Full 2011 Subaru Forester Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, Subaru Forester 2.5X models have a revised 2.5-liter engine that boosts torque and fuel economy slightly. The 2.5XT Limited trim has been dropped and a couple of new trim levels have been added: the 2.5X Touring and the 2.5XT Touring, positioned above the Limited trim. Several trims get improved audio features, while the 2.5X Premium gets a new optional TomTom navigation system. An eight-way power driver seat (with power-adjustable lumbar support) is now standard on the 2.5XT Premium, and Bluetooth is now standard on all Foresters except the 2.5X.
Much of Subaru's success has stemmed from its skill at meeting the needs of very specific -- and very dedicated -- groups of car buyers. Models like the Outback have traditionally been aimed at people wanting something civilized enough for mundane urban travel, yet rugged enough for snow and light off-roading, while sport sedans like the WRX were intended for driving enthusiasts. More recently, though, the brand has been making an effort to offer vehicles that attract a broader, more mainstream audience. The 2011 Subaru Forester is a perfect example.
The typical crossover buyer will find his needs nicely met by the latest Forester, which was last redesigned three years ago. There's enough room in its attractive-looking cabin to carry passengers in comfort; the rear seat is especially spacious and plush. The cargo capacity is among the largest in the segment. And finally, this crossover also delivers a smooth, comfortable ride.
But the Forester hasn't forsaken the great outdoors. With a class-leading 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive, this crossover is a natural fit for poor weather or light-duty off-road trails. The Forester is also one of the few small crossovers to offer a turbocharged engine, which could hold particular appeal for people who often drive at high altitudes.
Even so, shoppers on the hunt for a compact or midsize crossover get to choose from a wealth of very strong contenders. With sportier handling than the Forester, the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-7 are likely better picks for people who really like to drive, while the Toyota RAV4 offers a gutsy engine (the optional V6) and available third-row seating. Other top choices include the impressive Chevrolet Equinox and refined Honda CR-V. Still, with its wide range of talents, the Forester certainly deserves a place on your consideration list.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Subaru Forester is a compact crossover SUV available in six trim levels: 2.5X, 2.5X Premium, 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT Premium, 2.5X Touring and 2.5XT Touring.
The 2.5X is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, full power accessories, air-conditioning, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a tilt steering column, a trip computer and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The 2.5X Premium adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, an eight-way power driver seat with power-adjustable lumbar support, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, Bluetooth with audio streaming, steering-wheel audio controls, iPod integration, USB connectivity and reclining rear seatbacks.
The 2.5X Limited adds foglights, automatic climate control, the All-Weather package (including heated mirrors, heated front seats and windshield wiper de-icer), leather upholstery and a six-speaker stereo with six-CD changer. The 2.5XT Premium is similar to the 2.5X Premium but has a more powerful engine, a hood scoop and a rear roof spoiler. The 2.5X Touring builds on the 2.5X Limited's list of amenities, adding bi-xenon headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a one-touch folding rear seatback, electroluminescent instrumentation and a rearview camera. The 2.5XT Touring combines the 2.5XT Premium's features with those seen in the 2.5X Touring.
The All-Weather package is optional on the 2.5X Premium, as is a portable TomTom navigation system. Limited and Touring trims are available with a traditional dash-mounted navigation system that includes a touchscreen interface, a single-CD player (replaces six-CD) and an auxiliary audio/video input jack. Satellite radio and a variety of exterior trim add-ons are offered as stand-alone options.
Powertrains and Performance
Every Subaru comes with standard all-wheel drive, and the Forester is no different. The 2.5X models are powered by a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed (flat) four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The XT trims feature a turbocharged variant that produces 224 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the 2.5X and 2.5X Premium, with a four-speed automatic offered as an option. The automatic is the only transmission available on the 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT Premium, 2.5X Touring and 2.5XT Touring.
With both the manual and automatic transmissions, 2.5X models earn EPA ratings of 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined, or exactly what you'd get from the similarly powered AWD Honda CR-V. 2.5X models sold in states with more stringent emissions standards earn a squeaky-clean PZEV rating. With the XT's turbocharged engine, fuel economy dips to 19 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. In Edmunds performance testing, a 2.5XT went from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.8 seconds.
Standard safety features on every 2011 Subaru Forester include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. In Edmunds braking tests, the Forester 2.5XT came to a stop from 60 mph in 125 feet, which is a good distance for this segment.
The Forester has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) resulted in perfect five-star ratings in all front- and side-impact categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the Forester its best rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Subaru Forester features a pleasantly styled and highly functional cabin design, though its fit and finish is a little hit-or-miss. Controls are mostly straightforward and easy to access. The Forester is one of the most spacious vehicles in the segment, comparing favorably with the RAV4, CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander, all of which straddle the line between compact and midsize SUVs.
This crossover's split-folding rear seat with optional reclining seatbacks deserves special mention here. The term "throne" appropriately describes this seat, as the cushion is so high that rear passengers will feel as though they're looking down on those in front. All but the longest of leg will actually be able to rest their hamstrings flush against the cushion -- a rarity in motorized conveyances without wings or bathrooms. The cargo area is similarly generous, boasting 33.5 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seatback raised and 68.3 cubes with it folded.
The 2011 Forester has one of the most comfortable rides in the segment. Its crisp steering and usefully tight turning circle also make it surprisingly maneuverable in close quarters. Both engine choices are highly competitive in terms of power and fuel economy, although an automatic transmission with more gears than the Forester's four would make a big difference. Not only would fuel economy and acceleration theoretically improve, but more narrowly spaced ratios would make downshifts smoother and less noticeable as well. Still, the 2011 Subaru Forester is an able performer, especially in the 2.5XT trims.