010.

    And the Forester was taken away from it’s “Wagon Mafia” crew and given to the “Rav4CRV4ever crew”.

    A better vehicle? Probably. True to it’s roots? Probably not.

    Joe

  • avatar
    nmpbk

    Sure Subaru ‘can’ do better than this – but do they even need to? Look how many foresters are out there (especially up here in New England). And if you have driven one of the previous gen models, you’ll see that there is not much there. Very.. stark.. cars. But at the same time very capable.

    Very few Forester drivers are flying into corners at high speeds or care about “handling” and obviously even less go off-roading. However, plenty drive on terribly cruddy roads, haul piles of stuff, and need something that will not break when they do so. I still commend my little old Outback Sport for not breaking into 300 pieces after all the stuff it went through. I doubt the Acura would hold up as well, or that someone would want to subject that much money to any abuse (it is MANY thousands more than the FXT and is really not a relative competitor at all here).

  • avatar
    SLLTTAC

    My company has two 2007 Foresters and one 2008 Forester, all bought new and all basic models with automatic transmission. The two older cars have more than 60,000 miles each and have been trouble-free. I drive a 2007 Legacy spec.B sedan and my wife drives a 2007 Outback LLBean 3.0; both have about 17,000 miles and both have been trouble-free. I’ve owned or leased three other Subarus. Over all, the Subarus’ reliability has been very good, better than the two v-8 Audis I have had. Subaru makes imperfect vehicles—every manufacturer makes imperfect products—but they last a long time and the cost of ownership is low, both in dollars and in time spent at a repair shop.

    For 2010, Subaru may introduce continuously variable transmissions, according to many sources. Perhaps that’s why Subaru hasn’t replaced its four-speed and five-speed automatic transmissions recently.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    For 2010, Subaru may introduce continuously variable transmissions, according to many sources. Perhaps that’s why Subaru hasn’t replaced its four-speed and five-speed automatic transmissions recently.

    The reason the Forester still gets the 4AT is because Subaru currently lacks the capacity to build enough 5ATs. I read it on the internets so it must be true.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    red herring:
    After having lived with a Forester XT for over 3,000 miles, trust me that decisions made about it in “30 seconds” should be viewed with suspicion.

    I disagree. Crap shows itself quickly. I make <30 second decisions about cars all the time. It’s easy:

    Get in the car, start it, position the seats & mirrors, drive it slowly around the lot, park, think…

    You can get a sense of the seating, ergonomics, engine noise and steering feel. Excellence in design and function are often subtle and require time, but crap stinks immediately. This is especially true of horror show designs (the Cavalier and Trailblazer come to mind).

    Of course, if you’re a reviewer from Edmunds/C&D or any major newspaper, all cars are above average and no cars suck – ever.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Does the 4-speed automatic retain the bad gearing of the previous version? I have heard people complain that the previous Forester cruised at 70mph with the engine RPM at 3500! This alone could be a deal breaker for me. Come out, even the domestics have mostly parted with the 4 speed transmissions.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    There’s a time and place for 4-speed automatic transmissions.

    It’s called the 70s.

    Joe

  • avatar
    fisher72

    4spd slushbox is why we will not re-up with any Subaru product.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Fisher – Don’t worry, they have a great 5-speed automatic that’s now on the newest Legacy GT among other places.

    Joe

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    Given the restults of this year’s “Top 10 Cars” voting (with the crappy, frumpy Mazda3 taking the top (ahem) spot), why don’t we try to be proactive and just agree that the Subaru Forester XT will be the #1 car of 2009? It’s ugly and frumpy enough, and I’m sure there are lots “regular joes” out there who will swear by its uncanny agility as it circles the cul de sac, the way the engine sings as you pull out of the CostCo parking lot, the way the brakes bite *hard* when little Timmy’s Big Wheel unexpectedly hoves into view…and especially how really it’s much cheaper than an M3. And how even heterosexual men like them.

    Then we can move right on to the guys who inevitably will post about how a 1984 ‘vette will beat anything, and why wasn’t it on the list?

    Etc.

  • avatar
    detlef

    @gaycorvette

    No way, man. The 1983 ‘Vette was the best one they ever made.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Saturn tried a 5-speed auto for the ION for 3 years before they gave up on that rough shifting aisin clunker, and switched to 4 speed used in Cobalt. The ION immediately got better fuel mileage and same performance it had with 5-speed.

