2009 Subaru Forester
Introduced in 1997, the Forester occupies the lower-priced end of the CUV segment, competing with the likes of the Toyota RAV-4 and Honda CRV for market share. For 2009, the Forester gets a complete remodel, with a taller and wider stance, a retuned engine and drivetrain, and substantial refinements for on-road ride.
For the coming model year, the Forester still offers a one-size-fits-all motor: The 16-valve 2.5L four-cylinder engine that comes in both naturally aspirated (170hp) and turbocharged (224hp) versions. Transmission choices are the standard five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic. Unfortunately, you can only get the turbocharger with the auto gearbox (read on), and Subaru recommends premium fuel to feed it as well.
The Forester employs two distinct all-wheel-drive systems: A viscous coupling-type center diff with the five-speed manual, and a variable-rate electromagnetic clutch with the automatic, which delivers power to the wheel(s) with the most traction based on continuous readings of throttle and wheelspeed variation. Suspension is four-wheel independent, with MacPherson struts and coils in front and double wishbones in back.
On-road, the new Forester is a pleasure to drive with the five-speed; clutch feel is light and engagement a tad abrupt, but with a little practice, rowing through the gears becomes progressively more fun, though the engine takes its time to generate max power. The close-ratio four-speed, however, is crude, unpredictable, and robs the turbo'd engine of a great deal of power. On the other hand, chassis tuning is very tight, steering feel is terrific, and handling is crisp at highway speed, with minimal body sway and quick return-to-center. Our testers' cloth seats could have used more lower back support and side bolstering, but thanks to a suitably tall ride height and skinny side and rear pillars, visibility in all directions is exceptional. For a smallish CUV, the Forester is also commendably roomy inside, with ample head- and elbowroom for a 6-foot driver.
Off the pavement, the Forester provides a mixed bag of manners. On stretches of high-speed dirt, the little Forester offered a firm, controlled ride and was a blast to drift in corners and launch from small berms (oh yeah, these guys also build Impreza rally cars, huh?). On nastier, slower-speed sections of trail, though, the Subaru's variable-clutch AWD system was slow to get power to the rear wheels (the viscous coupling with the five-speed behaved much more efficiently); the ABS traction control didn't always engage when we would have expected it, resulting in a sometimes-jerky ride; and powering up steep hills was accompanied by a fair amount of rear wheelhop and undercarriage scraping. Bottom line: The new Forester is much happier taking you and your trail toys down dirt country roads to your favorite trailhead; just leave the gnarlier routes to the Jeep guys, and enjoy the ride in a capable, if slightly quirky, crossover rig. And trust us, you don't need to wear Birkenstocks.
Streamlined styling; high fun factor with the five-speed; excellent sight lines all around; decent mileage; premium tires.
Power-robbing four-speed; suspension too stiff for rough trails; turbocharger only offered with the auto trans; turbo'd engine requires premium fuel.
A capable, if slightly quirky, contender against the RAVs and CRVs of the crossover kingdom.
|Vehicle/model: ||2009 Honda Pilot ||2009 Subaru Forester |
|Base price: ||$27,500 ||$19,995 |
|Engine: ||24-valve 3.5L SOHC V-6 ||16-valve 2.5L SOHC I-4 |
|Max hp & torque (lb-ft): ||250/253 ||220/226 (with turbo) |
|Transmission(s): ||Five-speed automatic ||Five-speed manual/Four-speed automatic |
|Transfer case: ||VTM-4 full-time one-speed ||N/A: full-time AWD |
|Low-range ratio: ||Nope ||N/A |
|Frame type: ||Steel unitbody ||Steel unitbody |
|Suspension, f/r: ||MacPherson strut IFS, stabilizer bar/IRS multilink, ||MacPherson strut IFS, coil springs, stabilizer stabilizer barbar/Double-wishbone IRS |
|Ring-and-pinion: ||4.31:1 ||4.11:1 (five-speed), 4.44:1 (four-speed) |
|Steering: ||Variable power rack-and-pinion ||Variable power rack-and-pinion |
|Brakes, f/r: ||13.0-inch vented disc/13.1-inch solid disc ||11.7-inch vented disc/11.3-inch solid disc |
|Wheels (tested): ||17x8 alloy ||17x7 aluminum alloy |
|Tires (tested): ||245/65R17 Michelin LTX M + S ||225/55R17 Yokohama Geolandar A/S |
|Wheelbase (in): ||109.2 ||103.0 |
|Length (in): ||190.9 ||179.5 |
|Height (in): ||71.0 ||66.9 (including roof rails) |
|Base curb weight (lb): ||4,499 ||3,250 |
|Max approach/departure angles (deg): ||28/25 ||25/25 |
|Minimum ground clearance (in): ||8.0 ||8.7 |
|Max cargo volume (cu. ft.): ||83.1 ||68.3 |
|Max towing capacity (lb): ||4,500 ||2,400 |
|EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): ||16/22 ||20/26 |
|Fuel capacity (gal): ||21.0 ||16.9 |