2010 Subaru Forester

By February 23, 2010
2010 Subaru Forester

The Subaru Forester is a compact SUV that seats five, offers good cargo capability and excellent foul weather capability. The Forester competes with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, though the Forester offers better handling than those two, on dry pavement but especially on wet pavement, snow, ice or dirt.

Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, which comes standard, gives the Forester outstanding traction and capability in foul weather and it's fully equipped with safety features. Forester achieved the best-possible five-star rating in all government crash tests, and a four-star rating for resistance to rolling over. Forester has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Forester comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with single overhead cam rated at 170 horsepower. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20/26 mpg City/Highway with automatic transmission.

The turbocharged Forester XT has twin cams and boasts 224 horsepower. The XT is more desirable because of its superior power, though it calls for Premium fuel and rates 19/24 mpg. Forester's 16.9-gallon fuel tank can last about 400 miles on the highway.

Introduced as an all-new model for 2009, this is the third generation of the Forester, and it's the best-selling Forester ever and the best-selling model in the Subaru line. Redesigned for the 2009 model year, the Forester features a wider track and longer wheelbase than before, a double wishbone rear suspension, more cargo space, more rear-seat legroom. There's more ground clearance, a super tight steering radius with quicker steering, rear doors that swing open nearly 75 degrees, and more power for the base 2.5-liter engine.

For 2010, Forester benefits from a revised instrument cluster with easier-to-see colors, and you can choose which interior lamps light when you open a door. The 2010 Forester 2.5X Premium comes with a 10-way power driver's seat, and the optional navigation system now includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

Model Lineup

The 2010 Subaru Forester comes in three trim levels, all with all-wheel drive. The 2.5X models come with the 170-hp engine; 2.5XT models get the 224-hp turbocharged engine.

Forester 2.5X ($20,295) comes with black or platinum cloth upholstery, air conditioning with rear vents and an air filtration system, a 60/40 split rear seat, sound system with single-disc CD, height and lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, cruise control, rear window wiper, and a trailer wiring connector, and 16-inch steel wheels with wheelcovers. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic ($21,495) is available. A Special Edition Package ($400) adds 16-inch alloy wheels and roof rails.

Forester 2.5X Premium ($22,795) adds 17-inch alloy wheels with wider-profile all-season tires, privacy glass, 10-way power driver's seat, a reclining rear seat with retractable tray, roof rails, power moonroof, and steering wheel audio switches. Exterior mirrors are body-color and door handles are chromed. There's a choice of five-speed manual or automatic ($23,795). A cold weather package ($400) includes heated seats, mirrors, and wiper de-icer.

Forester 2.5X Limited ($25,995) features perforated leather seats in black or platinum, seatback storage pockets, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, 6CD changer with MP3/WMA and six-speaker Circle Surround Sound, automatic climate control, foglights, chrome tailpipes. It comes with the automatic transmission and cold-weather package as standard.

Optional on the 2.5X Limited is a touch-screen navigation system ($1,800) that includes a stereo upgrade, auxiliary audio and video input jacks, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a Bluetooth hands-free microphone. A Navigation and Convenience Package ($2,300) bundles all of the above with HID headlights, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, one-touch folding rear seats, and a cargo cover.

Forester 2.5XT Premium ($26,495) features upgraded cloth upholstery, aluminum pedal covers, a telescoping steering column, and the Limited-level stereo. Outside it's distinguished by fog lights, chrome tailpipes, a rear roof spoiler, and a functional hood scoop. Premium comes with the automatic transmission.

Forester 2.5XT Limited ($28,495) adds the automatic climate control, leather-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and the all-weather package. The navigation package is optional.

Safety equipment includes two-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags in front, and airbag curtains; active front head restraints; LATCH child safety seat system; and a tire pressure monitor. All Forester models come with all-wheel drive, Vehicle Dynamics Control with four-wheel traction control and electronic limited slip differential, and anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (which adjusts front-to-rear brake balance as the car's weight pitches forward under hard braking) and Brake Assist (which applies additional braking, based on how quickly the driver applies the pedal).


The Subaru Forester is a compact SUV similar in size to the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Forester and RAV4 look similar when parked side by side. All of these are considered crossover vehicles with car-based chassis designed to offer good driving characteristics and good fuel economy.

The Forester is slightly longer than the CR-V, slightly shorter than the RAV4. Forester is an inch narrower than the other two. It's slightly taller than the CR-V, the RAV4 is the tallest.

Forester XT is distinguished by a functional hood scoop. We like the five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels. From the rear, the XT has a twin chrome-tipped exhaust and a spoiler over the rear window.

Interior Features

Inside is a comfortable cabin with comfortable seats. The cloth seats come in gray or black, and are on the conservative rather than sporty side. The available perforated leather is a whole new ball game, erasing the almost-frumpy feeling sent by the cloth.

Driver visibility is excellent in all directions. The A-pillars were designed to minimize blind spots. The Forester XT gets sporty aluminum pedals, which we liked. We found the air conditioning cools well, fast and quiet.