    A __well matched__ 5 speed would help the XT. But meanwhile, the XT’s 4-speed’s limits show up mostly over 75 mph; otherwise (C&D and a few other mags say this – go beat on them :-) ) it’s pretty well matched to the engine.

    Meanwhile, it’ll be fun to see what TTAC says about the ’09 WRX!

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    gaycorvette, you’re my new hero. Ever thought about writing car reviews?

  • avatar
    vento97

    The sad fact is, most SUV drivers will never take their cars off road…

    With the proliferation of on-board navigation systems, it can also be said that most (SUV) drivers seldom KEEP their eyes on the road…

  • avatar
    nudave

    Considering the small fry of the automotive world usually need the help of the big fish, Subaru did all right on the redesign.

    Subaru could have been, until very recently, fatally contaminated with General Motors DNA. I’d say their customers should be grateful.

    Just look at how GM has “helped” Isuzu.

    As for the hood scoop blocking the view over the hood, that’s simple to solve.

    Buy the non-turbo version and get a booster seat with some of the money thus saved.

  • avatar

    Like it or not, I’d buy it if they added a pickup bed and called it the ’09 Baja. I happen to like frumpy and ungainly designs, just like I think Ugly Betty is a babe. But I still think the ’09 Focus is ugly as hell.

    (Representing for “Guys Who Will Buy Anything Small With A Pickup Bed on It”)

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    Nice 4Runner. Oh, that’s a Subaru. And we complained about Chris Bangle… So who’s mangling these new Subies?

  • avatar

    My wife owns a Forester XT that will smoke an E39 540i around Infineon (done and proven). It will surprise several different “sports cars”, and has been known to play with (and keep up easily) with the M5 of the same era. This Forester isn’t particularly fast, especially considering there are Foresters out there turning 12′s in the 1/4 —–

    The Forester has evolved quite nicely. I currently own a ’98, my wife owns an ’04, and we’ve both had the experience of driving the ’09 – right before it was placed on a dyno. It handled rather well considering it was completely stock. We were expecting a lot more body roll, and definitely a soft(er) ride, but when we took it into the twisties, it firmed up nicely, giving us the confidence to drive it quickly.

  • avatar
    snarfblat

    About the only things I can agree with is that it could use the 5sp auto and a height-adjuster on the passenger seat. And I bet it gets them within a year or so.

    Meanwhile, my wife LOVES hers. It gets great mileage and handles almost as well as my new WRX.

  • avatar
    p0926

    I did not review it as a sports car I reviewed it as a CUV/SUV

    Could have fooled me. The vast majority of your comments addressed its “Sport” aspects (or lack thereof). There was scant mention of the vehicle’s utility.

    I hated how it handled

    Again you compare it unfavorably to the RDX which rides great for a sports car but no so much as an everyday pothole thumping driver.

    I hated the automatic transmission

    Many have abused Subaru for only offering a 4-speed but few who actually drive it think it suffers noticeably from lacking an extra gear. Adding extra gears just for the sake of having more is merely pandering to the American mentality that more is always better. There are certainly automotive examples that prove otherwise.

    I hated how uncomfortably placed the front seats were

    Okay however you could at least acknowledge that seat fit and comfort are very subjective and what one person finds comfortable, someone else will think is painfully uncomfortable.

    I hated that Subaru doesn’t seem to know what the hell they’re doing anymore

    I think this is the real root of your animosity. And you can certainly make a good argument that by appealing more to the masses, Subaru risks not only losing its core enthusiasts but also seeing its market niche disappear. However, you could just as easily argue that were Subaru to only offer quirky AWD vehicles in a market increasingly flooded with AWD choices, that Subaru’s survival would be in question.

    Don’t get me wrong; I would love it if Subaru sold the Forester STi (manual of course) here in the States but… I recognize that for what it offers, the FY09 Forester is a pretty big hit.

    And the Forester offers a lot: utility, practicality, middle-of-the-road looks, decent sporty handling for a small SUV; all at a reasonable price.

