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2002 Subaru Forester S AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 5M) S AWD 4dr Wagon (2.5L 4cyl 5M)
Had a 2002 Outback automatic - a great car but wanted to go back to a manual transmission. Really enjoy driving this Forester - somehow it rides better than the Outback with a shorter wheelbase. Excellent visibility, easy to get in and out of. Geared lower than my '98 Outback which turned around 3200 rpm @ 65mph, the Forester is around 2750. Engine has enough torque to handle moderate hills in 5th gear. Never feels under powered. A lot of room for it's size - cargo capacity very close to an '02 Grand Cherokee. Feels like a sports car with high seating. Bought it at 98k, have about 104k now. Not a concern since I have a company vehicle.
Subaru Reliability, Good ride, decent economy for AWD. Great winter car with AWD, heated seats and windshield wiper de-icers. Really like the wheels of that year's S model. Not that I'm in the market for a new Forester, but it's good to know there's still an SUV available with a manual transmission - the Forester.
One thing lacking was an armrest. I know after market units can are available, I built a basic one from wood, foam, and fabric as close as I could match to the gray interior. It made a big improvement in driving comfort, especially with the manual transmission.