Test Drive: 2011 Subaru Forester

Full Disclosure: I’m a Subaru fanboy and the Author of the High Performance Subaru Builder’s Guide. You know I’m going to like this car, because I like pretty much all Subarus. Although for the record, I’m still undecided on the Tribeca.

The Forester has long been my favorite Subaru. If I could have any Subaru I wantd, I?d get a Legacy GT Spec.B from 2006, but if I was going to spend my own money, I?d buy a Forester without a second thought.

The Forester is described as a Crossover Utility Vehicle ? that?s the cool new name for ?Station Wagon? in marketing terms. But the Forester perfectly fits the bill. It doesn?t try to look like a macho 4WD with lofty ground clearance and Tonka truck bodywork ? it just uses its AWD to get where you want to go. The Forester isn?t sexy ? in fact it?s downright dowdy. But the Forester does everything you want it to do, and it does it while driving like a sporty passenger car.

The 2011 Forester is larger than the Foresters that Subaru built from 1999 to 2008, and to tell the truth, that?s my one complaint. The old Foresters were just the right size, in my opinion. But the 2011 Forester has also been improved in just about every way from its predecessors, so the driving and utility experience are that much nicer.

The test car I had was the Forester 2.5X, Premium edition. The base price on this model is $23,495, as compared to a base of $20,495 for the most basic car. All Foresters will have Subaru?s symmetric AWD, a 170-horse 2.5-liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission (but you can always get an automatic for $1,000 extra), and the full suite of standard modern features. Standard features include air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/AUX stereo, and a remote-actuation key.

In the Premium edition, you get alloy wheels, a sunroof, and reclining rear seats. Moving upward from there you can get a whole host of goodies, including navigation, leather, xenon HID headlights, and a backup camera. In the XT trim, you can also upgrade to a 224-horsepower turbocharged engine.

To tell you the truth, I?d get a base model Forester if I was buying it for myself. Subaru?s manual transmissions are very nice, and the one option I?d buy on the car is the cold weather package for $1,095, which includes the all-important heated front seats, as well as heated side mirrors and windshield wipers.? The automatic transmission in the Subaru is great, so if you don?t want the manual, that?s a worthy upgrade as well.

Oh, fuel economy is a very respectable 21/27 MPG. Not bad for the horsepower and AWD you get in a vehicle this size.

The driving experience of the Forester is where Subaru really shines. The torquey boxer engine delivers the power you need, and the symmetric AWD system in every Subaru is really the best in the industry ? you?ll never know it?s there except when you?re sailing by every other AWD vehicle in the snow.

The bottom line on the Forester is that it?s still Subaru?s greatest car that has never gotten the recognition that it deserves. If you?re shopping wagons, hatchbacks, or crossovers, you need to test-drive the Forester.

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