  • avatar
    Lungy

    Seems you have stirred up a quite a hornets nest with this review which was probably the point I suppose.
    As a 09 owner I disagree with this review. Sure it is no longer the thunderbolt that fits a couple of midgets in the back seat but as a SUV isn`t that a good thing.
    It`s a crossover that drives well on road ,is sharp in the twisties(much better than previous models)and performs really well off road ,check the youtube videos of catalina jeep trails to see what it does to its opposition.
    On top of this it is selling like hotcakes.Subaru is onto a winner as evidenced with its increased sales.

  • avatar
    kjc117

    Well I give Megan credit in being honest for her dislike of the Forester. However, that does not mean the Subie is a bad car or deserves just three stars.

    In which lies a bigger issue with TTAC’s car reviews. Ratings are based on likes or dislikes of the reviewer for the vehicle and not solely on the merits of the car. For this reason I rarely read TTAC reviews and for the review giving a Bullit Mustang 5 stars?

    For the last time, TOYOTA HAD NO INPUT ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRENT FORESTER!!!!

  • avatar

    …as the perfect example of how to alienate the hippies and hoons that bought Subaru after Subaru.

    Roo: Generalizations and insults anyone? Am I a hippie? Well, conceived in the “Summer of Love” maybe, if that counts…am I a hoon? Hmm…sorry, that description doesn’t fit either.

    …and finding your mother-in-law standing there instead. At least the MIL eventually goes home. The Forester XT just hangs around and keeps disappointing.

    Roo: Another generalization about MILs?

    Why is Subaru making SUVs? Beats me, ask Toyota.

    Roo: Toyota owns a MINORITY share in Fuji Heavy Industries. It does NOT control the day-to-day decisions or operations of FHI.

    Step on inside. See that hood scoop? Yes, that bulbous nostril encroaching upon your field of vision

    Roo: You mean the INTEGRATED hood scoop? It has a MUCH LOWER profile than previous generations.

    Then the cold hard reality hit me that (A) I’m going to be riding in the front 99.995% of the time and (B) it is wicked hard to reach into the baby’s car seat to retrieve a pacifier when it’s a half mile back.

    Roo: If you have a child, and are NOT driving, what prevents you from riding in the back seat with the child? If you ARE driving, then you shouldn’t be removing your attention from the road to give the child a pacifier.

    The new Forester, like the WRX, packs more low-end torque at the expense of the high end but unlike the WRX it feels oddly sluggish overall.

    Roo: That’s FUNNY…they have the SAME MOTOR!!!

    Want to add insult to injury? Here are your four automatic gears. By this point, I’m starting to wonder if Subaru doesn’t just want to discourage their hoon-oriented customers– they actively want to crush their spirits.

    Roo: There are notches below “D”, and properly used WITH rev-matching (YES, you CAN rev-match the 4EAT), you can keep up with the rest of the guys and gals.

    The handling, absolutely atrocious even by SUV standards, betrays Subaru’s integral brand image. The loosey-goosey steering wheel feels like the ‘91 Explorer my parents drove.

    Roo: That’s why I can manage to handle a STOCK ’09 Forester at entry speeds twice the posted suggestion on the road signs?

    Understeer makes cornering an exercise in unexpected surprises. This fact might make you a safer driver, but not by choice. The whole thing handles like a sack of cornmeal being hauled by sled dogs – it’s all mush.

    Roo: With proper driving techniques, a LOT can be done to overcome the understeer. Fact is, every car in its class has been built with understeer for liability reasons, and that applies to MOST cars on the road. Purpose built sports cars excepted, the companies don’t want to build in oversteer, because MOST drivers wouldn’t be able to cope with losing control of the vehicle.

    …but if you have off-roading in your plans, why buy one of these when you can get a bargain bin Jeep instead?

    Roo: Reliability? Safety? Those would be my top two answers.

    If you’re looking for a sporty, fast CUV with room for the family, go buy an Acura RDX. It may be more expensive, but you’ll never regret it.

    Roo: Nice if you can afford an extra $7k, and suffer the gas mileage penalty. EPA mileage estimates 20/26 vs. 17/22.

  • avatar
    p0926

    but if you have off-roading in your plans, why buy one of these when you can get a bargain bin Jeep instead?

    Because as you emphatically pointed out, even off-road capable vehicles spend 99% of their time on paved roads and the on-road manners of Jeeps don’t exactly win a lot of praise.

