By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.6
With volatile gas prices compelling many large SUV owners to abandon their fuel-hungry rides, small crossovers like the third-generation 2011 Subaru Forester have never looked better. An agile vehicle built to handle practically anything man or nature can put before its tires, the latest iteration has a much more contemporary-looking exterior complemented by a more spacious interior and a smoother, quieter ride. And with a respectable four-cylinder Boxer engine under the hood and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive as standard, the Forester offers the capability of an SUV with fuel economy that won't break the bank. This segment has seen a lot of growth in the last few years, but the Forester can go places the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue can't.
If you like your SUVs to be true to the "Utility" in "Sport Utility Vehicle," while still being small enough to comfortably maneuver in a city, the Forester may be the vehicle for you. With a low starting price, standard AWD, proven reliability, more towing power than many others in its class and great visibility all around, there's certainly a lot to love.
If you want a V6 engine, room for seven or rear-seat entertainment, the 2011 Subaru Forester may not be for you. And although a manual transmission is offered on some trims, a SportShift four-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the turbocharged engine.
A revised model range now includes Standard, Premium, Limited and Touring trims for the 2.5X, and Premium and Touring trims for the turbocharged 2.5XT. An all-new 2.5-liter engine produces more low-end torque and better mileage in the base trims, while Bluetooth is now standard on all but the base models. New radios include an available removable TomTom navigation unit and a rear backup camera (standard on Touring trims.)
Driving Impressions Off-roading in the 2011 Subaru Forester showcased the vehicle's stiffer suspension, direct steering and notable ground clearance, all of which came into play when traversing rocks and ditches. Also helpful...was the Forester's standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, capable of transferring up to 100 percent of the available power to the wheels with the best traction. Back on the pavement, we liked the added get-up-and-go provided by turbocharged models (who wouldn't?), but those with a more practical and budget-minded outlook will be just as happy buzzing around town with the normally-aspirated engine. Getting in and out of both rows of seats was a breeze thanks to wide-opening doors, and we found the all-around visibility from the driver's seat to be excellent; a boon when changing lanes, reversing, and exploring dirt roads.
Being able to see what's behind a vehicle when backing up, changing lanes, or even venturing off-road can make a big difference in how someone behaves while driving. The Forester's large back window allows the driver to see an object only 39 inches tall within 39 inches of the vehicle.
Although not as large as others we've seen, this moonroof provides pleasant light to both the front and rear passengers, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside.
The 2011 Subaru Forester features gauges that are colorful and easy to read, plus audio and climate controls configured in a logical, clear manner. A single cup holder is located next to the driver, while an additional bottle holder is situated in each door. Back in the second row, leg room is plentiful and the seats are wide and comfortable. In all trims except the 2.5X, the second-row seats recline. Cargo room in the back is a respectable 33.5 cubic feet, made all the more accessible thanks to a wide-opening rear gate door.Exterior
The latest version of the Subaru Forester is a little less wagon and a little more modern crossover. Overall, the vehicle bears a slight resemblance to the BMW X3, with its swept-up rear quarter window and sporty wheels. The Forester offers up to 8.9 inches of ground clearance, a necessary requirement when the road gets ugly. Up front, a large grille and "hawk eye" headlight treatment impart an aggressive appearance, especially when paired with the available turbocharged engine's air scoop and fog lights. The optional chrome door handles and tailpipe add a bit of fresh bling to the Forester's exterior, while the wheelwells are filled with 16-inch steel or available 17-inch alloy wheels.
The base 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Hill Start Assist, 16-inch steel wheels and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Notable interior touches include a height-adjustable driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support and auto-off headlights. Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio streaming and iPod integration is standard on all but the base trim. Opting for the XT trim will add the turbocharged engine, SportShift four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, 17-inch wheels (helping to bump ground clearance to 8.9 inches), fog lights, 10-way power driver's seat, rear backup camera and a telescoping steering column. The new Touring model adds HID low-beam headlamps with automatic height adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, electroluminescent gauges and side mirrors with integrated turn signals. To help keep occupants safe and sound, both X and XT trims feature six airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.
