Verdict: 2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X Limited
Our Winner Has Been the Sum of its Parts
The Subaru Forester does everything well. That's the reason it was crowned our 2009 Sport/Utility of the Year, and after more than a year's service in the Motor Trend test fleet, that choice was more than reaffirmed.
The Forester never sat in our garage. It was the Swiss Army knife of the MT fleet:
Go anywhere, do anything, rarely a problem, and never a complaint-from the vehicle, that is. Whether loaded with photo or video gear, camping equipment, or family road trip supplies, the Forester was up to the challenge.
Every SUV becomes a workhorse of sorts when in the MT test fleet, and the Forester was no exception. With its ample interior space, high clearance, and full-time AWD, it was a no-brainer to use this vehicle for support on comparison adventures. From the snowy peaks of Mammoth Mountain to the scorching desert floor of Death Valley, the Forester always proved the right choice for the job.
While there were no complaints from the car, there were a few from our staffers. The main issue was with the four-speed automatic transmission. In this day and age of seven- and eight-speed transmissions, a four-speed is an antique. Just one extra gear would make a world of difference in the entire driving experience of the Forester. On significant inclines, the transmission would constantly hunt between third and fourth gear, annoying occupants and reducing fuel economy. But once rolling down the highway or maneuvering around town, the Forester worked like a champ.
The compact exterior yet ample interior makes trips to the mall or grocery store uneventful, but that's a good thing. There's no problem navigating crowded parking lots, fitting into parking spots, or loading up with newly purchased goods: the Forester does it all. These physical dimensions are also of great use on family road trips, enhanced by the comfortable and supportive seats; the Forester has 68.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the driver and 33.5 behind the second row. Combine those attributes with the numerous cubbyholes offered by the Forester's cabin, and you'll have no problem whisking the family off for a weekend getaway in complete comfort with plenty of room for everyone's gear.
Being in So Cal, we don't get much weather here other than rain, which brings hidden hazards such as water-filled potholes and cracks that make our roads that much more treacherous. But in the Forester, we never felt uneasy; the AWD keeps a firm grip on the pavement and the 8.7 inches of ground clearance lets you shrug off flooded freeways on your commute.
Being in So Cal also means we're but a few hours from any kind of terrain we want to explore. The Forester's capabilities shine even more when you venture onto a dirt trail or snow-covered road; again, the AWD and ground clearance make your drive fun, rather than scary. Driving down rock-strewn roads, blasting through knee-high snowdrifts, or crossing the occasional stream or river, the Forester can handle it all.
Early in our Forester's tenure with us, we found some electrical gremlins in the navigation and the dealer-installed XM Satellite radio. The nav would indicate us in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, whatever our actual location.
While that got fixed, the satellite radio had its issues. We could hear a loud pop or crack, then the radio would shut down for a bit until it decided it was ready to start working again. The satellite reception was also spotty, even on major freeways, where it was always a crap shoot as to whether it would keep working. On more than a few occasions, it would go into an acquiring mode, attempting to reconnect with the satellite transmission. We came to believe our satellite radio gremlin was nothing more that the antenna's placement, which is inside the cabin, upside down, in the upper right corner of the front windshield. Other than the Forester, we've driven newer Subarus with factory satellite radio and a properly located antenna, which seems to have solved the problem and validated our suspicions.
Accumulating just over 28,000 miles, our Forester made three scheduled service visits totaling $485.96 for oil change, inspection, tire rotation, and air filter replacement, and it needed nothing out of the ordinary that was not covered by the warranty.
All things considered, despite a few minor complaints, the Subaru Forester 2.5X was one of, if not the, most useful and reliable vehicles in our long-term test fleet. Be it chasing the pack on a comparo or loaded to the gills for a family weekend getaway, the Forester proved to be a true jack of all trades.
From the Logbook
The Forester seriously needs another gear, but I have to say it really isn't noticeable around town. The turbo would be nice as well, but again, getting around L.A., the Forester feels plenty peppy from stoplight to stoplight.
- Scott Evans
- Scott Evans
I managed to cram a lot of stuff into this little SUV. Seats folded down, I had three oversized suitcases, skis, poles and boots, six Christmas gifts, two sleeping bags.
- Brian Vance
- Brian Vance
|Options||Navigation ($1800), XM Satellite Radio ($453), Bluetooth microphone kit ($237), PZEV emissions ($200, cargo net seatback ($46)|
|MSRP, as tested||$29,426|
|Avg econ/CO2||22.0 mpg|
|Maintenance cost||$485.96 (3 - oil change/rotate tires/replace air filter)|
|3-year residual value||$16,484*|
|Recalls||Engine and engine cooling|
|* Automotive Lease Guide|
|2009 Subaru Forester 2.5X Limited|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, AWD|
|Engine type||Flat-4, aluminum block and heads|
|Valvetrain||SOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||149.9 cu in/2457 cc|
|Power (SAE net)||170 hp @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm|
|Weight to power||19.6 lb/hp|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Brakes, f;r||11.7-in vented disc; 11.3-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels||7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum|
|Tires||225/55R17 95H M+S, Yokohama Geolander G95|
|Track, f/r||60.2/60.2 in|
|Length x width x height||179.5 x 70.1 x 66.9 in|
|Turning circle||34.4 ft|
|Curb weight||3329 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||55/45%|
|Headroom, f/r||41.6/40.4 in|
|Legroom, f/r||43.1/38.0 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r||56.1/55.6 in|
|Cargo vol beh, f/r||68.3/33.5 cu ft|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||5.1 sec|
|Quarter mile||17.5 sec @ 78.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||128 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||29.4 sec @ 0.54 g (avg)|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|Basic warranty||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Fuel capacity||16.9 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ||20/26 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.88 lb/mile|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded regular|