Vehicles like the Forester don’t usually leap to mind for being the object of automotive affection; particularly around these parts. Especially when Subaru offers such a capable and exciting car as the WRX. But there are some very good reasons why those contemplating a new car purchase would be well-served to give the new Forester a look. Not least of which is that it is Motor Trends 2009 SUV of the year.
As the Forester gets older it continues to grow more and more into SUV proportions. Although redesigned in and out for 2009, the newest version continues to be, thankfully, still mostly car.
Those considering a new Subaru are probably well aware of two things. They all come with AWD, and they all come with Boxer engines. Subaru’s success in doing both has been their calling card for a long time, and the new Forester is no different. The Forester 2.5X is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It’s available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. (L.L. Bean Editions come with the automatic only.) Forester XT models have a turbocharged version of this engine that churns out 224 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque.
The automatic transmission is mandatory on turbocharged models. Reviewers of the Forester focus on this rather antiquated four-speed transmission as the only real downside. Why Subaru didn’t use their solid five-speed is a mystery. As previously mentioned, the 2009 Forester is larger than ever, one inch taller and over three inches longer and wider than the previous version. Even if it may never see anything but pavement, a new double-wishbone rear suspension has been added in place of the old car’s strut-based setup. Although it may seem silly to even mention speed of such a car, the upper-level engine is capable of a very respectable 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds. Where it really shines is on uneven surfaces. There is a reason it was SUV of the year; mostly through its ability to eat up bumps and still deliver tight and maneuverable handling.
Even having spent a considerable amount of time behind the wheel of the Forester, I am somehow always surprised by the thriftiness of fuel efficiency. Especially in light of how substantial the car feels. EPA estimated fuel economy for the 2.5X is 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, the XT returns an estimated 19 city/24 highway and 21 combined. Those numbers are quite low compared to the real-world averages I have turned in, especially on the highway. Unless you have a real addiction to drastically surging and slowing, there is no reason why you should not be able to get around 30 mpg on the highway.
Styling has never been a particular strong suit for the Forester. It still looks mostly like a soccer mom from Oregon’s dream ride, but the 2009 seems to have gained some aggressiveness along with overall girth.
Utility, and not luxury is at the forefront for Subaru, and this is especially true for the Forester. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but in actuality despite being thoughtfully and conservatively packaged, the interior still comes across as upscale.
For 2009, the Forester is available in three trim levels: 2.5X, 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT and 2.5XT Limited. The Forester 2.5X is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories and a four-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack. The 2.5XT model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, roof rails, a sunroof, a tilt/telescoping steering column, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, reclining rear seats and a six-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer. The 2.5XT Limited throws in heated mirrors, automatic climate control, a power driver seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter.
Optional for the 2.5X is the Premium Package, which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a power sunroof and a reclining rear seatback. When equipped with the Premium package, the 2.5X is also eligible for one of two additional option packages. The all-weather package includes heated side mirrors, a wiper de-icer and heated front seats. Going with the 2.5X Limited gets you the all-weather package’s equipment plus foglights, a power driver seat, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, automatic climate control, and a six-speaker CD audio system with a six-CD changer. There are no available options on the 2.5XT. The Forester 2.5X Limited and 2.5XT Limited, however, can be outfitted with a navigation system. With the added size of the new Forester, rear legroom and overall comfort have also been dramatically expanded as well. Cargo space is enormous and with the seats folded a total of 68.3 cubic feet of hauling capacity is available. Finally, as one Subaru car dealer jumped at the chance to remind me, the sunroof is still the largest in the industry.
Pricing starts at under $21,000, but it is more reasonable to aim for at least the mid-20’s with options. If you can swing it, opt for the XT and its more spirited engine, which starts at just a shade under $27,000.
Give credit to Subaru for not resting on their laurels with the award winning Forester, which would have been easy to do. It isn’t a WRX, it IS just the most well-rounded, intelligent and economical vehicle choice in the entire Subaru lineup.