I just turned in my XT after 3-year lease was up. It never burned a drop of oil between changes and nothing (other than gas door lever) broke. It was 100% reliable through hard use, on and off-road, hauling bikes, kayaks etc. It was truly my trusted friend, and very fun to drive fast on mountain roads because of the precise, communicative steering. The turbo was powerful. Got a very good lease price, and when I turned it in, the car was worth more than the residual value, so I got a $1700 credit toward another vehicle.
Fun to drive, "zippy," very good visibility, absolutely reliable. I like the fact I didn't have to get that awful, annoying keyless ignition that most cars are saddled with now.
There is nothing like a plain old KEY for convenience and ease of use; it's cheap to replace and you can hide a spare key on, or in, the car.
This car feels best on mountain roads and around town-- and it can get you out of snow and deep ruts very nicely because of the 4WD and great power.
But on the freeway it is not at its best because it is a high and light vehicle, and emergency maneuvers at 75 MPH do not feel safe due to rollover possibility.
The 4-speed automatic transmission used in 2011 was jerky in some situations: you have to know how to drive it to reduce that sensation.
The steering wheel should telescope more; the drivers door arm rest is set too low for resting your arm on long trips; so is the center console (I added a custom bolster I bought online). Not enough leg room for a very tall driver. Front doors are light-feeling which means less protection from side impact. I had to add a back-supporter set (attached seat and back, steel internal supports, memory foam covering, from Relax the Back) to be comfortable driving on a long trip because the driving position is just not good enough for long time periods.
My impressions so far at 5K miles is a mixed bag. The Forester XT is great for family trips with enough comfort and room for kids and stuff. The XT has good power and dynamic handling thanks in part to the AWD that sometimes makes things boring. The interior is nice with some good features and is comfortable and reasonably quite. The price is also reasonable. But make no mistake about it, the 4sp auto is this cars big downfall that accounts for poor gas mileage (Im getting 17.7mpg mostly city) and jerky shifting.
The boxer turbo 4 is powerful and butter smooth, smoother than the Infiniti and Acura V6 I own/ed. Steering and handling work really well with the AWD system. Tight turning radius and backup camera makes maneuverability easy. Dual auto climate controls a strong air conditioner and the heated front seats are nice.
Good audio system with USB plug (no more $$ iPod, just a cheap thumb drive) or use Bluetooth for both cell and music. HID headlights are bright albeit not self-leveling or turning. Other nice touches are relining rear seats, ample cargo room, leather seats, large moon roof, comfortable seating, and good visibility.
This car is ready for bad weather.
Functional hood scoop is cool.
The transmission is responsible for the two biggest flaws in the XT, gas mileage (I avg 17.7mpg feathering the throttle most of the time) and jerky shifting. Just too few gears to get the mileage up or the spacing right to reduce the jerking.
The XT is the performance Forester and should come with a 5sp auto as found on econboxes likes CRVs, Civics, Mazda 3s, Kias, etc.
Also, theres a 1sec delay when you floor the throttle, like the ECM is thinking, hello.
These 3 shortcoming ruin the love for me.
Manual adj passenger seat and lack of LED side brake lights and interior lights seem out of step. No clean diesel option in the USA.
The Forester is a practical, reliable, and versatile vehicle. The only problem is that it uses a 170hp engine to power a relatively large vehicle. So, if you are planning on buying one I recommend you buy the turbo charged XT. this will power you up hills with no trouble. The storage space is great, and the panoramic moon roof is incredible.
Turbo charged engine on the XT.
Panoramic moon roof. Backup camera. Comfortable seats in the touring models
Update the transmission to a 5-speed or even better a 6-speed.