DriverSide Overview Subaru’s Forester
2009 Subaru Forester
has always suffered from ugly duckling syndrome. For years it was a kind of SUV alternative, serving up plenty of ground clearance, all-wheel drivability and a comfortable ride, all in a body that looked like a raised car/truck halfling. The taller ride height and slab fenders wanted to say “tough”, we think. The quirky exterior appealed to plenty of people, but for those out there with SUV stenciled on their heart, the little Subaru just didn’t cut it.
For 2009, designers have shirked the hopped up station wagon exterior for a more traditional UTE skin, mating the all-out functionality of the old vehicle with more mainstream styling to back up its real-world capabilities. If you’ve been looking to downsize from your full-size SUV (and it’s gas guzzling habits), the Forester’s expansive cargo area, unstoppable all-wheel drive and comfortable interior is a good alternative.
What's to Like
Though the updated styling outside is the big story with the 2009 Forester, this vehicle offers plenty to love all around. The full-time all-wheel drive system, economical four-cylinder engine and snappy interior all make for a vehicle that’s a welcome substitute for some of the SUV mainstays out there. We particularly like the huge sunroof available on the 2.5X Premium ($22,495).
What's Not to Like
This is a smaller vehicle, which means that families that are accustomed to more wiggle room on larger trips may be disappointed at the limited seating and cargo options inside. That said, Subaru has done an impressive job maximizing the amount of useable area inside of the Forester. Also, the panoramic sunroof can be a bit noisy for passengers in the back without the optional wind deflector ($80.00).
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Subaru has been building off-road capable vehicles on monocoque chassis for years and it’s managed to put that experience to good use in the Forester. The vehicle combines all of the attributes the wave of crossovers out there aims to mix. The ride is markedly car-like even with the Subaru’s relatively stiff springs on all four corners, but the elevated ride height gives the Forester a go anywhere feel. The four-cylinder Boxer engine provides more than sufficient power. With a towing capacity of 2,500 lbs, it bests most of its rivals by 1,000 lbs or more. We really wish though that the automatic was at least a five-speed, as the Subie tends for sluggish power at freeway speeds.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 2009 Subaru Forester is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. The engine is coupled to either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission, depending on trim level. The manual gearbox incorporates incline-start assist, which is a neat feature that keeps the vehicle from rolling backwards while starting on a hill - particularly helpful if someone in the family is just starting out on a manual.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
As with all Subarus, every Forester comes standard with the company’s phenomenal all-wheel drive system. Providing just the right amount of power to each wheel makes for an incredibly sure-footed vehicle, which is great for locales that get more snow than sunshine. Every Forester now comes standard with disc brakes on all four corners too, making accident avoidance a breeze. Speaking of accidents, this SUV ranked as a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration top pick.
Key Technology Evaluation
While the base, 2.5 Forester doesn’t have much to brag about when it comes to tech goodies, jumping up to the 2.5X Limited ($25,995) offers XM or SIRIUS satellite radio, automatic climate control, a six-disc CD changer with MP3-capable surround stereo, speed-sensitive volume control, optional navigation and Bluetooth capability. Of course, that jump will cost you about $6,000 over the base model.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Thanks to the Forester’s boxer-four engine, gas mileage tends to be ahead of the competition. The SUV manages 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with either the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. While those numbers are pretty impressive, the fact that many Subarus are produced in a zero-landfill facility seals this vehicle’s green credentials.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The vehicle’s wide rear hatch and 60/40 folding rear seat makes for a cargo area that can fit more than you’d expect. Moving up to the 2.5X Premium ($22,485) buys you a few creature comforts like reclining rear seats—which are good for sleepy kids.
The newest iteration of the Forester serves up external styling that’s a much-needed breath of fresh air. While die-hard fans of the older models may miss the quirky styling, the truth is the vehicle is more mainstream, appealing to a much wider audience.
Market Segment and Pricing
Depending on trim level, the 2009 Subaru Forester can hit your budget anywhere from an easy $19,995 for the base 2.5X all the way to $28,195 for the 2.5XT Limited. Those prices put it on the same page as Ford’s Escape XLT
at $23,115, the Toyota Rav4 Limited
at $24,490 and the Honda CR-V EX
at $23,345. Of course, adding the full-time all-wheel drive that comes standard on the Subaru onto those models will bump the price up considerably.
What We Think
Subaru has held a powerful niche as one of the few economical manufacturers with full-time all-wheel drive, but the most recent effort from the company shows that it has its sights set on something more than inexpensive and effective transportation. The 2009 Forester has all of the amenities to go toe to toe with some of its best-trimmed rivals out there, especially in 2.5XT Limited trim, all at a great price and with fantastic fuel economy. It’s not perfect – and some may miss the funky styling of the last generation - but for the money it’s hard to beat.