    Wait a minute; Megan likes stiff punishing rides so maybe she might actually prefer a Jeep Wrangler ;-)

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    TTAC could simplify things and offer the viewer a choice of vehicle reviews by brand (as they do now) or vehicle reviews by reviewer. The latter would immediately show the “slant” of the reviewer and give us a better understanding how said reviewer will see a given test vehicle.

  • avatar
    Winghunter

    Doing as much homework as I can I’m very glad to have found all of you here BUT, some of you will be happy I dropped by also…I may have solutions for most of the repeated complaints for handling and performance IF the service center at “Cobb Tuning” returns my email offering they can or will be able to do the same for the 2009 Forester XT Turbo that they did for an ’06;

    Demon Tweak: 2006 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited – Specialty File

    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/hot_lists/high_performance/sport_compacts/demon_tweak_2006_subaru_forester_2_5xt_limited_specialty_file

    The tire idea is a good one only if you’re a warm weather tarmac driver but, Michelins have proven themselves to my entirely family time after time and vehicle after vehicle…it’s just a night and day difference in all categories as tires go.

    What I do not have a solution for is the 5 speed AT…that bothers the hell out of me and I’ll have to make some more contacts on that score.

    My only question for Megan at this point is; Just how tall are you Ma’m?? I mean, are the seats THAT low and uncomfortable?? Well, at any rate I’ll know to look specifically for this by sitting in all the seats and I thank you for the heads-up.

    Thanks again guys and gals, your input was and is invaluable.

  • avatar
    Winghunter

    UPDATE:

    If after you read the article on Cobb’s Tuning and like what you see they have a forum where you can request they step up to improving the ’09 Forester.

    http://forums.cobbtuning.com/forums/showthread.php?t=39858&page=2

    According to Subaru sales the ’09 Forester has increased sales by over 50% and a good business man never fails to observe a niche that’s wide open.

    Maybe next year Subaru will make the appropriate improvements at their factory but, until then…

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Some posters commented here about Subaru removing the center diff and rear limited slip diff from ’09 Forester for cost reasons. However, Outbacks and Legacies with those parts have handling issues – check out videos at Consumers Union and watch Legacy’s tail fly out in emergency handling, something mostly due to the Limited slip Diff and rear suspension.

    Nissian designed the GT-R’s Limited slip diff to avoid that by compensateing for deaccelerating as well as accelerating in corners. Then again, we’re talking a vehicle 3.5X the cost of Forester or Outback.

  • avatar
    Lungy

    So where is the rebuttal article that has been submitted to you as you requested ? Get lost did it

  • avatar
    skierxman

    Subaru is one of those brands you either love or hate. I never met someone who owned a Subaru who just said it was an ‘Ok’ car. You will either hear lauds and flowing praise or total flaming. It is a totally polarizing brand.

    The same applies for the looks. Personally, I never thought the older Subaru models were ugly and kind of like the distinct, rugged, boxy look.
    If anything, I think Subaru is heading in the wrong direction by trying to make the Forester look like a ‘normal’ SUV — it’s going to cause diehard Subie fans to jump ship.

    I started buying Subaru’s 15 years ago simply because of the utlity and price. Here in Colorado, about every other cary you see is a Subie. I own a Toyota Tundra 4WD( a great truck BTW) for hauling and towing and an old Jeep for dirt fun. When it comes to snow and general outdoor fun, however, you just cant beat the Subie AWD(Jeep number two due to storage issues).

    As good as the Tundra is, I would choose the Subie over the Tundra any day when driving home from a ski trip at Copper Mountain in a blinding snowstorm with 2 feet of snow on the Pass(which happens quite often.) When you live where the winter season last 8 monhts a year, a Subie is a decent, economical choice.

    Here in Colorado, Subies reputation is so strong that many people will not even consider buying anything but.

    If you live in the South, are in the burbs, or are image conscious then obviously the Subie is not the best choice.

    Gets the job done and for what you get (AWD etc,) its a decent price. Subaru isnt marketing these things as luxury vehicles. Its all about utility for most buyers.

    Not as fast and flashy as an Audi AWD but also consider its about 2/3 the price. Also, many models with the AWD tag are not full-time(toyota Marix, Suzuki etc) .

