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Subaru Forester S (2002)

SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,695
     Price As Tested                                    $ 26,241
     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"/68.3"/175.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3283 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                      P215/60R16 94H 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.)                             0.405


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/27/25
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                          900 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         2000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - When I see a Subaru, I always think of those television commercials with Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee, saying "G'Day" and calling everybody "mate." It's good advertising, and when they produce a vehicle like the 2002 Forester S, they demonstrate that they are not just a cookie-cutter car company. It was once only known for its funky Brat pickup, but Subaru recently stopped selling trucks and two wheel-drive vehicles in America so they could concentrate on full-time all-wheel-drive vehicles. Its Forester "mini-ute" SUV made its debut in 1998 and it was looked at as a taller version of the popular Outback wagon. They are quite different however, and the Forester is a bit cheaper.

MIKELE - I always laughed at the Brats that pulled into my high school parking lot, because they seemed so small and weak compared to the Muscle Cars driven by the "big" men on campus. But I bet some of those popular high school guys are driving Subaru-type vehicles now that they've grown up. The new Forester S model we drove had a smooth shifting four speed automatic transmission and a peppy 2.5-liter horizontally-opposed four cylinder "boxer" engine. This is an engine design feature that Subaru has utilized ever since the company got out of the micro-car business and began building cars for the international market. Our Forester wasn't exactly a Ferrari, but with 165 horses, it wasn't a slouch either. The Forester has full-time all-wheel-drive, which automatically distributes power between the front and rear wheels, depending on where the traction is needed. Our S-model had a viscous limited-slip rear differential, as opposed to two other systems that are used on other models. Subaru is very much into high-tech stuff.

BRENDAN - The Forester gets 22 city and 27 highway fuel mileage, which is not bad for a family car. Its interior is roomy, and it fits five adults so loading up our two dogs was a snap. Our test rig had leather upholstery, a power moonroof, 16-inch alloy wheels with gold accents, and monotone paint. It also featured a custom tailpipe cover, auto-dimming interior mirror and compass, a center armrest console, and front seat side airbags.

MIKELE - The exterior design of the Forester isn't what I'd call elegant or ground-breaking, but its boxy, basic look is refreshing compared to some of today's cookie-cutter design trends. It has an internal glass antenna which eliminates those pesky telescoping ones that I always seem to get broken off in the car wash. The chrome front grille has a body-color frame, and its multi reflector headlights and fog lamps blend smoothly into its design. New stuff for '02 are a standard retractable cargo cover and daytime running lights, both practical items. The Forester meets all the current federal passenger- car safety standards, which are more stringent than for light trucks, and it starts with an innovation Subaru labels Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame construction. It helps provide protection in frontal, offset frontal, side and rear impacts. Like the dual side-impact airbags, the Forester also has driver and front passengers supplemental restraint units. Four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock brakes top off the Forester's safety items.

BRENDAN - I liked the Forester, but as far as Subarus go, I much prefer the zippy WRX turbo sedan. I can hardly wait to get back behind the wheel of another one of them during Track Day for the press.

MIKELE - I'm sure you can't, but your Dad went with you last time and when you two get together on the track, it makes me worry. Next time it comes up, I think I'll go too and ride along in the back seat.

BRENDAN - I'm not so sure I'm ready for a back seat driver on a race track, Mikele.