SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide
By Matt/Bob Hagin
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 22,595 Price As Tested $ 24,746 Engine Type SOHC 16-valve 2.5 Liter H4 w/SMFI* Engine Size 150 cid/2457 cc Horsepower 165 @ 5600 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 166 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 99.4"/79.3"/175.2" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3207 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.9 gallons Tires (F/R) 215/60R16 mud & snow Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/five-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.40 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 22/27/25 0-60 MPH 10.0 seconds Cargo capacity (rear seats down) 64.6 cu. ft. * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
(Subaru is one of the world's smallest car companies, but it's developed a secure niche for itself, according to Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin says that he would have bet against its survival in 1958.) BOB - The first Subaru I worked on was the minuscule model 360 that was imported here in small numbers over 40 years ago. Consumer Reports magazine reviewed it at the time and labeled it the most unsafe vehicle on the American road. But Fuji Heavy Industries, makers of Subaru automobiles, learned many lessons since then and has honed the image of the line into one of offering rugged no-nonsense, go-almost-anywhere family vehicles. The new Subaru Forester is a good example. Although it's thought of as a sport/utility vehicle, it rides more like a sedan than a true off-roader and that it's meant to be a family car is a foregone conclusion. It was never intended to be a desert racer or to claw its way through boulder-strewn creek beds. MATT - The Forester is one of the "alternate breed" of sport/utility vehicles. Traditional SUVs are built with a relatively large engine up front that drives a solid rear axle which may or may not be mounted on archaic leaf springs. Very few of them provide full-time all-wheel drive and the chassis is almost always a truck-type ladder frame. They're very much at home in rough country where there's no road but less than five percent of them are ever driven off the pavement by their owners. On the other hand, the Forester is built around a passenger car platform. It uses independent suspension front and rear that is controlled by long-action MacPherson struts. It's built on the same platform as the Subaru Impreza, but the wheelbase has been stretched. The Forester looks like and rides like an upright, compact station wagon. BOB - Subaru promotion is heavy into the technical expertise that it has put into the Forester, as well as all the vehicles in its fleet. The engine in the newest Forester is a flat-opposed four cylinder with two cylinders on each side. While Volkswagen was the original pioneer of this style of powerplant design, I think that the Subaru can trace its roots back to the water-cooled German Goliath of the late '50s. This year Subaru replaced its complex twin-cam 2.5-liter engine of last year with one that has the same displacement and horsepower but uses a single cam on each side. Subaru literature claims it's more flexible than the engine it replaced, but I couldn't detect any difference. Subaru is heavy into the high-tech side of all-wheel drive and with its four-speed automatic transmission, our Forester had a load of "trick" stuff in its drivetrain. Under normal driving conditions, the front wheels do 90 percent of the work, but if the front wheels begin to slip on ice or in the wet, the system transfers a greater part of the power to the rear wheels until the front wheels regain their grip. Under acceleration, more power is applied to the rear wheels to equalize the "bite." It's all done electronically and the driver just has to point and steer, but this fancy technology isn't cheap. The automatic is an $800 option over the normal five-speed. Even with the extra charge, I'd still take the automatic over the five-speed. MATT - If its driver chooses to take Forester into the rough stuff, there's nearly eight inches of ground clearance and the approach and decent angles of 23 degrees are enough to get it up and down some pretty steep embankments. The front seats have built-in heaters, as do the outside mirrors. The windshield wipers even have a de-icer system built into them. Subaru is into the outdoor lifestyle and gives support to the Forestry Service's "Tread Lightly" program. It's the official vehicle of the American Canoe Association, the National Ski Patrol, Professional Ski Instructors of America and the International Mountain Biking Association as well as being affiliated with several other "outdoorsey" organizations. Maybe Subaru will let us have this Forester again once the ski season gets going here in California. BOB - If they do, you and your brothers can make that trip. In cold weather I don't want to get any closer to the snow than to see it out the window of a first-class ski lodge.