    I have an 04 Forester with 187,000 miles and no problems to speak of. With that being said,I have to aggree a bit with the review. As its about time to get a new Subie, I test drove the 09 Forester, WRX, and Outback at the local dealer in Boudler.

    I never thought I would say this about a Subie but — Peee uuuu — what the hell did they do to my beloved vehicle? They have made it a bit too ‘pretty’ and it has lost the rugged out-doorsy look I love. It sits higher and the interior smells like someone ate some plastic and farted.

    I also noticed the body lean and there is a step-down in handling from the 04 model I now drive. It definately lags a bit and has lost the somewhat sporty feel I am used to on the 04. I could hit the corners on the pass with the 04 but I wouldnt try it with the 09 model. I believe this has to do with the higher COG.

    I think I am going to get the 09 WRX this week — I have my eyes on a Silver spark metallic premium. The Outback was not a bad fit for me nor a bad ride(handles much better than the 09 Forester)but I instantly loved the ride on the WRX. Slap a Ski rack on and I’m good to go. It will also eat up the mountain pass.

    Also, I would reccomend folks look at the Outback over othe 09 Forester — much better ride and a lot peppier, even in the base trim; Or, consider a used Forester from 04-07.

    I have to admit Subie dropped the ball on this one. I am even going to drop a line to them telling them how much a dissapointment I find it(FWIW.)

    ..

    Also, I had to add…

    Most people who talk about how their vehiclce handles off-roading so well never really off-road. By off-road I dont mean driving on the grass or dirt or a coating of snow on the highway — A Toyota Yaris will do that. I mean boulders, streams, rocks, 45-degree dirt embankments, or three-foot snow drifts. On these condtions, ANYTHING can get stuck, slide, or roll ..Subies, Jeeps, Audis, doesn’t matter. If you dont have the right tires on and don’t use the correct techiques you will either spin out ot get stuck — period. AWD doesn’t mean drive however you please.

    It cracks me up when I see Posers fropm the East bring their shiny new Jeep Wrangler out to CO and get stuck in the mud on the way up to Pikes Peek. They then complain , ‘This Jeep sucks, I thought it was supposed to be good out here’.

    Dude, your Jeep is fine. Just get tires appropriate for the condtions, don’t floor the pedal and learn when and how to use the locking diff. I have learned that most Jeeps are better than most drivers(myself included.) Also, most people who buy Jeep Wranglers never once ever really take them off road or remotely use them for their intended purpose. Most Jeeps you see on the highways in CO are driven by Posers. A Subie would be a better choice for an all-around vehicle if you want AWD and wont really be truly off-roading. You can still take your vehicle in the dirt, on the snow, and MILD off-roading. You will also have a LOT more storage space and won’t have to fill up the tank nearly as much. You also won’t need to visit a chiropractor after driving the Jeep cross-country for six hours on a trip. Jeep Wrangler is the primo-superb vehicle for true off-roading fun(nothing compares), but it blows for anything else IMO. Unless its going to be used for ‘real’ off-roading, the Subie is the more practical(and less expensive) choice. Just my 2 cents.

  • avatar
    007low

    Megan- Considering the new Forester just won Motor Trends SUV of the year, and whose sales have single handedly kept the company in the black during this difficult year – I would say they got this car just right and your review is based on snap judgement rather than an honest review of a good product, maybe you should rethink that opening line…

  • avatar
    wmba

    I commented earlier on this beast, and have had a little more seat time in the new regular Forester. Specifically, rear seat time. Quite comfy ride, if the rear hatch hadn’t rattled and squeaked like a son-of a-bitch over every bump. Something in the right rear inside of the vehicle.

    Seating material in the regular Forester seems to have come from Sears bargain basement drape department, semi-plastic division. Yuck. But at the tootle-around-town pace this car naturally travels at, the handling is probably OK. I remember hopping in my brother’s ’99 Forester from my ’99 Impreza, and promptly understeering off the road at the first tight city corner, so if this is worse than that, it’s Aunt Daisy time.

    Someone else mentioned that Legacys lose the rear end in emergency maneuvers according to CR, and that this is due to the limited slip rear diff. May I call utter BS on that, please? I’ve had my 08 GT in snow up to its ears, and the rear end doen’t come around like my old Impreza at the first opportunity, no matter how crazy one gets.
    My old Talon AWD has the same setup, and it doesn’t oversteer either. The Outback? Well, it’s a wobbler due to ride height, leans more, etc. I don’t personally like them too much, but I’m not in the market to buy a pseudo truck.