Instrument colors have been revised for 2010, for easier readability. There's a digital display over the center stack for time and temperature. The dash has a nice gullwing sweep from the center stack off to the passenger side, in brushed-aluminum-looking plastic material, interrupted only by a single climate vent. Underneath is a big glovebox.

The center stack has aluminum-look trim. Just forward of the shift lever is a good-sized cubby. Climate and audio controls on the center stack are simple to operate. The front doors have a nice elbow rest and large pockets each with a recess for 24-ounce bottles. The center console is deep, and slides forward four inches to make an armrest.

The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat to make a gigantic cargo area capable of carrying lots of gear. Cargo space measures 33.5 cubic feet with the rear seat up, 68.3 with the seats flat.

The rear seat reclines and includes a retractable center tray with fixed drink holders. Legroom is excellent. The front door is wide, and the rear doors swing open 75 degrees, making it easy to get in and out.

There's a lot of headroom. There's headroom even when you jack the height-adjustable driver's seat to the top. The optional panoramic moonroof cuts into headroom, but it feels like more because it's the sky that's over your head.

The navigation system is not the best available. In the daytime it's hard to read with sunglasses, because there's a lack of contrast.

Driving Impressions

We found the Forester dazzling in its sure-footedness and comfortable ride, never once whimpering in the face of abuse. The suspension isn't firm but offers relatively long travel. There's 8.7 inches of ground clearance and good Yokohama Geolander tires with the 17-inch wheels.

The electronic stability control is programmed to allow the tires to spin a bit, under acceleration, so the throttle won't cut out on dirt roads. We tackled an awe-inspiring steep rutty hill, foot to the floor to climb the final 100 yards, and the Forester made it. A Honda CR-V couldn't come close on the same run.

The two engines differ dramatically in torque. Torque is that force you feel when you accelerate up a hill and more is better. The normally aspirated single overhead-cam engine delivers 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The turbo delivers 226 pound-feet at 2800 rpm and 224 horsepower.

On the freeway, a Forester 2.5X has to work to keep up with a Forester XT. We found the four-speed automatic transmission and the 170-horsepower engine a weak combination. Running with the flow of traffic into LA on an extremely slight upgrade, ours needed to frequently kick down. It kicked down a lot in other places, too, including off-road. A five-speed automatic transmission seems called for. Or a five-speed manual.

The five-speed manual shifter feels soft, has a longish throw, and raises the NVH level in the cabin, but we'd still choose it over the automatic with the non-turbocharged engine. A nice touch on models with the standard five-speed manual transmission is Incline Start Assist. If the car is stopped on a hill, the brake stays applied for one second after you take your foot off the pedal, allowing time to accelerate smoothly.

The rack-and-pinion steering gives the XT a tight steering radius, similar to that of the RAV4, tighter than that of the CR-V, allowing it to turn around in less space, important for parking and maneuvering. When cornering on smooth roads, the suspension feels relatively soft, though on dirt roads or rough pavement it feels perfect. The suspension does a good job. The highway ride is comfortable, with no harsh spots.


The Subaru Forester offers foul weather capability with its all-wheel-drive system and it excels on unpaved roads and in other less-than-perfect driving conditions. Forester is stable and rugged off road, while there are no harsh spots to the highway ride. Overall, the Forester compares favorably to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and other compact SUVs.

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Los Angeles; with NCTD staff reports.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Subaru Forester 2.5X ($20,295); 2.5X Premium ($22,795); 2.5X Limited ($25,995); 2.5XT Premium ($26,495); 2.5XT Limited ($28,495)
Engines:170-hp 2.5-liter sohc H4; 224-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged dohc H4
Transmissions:5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (standard):frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, curtain airbags; active front-seat head restraints, electronic stability control, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, all-wheel drive, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional):none
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Japan
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited ($28,495)
Standard equipment:leather-trimmed upholstery, automatic climate control, power moonroof, power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, power locks, power moonroof, cold weather package, console, cruise control, fog lamps, 6CD with MP3/WMA and 6-speaker sound system, 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, tinted glass, reclining folding 60/40 rear seat, roof rails, steering wheel audio switches
Options as tested (MSPR):none
Destination charge:$695
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$29190
Layout:all-wheel drive
Engine:2.5-liter dohc turbocharged horizontally opposed 4
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):224 @ 5200
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):226 @ 2800
Transmission:4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:19/24 mpg
Wheelbase:103.0 in.
Length/width/height:179.5/70.1/66.9 in.
Track, f/r:60.2/60.2 in.
Turning circle:34.4 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:40.0/52.9/43.1 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.7/52.7/38.0 in.
Cargo volume:63.0 cu. ft.
Towing capacity:2400 Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent, MacPherson struts, L-shaped lower arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, r:independent, double wishbone
Ground clearance:8.9 in.
Curb weigth:3460 lbs.
Brakes, f/r:vented disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Fuel capacity:16.9 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of February 23, 2010.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-WANT-AWD - www.subaru.com