Fifteen years since its introduction at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Subaru Forester remains unique in the sport utility market. Because of the vehicle’s unibody rather than on-frame construction, it was a crossover before the term crossover was in common use.Likewise, long before other SUVs adopted similar characteristics, the Forester featured a largo cargo area, high seating and more ground clearance than vehicles that now provide the Forester’s primary competition — Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Suzuki Grand Vitara.

Additionally, the Forester, like all Subaru models, features an all-wheel drive drivetrain. It’s the standard in the industry that nicely complements another keen Forester features.

The Forester’s low center of gravity allows the vehicle to meet the U.S. federal standards for passenger vehicles, and thus it does not require a risk of rollover warning label.

The name Forester was used to convey the vehicle is “of the forest.” The name has always worked. The Forester’s characters are shared with siblings Legacy and Outback and the manufacturer’s versatility was a primary reason why it was chosen by the U.S. ski team years ago as one of the first “official vehicles” involved in sponsorship.

The 2010 Forester has only slight updates following its complete redesign in 2009 that removed a lot of the vehicle’s staid exterior looks. There are now 25 configurations of the Forester with suggested retail prices ranging from $20,295 to $30,295.

Between the $10,000 price variances are a lot of options, including my weekly test drive, the 2.5XT Limited, which included: alloy wheels, privacy glass, body-colored exterior mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a power driver seat with lumbar support.

The crossover SUVB segment is one of the most competitive in the auto industry, with Honda and Hyundai offering versatile options that outshine the Forester in certain areas — interior styling, for example.

Likewise, the Forester isn’t the fastest or prettiest crossover on the market. But put the whole package together, particularly for car buyers living at altitude or where inclement weather often prevails, and the Forester is as reliable as it gets.

Facts & Figures: 2010 Subaru Forester

Airbags: Driver and front passenger, side curtain and side head air bags (standard).
Fuel economy (EPA estimates): 19 mpg (city), 24 mpg (hwy).
Government Safety Ratings — Frontal driver (five stars), crash passenger (five stars), Side front seat (five stars), Crash rear seat (five stars), rollover (four stars).
Horse Power and engine: 555/4.4 liter V8.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $28,495.00
Price As tested: $29,694.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000 miles.
Web site: www.subaru.com

What Others Say:

“The relatively sporty Subaru Foresters of yore are sadly gone, replaced by a bigger, taller vehicle that remains easy to drive but doesn’t elicit the same sort of driving enjoyment.” —- Edmunds.com.

“With a size somewhere between a wagon and a small SUV, the 2010 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited is an odd duck, yet still immensely practical as a family camper with its roomy interior and light off-road capability.” —- CNET.com.

“We found the Forester dazzling in its sure-footedness and comfortable ride, never once whimpering in the face of abuse. The suspension isn’t firm but offers relatively long travel.” —- AOLAutos.com

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Visit the Sierra Nevada or Rocky Mountains and Subaru dominates. Folks who live in snow country need safe cars with a little more emphasis than flat-landers. I’ve never lived in a mountain city, but if I did I’d own a Subaru.”

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