    And in snow here this week up a steep uphill where due to no plowing and only sanding, it was 6 to 8 inches of granular mess, with vehicles going up sideways, etc., the Leggy GT blasted straight up from a standing start and the Traction Control light blinked only 3 times in 200 yards. First time I’ve seen it come on, and I pushed the car hard. What a blast! That’s the mechanical center diff and rear LSD at work, folks, limiting the work the electrons have to do. The old XT had the same setup in the auto, and I bemoan its demise. Real world performance is what counts.

    Many of the replies to Megan’s review are predictable, because she panned the new XT, and new owners don’t like criticism of their new ride. But the new Forester is Mr. Milquetoast with a rattly hatch to me. Fine for normal use.

    However, The Acura RDX looks so damn ugly to me that I couldn’t care less how it drives, rides or feels.

    As for 007low above here, you have violated the no criticism rule of a reviewer on this site by calling Ms Benoit’s review dishonest, IMO. WTF has Motor Trend’s recommendation have to do with anything in the real world? Ms Benoit is the one who turned me on to the Legacy GT despite her poor service from the car, and snap judgements do not seem to be part of her makeup. Look at her other reviews before writing, and then keep your thought to yourself. I see nothing added by attacking her.

  • avatar
    mofo83

    I don’t see what all the arguing is about – this review is SO over the top, it’s comical. I hope people are perceptive enough not to take it seriously.

    “Stunningly horrible dissapointment” ?! It’s really THAT bad? No, it’s not. Sorry. Anyone reading this review should do their homework and check out all the reviews that are out there – and mostly positive (Motor Trend, Consumer Reports, etc.) Just use Google and you’ll find a dozen or so.

    I test drove all the cars in this class (CRV, RAV4, Sante Fe, etc.) and ended up picking the Forester. Is it perfect? Of course not. It does have a bit of sway to it in tight turns (but makes it real smooth over bumpiness). And it does have the 4 speed transmission ( … a 5-speed would be better, but not having it doesn’t effect the driving experience noticeably. I still get great gas mileage and have ample acceleration to get around, with fine shifts.) For my needs, it’s the best vehicle I could get, and the best value.

    And one more thing – people keep talking about “Toyota-fication.” I would think that this model was far into development by the time Toyota had any sort of effect on Subaru’s dealings. It takes a long time to develop a car… think about it.

    I understand that cultish, die-hard Forester fans that loved the boxy look are disappointed … but that doesn’t mean they have to be biased against the new one. Subaru is just trying to sell the most cars it can … and that’s what it will do with this more “mainstream” look. You can’t please everybody.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Edmunds had a discussion about Limited Slip diffs, and what popped up was 1. oversteer on de-acceleration can occur, 2. some limited slip diffs like the Nissan GT-4 are built to compensate.

    However, given that Subarus’ Bridgstone and Yokohama stock tires appear to have poor adhesion, switching tires could minimize that trait. Example: Nokians on my Forester changed ride and handling for the better.

    BTW, the same complaints about current Subarus are aimed at Mitsubishi; the new evos are “soft” compared to earlier ones. What works for a track doesn’t necessarily work for the street.

  • avatar
    garrard

    I’ve never owned a subie, but Forester and Outback were both on my short lists (along with RDX and RAV4, 4 & 6) which is why I have been reading reviews. I have to say that I personally found the review snarky, and about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News. As someone else said, it is so over-the-top that it couldn’t be taken seriously. The Forester is not perfect, but my impression was it’s very good. And unless your commute is something like Independence Pass, it’s a far better everyday driving experience than the RDX (sister has one) which has an unbelievably stiff suspension. The RDX also has no cargo room, despite what the specs might say. And the cost to drive (especially depreciation) on the RDX is absurd for a CRV on steroids. The RDX was dropped from my list, but the Forester is still there.

