Used 1999 Subaru Forester Review
What do you do when sport-utility buyers won't drive home in your all-wheel drive station wagon, which is dressed up like an SUV, because it looks too 'wagony'? If you're gutsy like Subaru, you put a taller, more squared-off body on your wagon chassis, and call it good. The new Forester is a Subaru parts bin exercise, and since the parts bin is rather small at Fuji Heavy Industries, which owns the upstart all-wheel drive automaker, the car is cobbled together from a mixture of Impreza and Legacy bits.
Based on the rally-proven Impreza platform, the Forester uses the same AWD system found in other Subaru models. The 2.5-liter boxer engine comes from the Legacy Outback, and makes 165 horsepower in the Forester. Torque has been increased for 1999, earning a Stage II designation for this motor. Forester has more power than its primary competitors, though Suzuki's new Grand Vitara V6 has closed the gap.
Also, thanks to its hunkered-down stance, low center of gravity and car-based foundation, the Forester handles better than the Chevrolet Tracker, Honda CR-V, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota RAV4. The trade-off is lower ground clearance and less capable off-road ability, but you weren't going to go too far off the beaten path anyway, were you? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know-what-I-mean?)
Inside is room for four adults, with a rear center position marked off for a fifth rider in a pinch. Cargo space is equivalent to what you'd find in the RAV4 or Tracker, and storage room abounds.
Three Forester models are available: the base, the mid-level L and the high-end S. Air conditioning, roof rack, rear defogger, tachometer, power windows, tilt steering, rear wiper/washer, and an 80-watt cassette stereo are standard on the base model. The L adds antilock brakes, power door locks and cosmetic goodies. This year, the L's standard equipment list has been expanded to include power exterior mirrors. With a base price barely over $20,000 when destination charges are included, the L is Subaru's volume seller. The uplevel S gets a toothy chrome grille, alloy wheels, bigger tires, rear disc brakes, cruise control and upgraded interior trimmings.
New to the S for 1999 is a standard All Weather Package that includes heated seats and exterior mirrors, as well as a windshield wiper de-icer. Remote keyless entry and leather is optional on the L and S. Other Forester options include CD player, alloy wheels, cruise control, trailer hitch and a variety of cosmetic upgrades. All Foresters can be painted in two new colors: Silverthorn Metallic and Aspen White.
While we are partial to the Impreza Outback Sport and Legacy Outback models, the Forester will attract buyers who want an inexpensive, functional, all-wheel drive vehicle that looks like a truck and drives like a car. As long as Subaru can keep a lid on pricing, the Forester should pick up right where the Outback wagons leave off
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.