My 1998 Forester, bought new in the 1st model year, has been the best of many cars I've owned since the '60s. I have just traded the car at 120K miles, facing a big $$ repair, but nothing you wouldn't expect to wear out after 10yrs/100K+ miles. Overall, my Forester has been incredibly reliable and great to drive in our "bad" Northeastern weather. I've set out on long drives at night with total confidence, in all seasons. After this experience, I'd find it hard to part with the AWD. Looking forward to my new '09 Forester.
All Wheel Drive! Great headlights for overnight driving. Strong, reliable engine. Responsive, precise handling. Flexible, generous cargo capacity for this size vehicle. Flexible roof rack - for bikes, stepladders, beds. Body integrity - no rust at all (except surface dings) after 10 NE winters.
More padding and support in front seats. More passenger room in rear seats More headroom for cargo (can't stand a bike up inside, but fits flat). Electronic stability & traction control. NOTE: Most of these items have been addressed in the 2009 redesign.