  • avatar
    namespaceRZ

    I can’t disagree more with this review, because, being a new Forester XT owner, I have so far not been disappointed in a bit. We bought this vehicle 3 months ago, and are using it mainly to commute to work. We live in Canada, where a 10+ inch snow storm coming every two weeks in the winter is normal life, and this car stood the test very well last winter with much worse than normal weather. There’s no question that the car isn’t perfect, but it in no way deserves all that criticism. It is true that the front seats are a bit too short to provide a more comfortable support to the legs. And in addition, I found the gas and brake pedals are positioned a little too far to the left, and the fact that one cannot unlock all doors with a second turn of the key, which I think applies to all Subies, is a little inconvenience. But otherwise I have not found anything I do not like. The main reason we chose the 2009 over a 2008 is because of its bigger size, which made the Forester – finally – like a real SUV; and the reason we chose the turbo engine is because it’ll provide the power of an SUV, which you’ll feel when going uphill with 2 adult friends at the back. While I was at the dealer, I was told that the scoop is indeed there to provide extra cooling to the engine, instead of just for a sharp look (besides, it does look sharp in my opinion). I must admit that a 5th gear would definitely add more fun, as my 6 speed truck is indeed a lot more fun to drive, but so would 2 more cylinders, and you can just add more and more.
    I cannot predict anything long term, but at least from our 3 month test, I feel this car has got adequate power, excellent handling, a fair looking exterior, and a nice simple while very roomy interior. And the most important, I don’t feel worried when my wife takes over the car from me and continues her way to work in a snowy day.

  • avatar
    juniperman

    Being an owner of both a 2009 Forester XT Limited and also a 2009 Acura RDX, I cannot disagree with Ms. Benoit’s review more. I purchased the RDX for my wife in October and immediately fell in love with its sporty handling and technology package. However, its road noise, lack of leg room and little functional cargo space had me wish that I would have convinced her to pick an Infinity G37 Sedan instead. When I recently required a new vehicle to replace my 2006 Subaru Baja Turbo, which lacked an adequate backseat for my toddler’s car seat, I immediately thought Forester. I wanted the best of both sporty performance and real world functionality. After replacing the stock stereo system with a state of the art GPS navigation system with Bluetooth and a review camera, I now have an SUV that fits all my needs and then some. In fact, when I have to make a quick trip to the store and the RDX is blocking the Forester XT, I will make the extra effort to move the RDX so that I am able to drive my beloved Forester.

  • avatar
    sanghh

    Are you kidding me?? You review a Subaru Forester and then suggest buying an Acura RDX…”it may be expensive” If one could afford Acura why would they buy Subaru…there are lot of SUV you can find in Acura’s price range!!
    You are just biased !!

  • avatar
    boon4376

    Wow, i guess you got a defective forester to test? I drove every single crossover SUV that was comparable in price to the forester XT, and while I wholely agree with the bar stool statement (nothing a ghetto $3.00 pillow at walmart cant fix), I found the handling to be tighter and sportier than any of the competitors, and definitely no under-steer, I was very surprised to hear that you got any. And with only 4 forward gears and less HP than the competition, it still manages to be faster than everyone else during 0-60 runs. (while returning better gas mileage than everyone except toyota, which handles like a minivan)

  • avatar
    juniperman

    It has been eight months since I purchased my Subaru XT Limited and I am standing by my earlier comments. The Forester clearly beats the ACURA RDX and every other SUV in its class. Ms. Benoit is so off  base that I am not surprised that she has not written another auto review in over a year. It is also no surprise that the Forester was Consumer Reports’ 2009  SUV of the year. As far as reliablity, my Subaru has had not one problem. I wish Ms. Benoit all the best in 2010….Perhaps she will be reviewing bicycles.

  • avatar
    caddguy6

    All I know is I’ve owned a 2010 non turbo Limited trim level Forester for two weeks now and I’m enjoying it more and more each day. Granted I’m nearing retirement age and while a turbo would be the engine of choice, the std. engine is by no means a negative.
    Always liked the original Foresters but thought they were a bit small. This new generation model is just right, without feeling like I’m driving an 18 wheeler.
    Subaru did good by me.

  • avatar
    drivebywire

    Megan,
    Thank you for your review.
    I read it with pleasure.
    I have severe repulsion when it comes to this vehicle, and most of what Subaru offers.
    Keep up the good work!

  • avatar
    robert_h

    I recently purchased a 2010 Forester XT. It’s no surprise, then, that I don’t see eye-to-eye with this review. Let me defend (or am I merely rationalizing?) my choice.

