2011 Subaru Forester Review

Not much has changed for the refreshed Forester, despite an all new engine

2011 Subaru Forester Review

It was one of the first, part of a triumvirate in fact, of small, Japanese car-based ‘crossover’ utilities that hit North American shores in the mid-1990s. But the Subaru Forester stood out, not only in being the most car-like, but also in providing the best utility and traction on slippery surfaces.

FAST FACTS

1. For 2011 the Forester is the first model to get Subaru’s new 2.5-liter boxer engine that has the same displacement, with slightly more power at 174-hp and equal torque at 170 ft-lbs. In both cases, power is available at a lower rpm.

2. Turbocharged 2.5-liter engine is a carryover from last year and rated at 224-hp and 226 ft-lbs of torque.

3. Fuel economy is improved slightly to 21/27-mpg (city/hwy) regardless of transmission.

4. Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system is always on, unlike AWD setups on competitor vehicles that only engage the rear wheels once a slip is detected.

5. The 2.5X Premium trim now gets an optional, removable TomTom Navigation System.

It proved to be quite the hit and generated a loyal fan base as well as a financial shot in the arm for the quirky Japanese brand.

The Forester was updated for 2003, later adding a sporty XT version with a turbocharged 2.5-liter boxer engine; that proved to be a surprising sleeper of a performance vehicle, able to embarrass a number of ‘bona fide’ sporty cars.  However, it was still a niche vehicle and its original competitors, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, despite offering less utility, character and performance, continued to outsell it.

For 2009, the Forester was extensively re-designed, emerging as a more mainstream and lower priced offering. It proved a good move for Subaru, this third generation model more than doubling sales in the first year, but commercial success came at a price – it was far less distinctive than it’s predecessor.

But for the revamped sheetmetal, updated chassis, enhanced fully-independent suspension and symmetrical all-wheel drive system, engines were largely carried over – the 2009-10 Forester being powered by a variation of the same 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four cylinder found in the Impreza and Legacy. However, to give Subaru credit, unlike many smaller crossovers with AWD, both manual and automatic transmissions were available.

THIRD GENERATION BOXER ENGINE

Now into its third year, the current Forester is due for some updates, the biggest one being a new engine in normally aspirated X models. True to form, it’s a horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ unit, heck it’s even sized at 2.5-liters, but beyond that, there’s little in common with the EJ25 of old. It’s actually of slightly larger actual displacement (2498 cc, versus 2457), but sports a smaller bore and a longer stroke. According to Subaru engineers, this was primarily done to improve torque delivery at slightly lower rpm – the new engine is rated at 174 ft-lbs at 4100 rpm (versus 170 at 4800 rpm on the old motor).

Maximum horsepower remains at 170, though it’s now delivered at lower rpm as well (5800 revs, versus 6000). Other features include new dual overhead cam heads (the previous normally aspirated boxer had just a single camshaft on each), plus timing chains instead of belts for reduced maintenance. Subaru’s active valve control is also employed on the intake cams and a new intake manifold is designed to improve airflow and aid torque delivery.

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