I recently bought a Pearl Blue 2.5X Limited Forester.
I was looking for a smaller Crossover that was rugged enough to handle some relatively sketchy gravel / dirt roads on the way to the back-country, but was not completely out of place in an Urban environment.
I also didn't want to spend 40K+ either.
After returning from a 2500 mile road trip to the Tucson AZ area I can confirm that the Forester essentially fulfills its twin goals of being both tough enough for the desert and civilized enough for everyday driving.
It is Not, however, a luxury car (see the Volvo XC60) nor is it a Performance car.
As such people with long daily commutes might want to look elsewhere.
I very much liked the Foresters performance in the mountains, on Gravel and dirt roads (AWD keeps things rock solid) and on city streets.
The ride, handling, steering, and overall highway noise (low) are all quite good too.
Other favorites include the rather full featured electronics (Ipod hookup, Bluetooth, etc) and the drivers seat which I found very comfortable even after 8+ hours at the wheel.
The car does have plenty of space for luggage, photo gear, etc, and there were few or no rattles when the car was packed.
Where the Forester (really) needs improvement is acceleration at interstate speeds.
It CAN do it, but not as quick as you might like, and it certainly will make a LOT of (engine) noise trying.
Subaru really, Really, REALLY needs to have a 6 cylinder engine available for this puppy.
With that it would be a slam dunk.
A REAL Climate control system would also be appreciated.
Perhaps I was spoiled by my previous car (Acura CL 3.0) but the auto settings on the Forester AC were sort of hopeless.
My wife was not fond of the Front Passenger seat which she felt gave her quite the backache.
I had no such problem, nor did my wife complain about the driver seat or sitting in the back