In its 17-year tenure, the Subaru Forester has transitioned to having one of the coolest names in the automotive industry from having one of the worst names.

The name Forester implies “Of the forest.” But when the vehicle debuted in 1995 at the Tokyo Motor Show as a concept, it was called the “Sutoriga” or Stalker.

The reason for its first name is subject to interpretation, but a decade-and-a-half and several editions later, the Forester is fully ingrained in Subaru’s practical, if unspectacular, lineup of sedan and utilitarian sports vehicles all featuring symmetrical all-wheel drive.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Introduced to the United States market in 1998, the 2011 Forester is now available in six trims, including the 2.5X Premium model I had for my weekly test drive.

2011 Subaru Forester. Images @ James Raia

As an SUV with a low center of gravity, ample cargo room and the highest safety rating available in the country, it’s a good choice. But for mountain driving or any inclement weather conditions, it’s the best choice when matched against its primary competitors like the Toyota RAV-4 or Honda CR-V.

But as a flatlander, my week with the Subaru Forester was largely in highway conditions and in around town trips. On those journeys, the Forester isn’t at its best.

It’s noisy and its ride isn’t particularly smooth. The primary option package on the 2.5X premium trim is the all-weather package that includes heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors and a TomTom navigation system. It’s a $1,095 option, and like the car overall, it’s better suited for mountain use, if you can figure out the complicated navigation functions.

Likes:

Panoramic power moonroof. It’s big, perhaps the biggest of any car I’ve test-driven.

Exterior design. The Forester’s lines are clean and it has an efficient look on the open road.

All-weather Option Package: Heated front seats, windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors. Three more reasons why Subaru is particularly popular in cold weather climates.

Dislikes:

TomTom removable navigation system. Screen, read-out small, overall far from intuitive.

Interior materials like side panels and console construction not made from the best quality.

Seats, regardless of positioning, just aren’t comfortable.

Four-speed automatic transmission is difficult to shift.

2011 Subaru Forester: Facts & Figures

Acceleration: 0-60 mph (not available).
Airbags (6): Front, side and side curtain.
Antilock brakes: standard.
Engine/Transmission: 2.5-liter turbocharged, four cylinder, four-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy: 21 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: not rated.
Horsepower: 224.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $23,495.00.
Price as tested: $26,384.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.subaru.com.
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.

What Others Say:

“As the Legacy and Outback almost match the Forester feature-for-feature at the same price, only the extra storage space in the Forester causes it to stand out. I much prefer the extra sophistication and feeling of quality in the Legacy or Outback.” —- MSN.com.

“Forester is a reasonably priced alternative to compact SUV bellwethers such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It’s noisier and less refined than those rivals, and its interior ambiance is a step behind that of other recently redesigned crossovers. Still, this crossover offers good fuel economy and lots of features for the money, with the 2.5X and 2.5X Premium being the strongest values.” —-Consumer Guide.

“The Forester retains the strong taste of vanilla in terms of exterior and interior styling — far more satisfying than exciting. The same holds true for road performance — perfectly competent for dry-road highway runs, accelerates well when necessary and handles well in high-speed highway traffic.” —- Washington Post.

What The Wife Says:

“It’s just not a car for me. It’s not particularly comfortable, it’s underpowered and its radio, gearing and other controls are not very intuitive.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“If you live in the mountains or spend a lot of time commuting in inclement weather and you’re seeking a good value in an SUV, buy the Subaru Forester. If you don’t have to worry about snow, winding roads or other weather issues, there are better options.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Yep, I recently drove a new Forester, too. As you say, it’s noisy, with cheap interior plastic pieces, and a ridiculous TomTom pop out Navigation system. What’s up with the old fashioned four-speed automatic?

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