    I honestly don’t understand the complaints about visibility, because I find the view out the Forester to be excellent, a rare pleasure in an automotive landscape ruled by gigantic pillars, high beltlines, and gunslit windows. I ruled out the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Murano- competitive models with excellent powertrains- because of their awful rearward visibility. In dense traffic & tight parking lots, my all-too-frequent driving environments, the Forester feels smaller than it is because I can see so well in every direction.

    The criticisms of handling? The suspension is compliant, and there’s plenty of lean in hard turns. At least the suspension is well damped; it soaks up potholes and bumps without any funny business. By the standards of small SUVs, I think the handling is fine. For ‘off-road’ use, the Forester will do nicely in winter and on maintained forest roads. It has a reasonable amount of ground clearance, vital parts are tucked up high, and the all-wheel drive system is better than many. It can’t compete with a real jeep on seriously rough stuff- not even close- but it’s still a versatile vehicle. I have no complaints with the steering- nicely weighted, no slop, reasonable feedback.

    The 2009 redesign added a lot of usable room, while burdening the car with only 40 additional pounds. If that’s bloat, then sign me up. And if the extra room makes it harder to retrieve dropped binkies, then at least the back door opens wide to create a gaping maw for easy baby-loading.

    I live in the mountain west, and turbos shine at altitude. The motor is optimized for low-rpm drivability- yay!. The four speed automatic is an anachronism, but (there’s that word again) the motor is torquey enough to help compensate for the widely-spaced gear ratios. All in all, I strongly prefer the XT’s powertrain to the conventional marriage of a normally-aspirated 4-cylinder to a five or six speed auto that’s constantly hunting gears to make best use of power that’s just not there (somewhere a Honda CRV’s ears are burning). The vast majority of Foresters are sold with the normally aspirated engine, and the four speed auto isn’t so great there.

    My complaints? The gauges look cheesy- really cheesy, like the graphics on a Panashiba stereo that sells for $50 at the flea market. As noted in earlier comments, an idiot light substitutes for a temperature gauge. At least the light has four possible values: blue, off, red, and blinking red… wait, is blinking better or worse than solid red? Better check the owner’s manual- whoops, too late! Filling the vacancy where the temp gauge should be is a comically large fuel gauge marked in giant, 1/4 tank increments. After ponying up for the turbo, a boost gauge would’ve made me feel warm and fuzzy, but it’s missing too. The center console and sun visors stand out for their cheap appearance, though they work pretty well. (On the upside, at night the center console is every-so-gently illuminated by an overhead LED: when I first noticed that I could see the stuff in my console, I credited the full moon.) Comfortwise, the front seats are ok but not the best- Megan’s correct that the cushion is too short. The turbo motor is great, but a normally-aspirated six would work just as well, with fewer potential reliability concerns.

    As far as the RDX- Autotrader said that the nearest one for sale, new OR used, was 450 miles from my house. Apparently they’re fairly rare in the wild. That was enough to rule out the Acura for me.

  • avatar
    jsand

    I too, disagree in the strongest terms. Yes, an Acura RDX will be more luxurious, but it lack 4″ of ground clearance.
    The XT is the perfect blend of what i am looking for: excellent reliability, AWD (all the time), outstanding entry access and interior room (finally!), crazy quick 0-40 in 1st gear (faster than the RDX, RAV4 V6, X3-3.0, or EX35…), good high speed handling, outstanding exterior visability.

    Yes it has shortcomings, but it got me home through 600 miles of snowstorm in 10 hours, took my wife to work in a 20″ snowfall blizzard, and get awesome mileage for the power.

    What is more, is that i got this car with the plan to upgrade/tune the engine, and COBB tuning products, hp and torque are significantly increased- no other light SUV manufacturer allows this with such minor investment. With slightly stickier street tires, the forester now out accelerates, out corners, and outruns the aforementioned, and still has the ground clearance and all other advantages, (even with a 4 speed xmission).

    All car choices are compromises. The 2010 XT has fewer outliers than most, however, and that is what i was looking for. I know, I drove all the cars mentioned here multiple times, the XT is my preference, though any of them would have been quite serviceable (except the RDX in 2wd- a 2wd SUV? Now that’s what i would call losing one’s way… BUT- plenty of people buy it. But more people buy the FXT)


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