"I took the Forester with me over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house (drove a 1000-mile round trip to Reno/Tahoe and back) for the Thanksgiving holiday," logs photographer Brian Vance. "Without even checking the specs, one gets the sense that this small-'ute has better ground clearance than its CR-V and RAV-4 competitors, and thus feels he can tackle more serious terrain than those other mini-'utes. I'm not talking about low-range rock-hopping; rather, I'm speaking of rough dirt roads, foot-and-a-half-high snowbanks, and the occasional rock-strewn stream crossing." As you can tell, Vance's grandma lives in a remote part of Reno. On his journey, Vance grew to dislike some attributes of our 2009 Sport/Utility of the Year. "The Forester seems softly sprung. It bounces up and down, wallowing over road undulations, and at times feels like a decade-old Buick. The steering lacks linearity and is sloppy, and during 60-mph sweepers, it needs constant correction to maintain a line. The four-speed auto does little to help the average-powered naturally aspirated flat-four feel more than noisy and overworked. Climbing the numerous passes of highway 395 had me desperately hunting for more gears and wanting to downshift for more grunt."

It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Forester. "I like the rather large cubby space below the HVAC controls in the center stack. It can hold lots of loose items, plus it's lined with a rubber mat that prevents said loose items from slipping around during drive time. I managed to cram a lot of stuff into this little SUV. Seats folded down, and I packed three oversized suitcases, two sleeping bags, and skis, poles, and boots. Also, the two 12-volt ports within reaching distance of the driver are much appreciated. I received numerous comments about how much better the new Forester looks than its predecessor. Most went something like this: 'That's a Forester? I had no idea we were riding in a Forester. It's not ugly anymore.'"


Our Vehicle
Months/miles in service 12/22,532
Avg econ/CO2 21.8 mpg/0.89 lb/mi
Unresolved problems None
Maintenance cost $485.96 (3 - oil change/inspection/rotate tires, replace engine air filter)
Normal-wear cost $0