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May 6, 2009 > Auto Review: Forester by Subaru

Auto Review: Forester by Subaru

Subaru is known for its great all-wheel drive system, standard on all Subaru models including their small SUV, the Forester. The Forester has been made for 11 years and the 2009 model is a total redesign. It is bigger inside and outside than the old model by about 4 inches, and they cut the MSRP by $1,200. Not a bad trick.

There are two different power trains available. The base choice is a 170 HP, 2.5-liter, normally aspirated 4-cylinder that comes with a 5- manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. If you want to blast through the forest, you can step up to the 224 HP turbocharged unit. This one only comes with the automatic transmission. The 170 HP unit runs on regular gas and delivered 20/26 MPG in its test cycle. Moving up to the blown motor means a switch to premium gas and its EPA resulted in 19/24 MPG. Our test car had smaller power plant and its acceleration was just fine for everyday use. I'm sure the turbo would have been even more fun to drive.

The Forester was one of the first small SUVs to hit the market. This new 2009 one has wider door openings, so it's easier to get in and out of than the older model and more like the bigger SUVs. Also, the outward visibility is very good, and it's easy to see in all directions.

Subaru has always focused on safety, and the Forester starts with a ring-shaped reinforced frame that surrounds the passenger compartment to absorb as much force in a collision as possible. Then Vehicle Dynamic Control is added as a standard feature. This tries to correct skids and keep the car out of accidents. Multiple air bags are installed to help out when things do go wrong. Four-wheel disk, ABS brakes with the Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist system complete the safety package.

There are five different Forrester models. Three have the 170 HP engine; base prices vary from $19,995 to 25,995. The other two share the turbocharged engine and automatic transmission. MSRP for them are $26,195 and 28,195. As you move up through the model ranges, you get things like a moonroof, larger wheels and tires, a roof rack, leather seats, and a better sound system.

The new 2009 Forrester is an easy vehicle to live with. It is easy to get into and has a lot of legroom in both the front and rear seats. There is a good sized storage area in the back that should accommodate the vast majority of your needs to transport your stuff. It is easy to park and drive. The interior is nicely finished, and all the controls are easy to use.

My only issue with the new Forrester was that it was a little unstable in heavy winds. One of the days I had it, there were heavy winds in the Bay Area and driving it across the San Mateo Bridge was a bit unnerving. Admittedly, this was an unusual wind condition, but the Forrester was getting blown about more than I expected it would.

All in all, the 2009 Forrester is a sensible, practicable and affordable small SUV that is designed for today's environment.

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