SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 22,895 Price As Tested $ 25,412 Engine Type SOHC 16-valve 2.5 Liter I4 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"/175.6" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3430 pounds Fuel Capacity 15.9 gallons Tires (F/R) 215/60R16 mud and 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.) 0.405 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 22/26/24 0-60 MPH 10.5 seconds Maximum cargo capacity 900 pounds Maximum towing capacity 2000 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
BOB - In the early '70's, Subarus were considered homely little front-drive sedans and station wagons that became the darlings of the counter-culture movement, possibly by virtue of its Volkswagen-like four cylinder engine. The had lots of mechanical problems but the company hung on and became a peripheral player on our auto market. By a stroke of genius, it became something of an image builder for folks looking for something "different" when it brought out it's four-wheel drive BRAT (Bi-Recreational All Terrain) pickup in '80. It was a pickup, all right, but it was built on a sedan platform. and had a couple of rearward- facing bucket seats bolted to the bed. This got it into this country under the less-restrictive truck quota when in reality it was a coupe with a big trunk. The BRAT didn't sell in great numbers but it attracted a lot of attention with small car buyers.
MATT - Subaru is a small company that's very creative. A few years ago, it stopped selling it's two-wheel drive vehicles here to concentrate on full-time all-wheel drive vehicles. It doesn't do ersatz pickups any more but it was right on line when it brought out its Forester SUV in 1997. The Forester is actually a tall SUV-body version of the Subaru Outback that's been made into a quasi-Australian icon through the delightful tongue-in-cheek TV commercials that feature Paul Hogan as his famous Crocodile Dundee character. The Forester has a bit more room inside than the Outback and a little sharper dry-creek entry and exit angles to its front and rear overhangs. The tall body on the Forester has lots of window glass which provides a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The photo we got with the Subaru press package shows the Forester in a snow-covered forest which indicates that it's aimed at the "active lifestyle" buyer who wants to enjoy outdoor participation sports but not those that include crawling over boulder- strewn mountain tops or through trackless wastelands. Unlike a "pure" SUV, the Forester doesn't have a low-low range transfer case.
BOB - The mechanics of the Forester are typical Subaru. The all-aluminum flat-opposed four-cylinder engine has undergone considerable updating in the past decade and the only thing it shares with its ancestors is the basic layout of two cylinders on each side. This latest 2.5-liter version has single overhead cams and puts out a very respectable 165 horses and just a bit more torque in pound/feet. The standard transmission is a five-speed stick but our test unit came with a more convenient four-speed automatic. Being the top-of-the-line S version, it has a limited slip differential for the back wheels as well as disc brakes all around. Its sophisticated drive system shifts torque around to the various wheel where it's needed most and it will even send more power to the rear wheels when it accelerates and then to the front wheels when the driver gets off the throttle.
MATT - Our test unit has aluminum 16-inch wheels 215/R60 mud and snow tires which go along with its outdoorsey persona. It also has roof rails and cross-bars that cam accommodate a lot of dealer-supplies carrying accessories that are built to handle outdoor "toys" that range from a pair of mountain bikes to a kayak. Aerodynamics isn't the Forester's strong point and with a drag coefficient of .405, it's only slightly better than a homebuilt shed. But it doesn't seem to affect it's fuel mileage very much and it gets 22 mpg around town and 24 on the highway. It runs on regular gasoline and that in itself is a strong point.
BOB - Another strong point is the fact that it has a full-sized spare tire but I forgot to see if it was another alloy wheel or a steel wheel like those on the "lesser" Forester models. It wouldn't be "classy" to run a dull-black steel wheel on the vehicle if a five-wheel tire rotation was on the service schedule. I've observed that many drivers neglect doing tire rotations and that they wear out individual tires prematurely.
MATT - Dad, you're beginning to sound like an auto shop teacher again.