Subaru Forester 2.5XT
Subaru has long been a company known for producing
well-engineered, capable full-time four-wheel drive
cars. Winning fame for its top-quality rally cars,
Subaru is also known for one other thing:
ultra-conservative styling. Some might even say styling
that is, well, frumpy.
Still, over the years Subaru gained legions of loyal
fans, not put off by the old-fogey styling. Now, Subaru
is reaching out to new sections of the market; the in
your face, tire-squealing, law-breaking sports car
Subaru's evolved attitude to the sports car is expressed
in the 300 horsepower, rally-inspired 2004 Impreza
WRX-STi and the rugged, off-roading 2004 Baja Turbo.
Subaru's popular crossover model, the Forester, also
gets some attention.
A member of the Subaru line-up since 1997, Forester was
a good car, but lacked a little in the guts department.
For 2004, that's all changed and the Forester 2.5XT gets
Subaru still offers a normally aspirated version of the
Forester, but for those who want more, the XT comes with
a 2.5 litre intercooled turbo-charged four-cylinder
engine, producing 210 bhp @ 5600 rpm., and 235 lb-ft of
torque at 3600 rpm. A classic Subaru power plant, the XT
engine is a "boxer" style, in which the cylinders are
horizontally opposed. Subaru says that this engine has
an inherently smoother design than either a V-style or
inline engine. It is a claim supported by the
performance of the Forester.
While the test car, equipped with an optional four-speed
automatic, didn't exactly charge off the line, it gained
speed with silky-smooth deceptiveness.
seems to gain speed casually, not in any real hurry here
and then suddenly, someone in a uniform is demanding to
see your license. The manual transmission equipped XT
should get your driving privileges revoked even faster.
Subaru states that it can go from 0-60 mph in 6.1
seconds. This isn't a frumpy Subaru any more.
Other parts of the Forester's design remain unchanged.
It still offers a full-time all-wheel drive system. Step
on the gas, and the Forester's centre differential
locks, distributing power to all four wheels evenly. In
the event of traction loss, power is diverted to where
it is needed, helping the driver regain control. The AWD
system makes for a car that offers decent handling, with
just a hint of under steer. The Forester is no babe in
the woods when it comes to off-roading either. It is
fully capable of serious field stomping, or just plain
dealing with the worst that winter can offer.
Ride is another area in which the Forester excels. The
long-travel four-wheel independent suspension provides a
very nice ride. The configuration of the boxer engine
allows it to be placed lower in the car, directly inline
with the transmission and transfer case. The advantage
of this is a lower centre of gravity and a very well
balanced car. Overall, the Forester feels solid and
stable, with some softness in the corners.
On the outside the Forester hasn't changed much since
2003. The 2.5XT features some of its own goodies
appearance wise, including a rear spoiler, roof racks,
16-inch wheels on six-spoke alloy rims, and coolest of
all, a functioning hood scoop. Also cool was the big
chrome tailpipe (take that, tuners!). The test car was
basic black (conservative yes, but always in fashion),
with a few small touches of grey on the roof pillars and
trunk. It's still a bit boxy for my taste, but not a bad
The interior is the area where the Forester needs the
most work. There are multiple textures on the seats,
dash and doors, making the interior a bit busy. I found
the seat a bit hard and the door armrest wasn't in a
good spot for me. On the plus side, the Forester's
interior is very roomy with ample space for passengers
and all their gear. The rear seats drop down in a snap
and fold flat to increase cargo space and there are
hooks and cubbyholes aplenty for all one's stuff. Also
nice was the 6-disc CD player, which offered decent
sound and was housed in a faux-metal centre stack. The
Forester also offers two 12-volt outlets, one in the
front storage bin and the other in the back. Most
impressive in this vehicle's interior was the
monster-size power sunroof. This roof, which is roughly
the size of the entire roof of my Mazda Protegé, opens
far enough to let those back seat passengers get some
sun as well.
The Forester 2.5XT has all the things a Subaru should
have; all wheel-drive, a boxer engine, good handling and
suspension, and some off-road capability. It even has,
to a lesser extent, the conservative styling. But for
those who want more, Subaru has upped the ante, and
delivered a solid performer. Be prepared to part with
the bucks though, with the tester ringing in at $38,795,
the Forester 2.5XT doesn't come cheap.
The Good: Superior performance
The Bad: Poorly styled interior, big price
The Verdict: A great ride, if you can afford it.
Our reviewer: Elaine's
love of cars started in high school. All the guys she
hung out with then were car addicts (two of them when on
to be auto mechanics). It was with these guys that
Elaine learned all about the automobile. Her first days
behind the wheel were spent in a red and white Ford
pick-up, (affectionately referred to as The Pig)
belonging to one of these guys (Thanks Mike!). After
graduation from high school and through university,
Elaine's love of cars lay dormant, until, while pursuing
a diploma in journalism at Toronto's Centennial College,
the opportunity to become editor of the Up to Speed
section was presented. With a solid background in
mechanics (Thanks to Humber College for that!), and her
passion for cars still intact, Elaine jumped at the
chance and is currently loving that role, while
finishing her diploma at Centennial.
photos courtesy of John Holland