Subaru Forester was one of the first crossover SUVs, a pioneer in this new territory where some of the most useful attributes of a sport-utility meet the ride and driving dynamics of a car. The landscape has gotten more crowded since Forester first appeared nearly a decade ago (in 1998), but recent revisions have kept it fully competitive.
The market research firm Polk has concluded that Forester inspires higher owner loyalty than just about any vehicle in production. That's easy to understand. Forester delivers the SUV features its buyers want, including a high seating position, good cargo space and a choice of superb all-wheel-drive systems. Yet Forester also offers fuel mileage and ride comfort that's more like a car, in a compact, maneuverable package. On the road it delivers good handling and braking performance. It's more practical than the typical SUV for prowling the urban jungle and better for handling treacherous weather on the highway. And the turbocharged 2.5 XT Limited is one of the more exhilarating vehicles of its type to drive.
For 2006, Forester benefited from a mid-cycle refresh, meaning extensive changes but short of a total redesign. New styling created a slightly more serious, less cutesy look. Inside, subtle changes added comfort and convenience, particularly in the back seat. The suspension was revised for both improved ride comfort and more ground clearance for off-road forays.
For 2007, Subaru has added the Forester Sports 2.5 XT, which delivers the same performance as the flagship 2.5 XT Limited at a lower price point. When ordered with automatic transmission, Sports 2.5 XT comes with Variable Torque Distribution, a new and more performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system with a slight rear-wheel-drive bias; plus Vehicle Dynamic Control and four-wheel traction control. Automatic climate control and unique trim inside and out are shared with the equally new but non-turbocharged Forester Sports 2.5 X.
There's more standard equipment in other models as well. Foresters now come standard with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). Tires and wheels on XT Limiteds grow from 16 to 17 inches. And all but the base model now come with MP3/WMA and Sirius Satellite Radio capability.
Additionally, all non-turbo Foresters sold in California, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Vermont are now Partial Zero Emission Vehicles (PZEV); yet they surrender no horsepower or torque to the 45-state version.
All-wheel drive is standard on all models, and Forester offers manual or automatic transmission. While no rock crawler, Forester is perfect for unpaved roads or logging trails, the conditions most encounter when venturing off the pavement. Forester is rated to tow up to 2400 pounds, enough for personal watercraft or a snowmobile but not enough for a car trailer or weightier boat.
Forester has earned a good record for reliability. It has performed well in laboratory crash tests. (Forester earned a "good" rating, which is the highest the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives out, in both front-offset and side-impact crashes.) And it comes with a high level of standard safety equipment. In short, the Forester still offers a combination of SUV capability, fuel-efficiency, on-road performance and versatility that's tough to beat.
The 2007 Subaru Forester comprises six variations. All are powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine. Models designated 2.5 X are rated 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. The 2.5 XT models are turbocharged and produce 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque. Most Foresters come standard with a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional. All four non-turbo models are sold as Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEV) in California, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Vermont. Power and torque ratings remain the same as for 45-state models ($200).
The 2.5 X ($21,195) comes with air conditioning with an air filtration system, 100-watt AM/FM/Weatherband stereo with single-CD player and four speakers, tilt steering, cruise control, fog lights, foldable power side-view mirrors, power windows, a rear window wiper/washer, power locks with remote keyless entry, digital outside temperature indicator, 60/40 split rear folding seatbacks with a center armrest, roof rack, security system, a cargo cover and various cargo-securing aids behind the rear seat. Wheels are 16-inch steel with 215/60R16 all-season radials.
The Sports 2.5 X ($21,695) upgrades to Anthracite Black cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, a 120-watt stereo with better speakers, in-dash six-disc changer plus MP3/WMA/CD-RW capability, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an auxiliary input jack for iPods and other MP3 players. A black mesh front grille and a special front bumper distinguishes Sports models; the roof rack crossbars are deleted, ostensibly for a sleeker look, but can be added back as an option.
The 2.5 X Premium ($23,695) adds four-wheel disc brakes, limited-slip rear differential, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, upgraded interior trim, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, windshield wiper de-icer, leather-wrapped-steering wheel and shift knob, and a power moonroof.
The 2.5 X L.L. Bean Edition ($26,695) comes standard with a automatic transmission (so keep that in mind when comparing prices). Additional functional items, compared to the 2.5 X Premium, include an auto-dimming rearview mirror with built-in compass, a security system with shock sensor, and a self-leveling rear suspension. Unique colors with contrasting metallic lower-body cladding and special wheels distinguish the L.L. Bean Edition. Inside, it features beige seats trimmed with leather and Alcantara fabric; a Momo wood-and-leather steering wheel; hard, water-resistant material in the cargo hold; and stitched L.L Bean logos on the front seats and floor mats.
The Sports 2.5 XT ($25,995) shares the appearance package and standard equipment of the Sports 2.5 X, plus the 155-watt, seven-speaker stereo; unique instruments; 215/55R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels; four-wheel disc brakes; limited-slip rear differential; functional hood scoop; chrome-tipped exhaust; aluminum front door sills; engine immobilizer; and, when ordered with automatic transmission, electronic stability control, traction control, and a unique rear-biased all-wheel-drive system Subaru calls Variable Torque Distribution.
The 2.5 XT Limited ($27,895) combines much of the Sports 2.5 XT's performance equipment with all of the Premium's luxuries, plus Desert Beige or Anthracite Black leather upholstery and aluminum-finished roof rails.
Safety features include dual-stage front-impact airbags, front-passenger side-impact airbags and active front head restraints designed to minimize whiplash injuries, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and all-wheel drive. Electronic stability control and traction control are available on higher-level models.