Some of the 2011 Subaru Forester's most attractive options include a removable TomTom navigation system (Premium trim) or integrated navigation radio (Limited and Touring), leather seating, power driver's seat, panoramic moonroof, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, premium sound, automatic climate control, satellite radio (choice of XM or Sirius), and cold-climate desirables like heated seats, heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
Powering the base Forester X is a newly revised 170-horsepower four-cylinder Boxer engine (a "flat" engine in which the pistons lie horizontally, an advantage of which is a lower center of gravity) with a five-speed manual transmission, available only in this trim. The new engine features a longer stroke and a chain-driven dual overhead cam replacing the old engine's belt driven single overhead cam. Moving up to the Limited adds a four-speed automatic transmission, while the XT trims come with a 224-horsepower turbocharged Boxer engine (this engine does not benefit from the updates to the normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine.) Although the base engine is practical for around town driving, those looking for a little more power without a significant drop in fuel economy will likely appreciate all that the turbocharged version has to offer – if they don't mind paying for premium gas.
170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
174 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 21/27 (manual), 21/27 (automatic)
2.5-liter Boxer-4 Turbocharged
224 horsepower@ 5200 rpm
226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpm
EPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 19/24
By toml on Sunday, February 15, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "A great reliable car that is fun to drive ."
Cons: "Wish they had cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have 2011 Forester and will buy another. It handles like a sports car the engine is quick and responsive and the steering is quick and precise. In snow it goes as well as my 4x4 jeep My only complaint, I'm about 6'1" tall and the drivers seat doesn't go quite far enough back for my comfort on long drives. I just sat in a new 2015 Forester and I love what they did with it. Beefed up the body style made the interior roomier and the drivers seat goes back far enough someone 7' tall. The car is reliable and other than normal service have not had any service issues with the car"
By Donna on Monday, February 09, 2015
I don't own this caroverall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great car, great driving, But I want more comforts"
Cons: "Rides a little rough when the roads are bad. Yes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"have all my minor work on the cars. services when needed Subrau .. I have paper for. two accidents.sb The car is great to drive and, The two accident you would never notice itl"
By Jimbo on Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I wish I didn't have to bash this machine, but it deserves it in a few areas. Lets start with the good: Driving this car is an amazing ride and feel. Steering is sensitive and responsive, braking is excellent, suspension is smooth, and pleasant over California's non-maintained garbage roads. Gas milage is low for a more modern car. My old 1996 Rav4 did 22mpg. My 2010 Forester averages 23mpg. The cons: The EJ25 motor is prone to head gasket failure. Subaru knows it, was sued over it, but decided keep the design for 13+ years. The car comes new off the lot with stop leak mixed in with the radiator fluid (radiator conditioner is the Subaru customer facing politically correct name) At 43,000 miles the shift fork wore out. Either the previous owner was really bad at shifting or this is another design flaw. Boots on the sway bar end links were ripped at 43k miles. Fabric inside is cheap. And the plastics are soft and scratch easily. And seriously... Why is there no manual transmission turbo option? Converting the X to an XT is a major ordeal for those that DIY build cars. Subaru is not on par with Honda in this category. If Honda offerd a real AWD CR-V instead of this FWD lie they call 4WD/AWD Subaru would not be able to compete.. AWD is all Subaru Forester has going for it at the moment."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Irven on Wednesday, January 14, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid value"
Cons: "Parts too expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"During my career of snow removal in the Sierra I have driven many vehicles in the snow, and the Forester is as good as any."
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By baldy on Saturday, December 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "good value in base model, good handeling, sturdy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned Forester 6.5 years. Bought it new. It is a 2nd car for us used in severe winter weather. Keep Michelin snow tires on year around as do not use much in good weather. Winter is where it shines. Love the handling. Paid $21000 new in 2008 still worth $12,000 . Could sell it in a day. No repairs yet. Brakes will be soon. No rust . I plan to use 4 more years at which time it will have 65000 to 70000 miles . It will still sell in a day in my driveway for a lot. Like $7900. People here in the back country hunt for these when used but clean. It makes a good match with our big loaded Honda Pilot. I believe the basic Forester is the very best value in a basic safe winter car. Load them up and like any car the value goes away ."
15 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By lewis on Friday, November 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 104,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "check engine lights light up the dash very well"
Cons: "can't see on dash led light."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I was told not to buy this car even by the dealership. not sure why, as the vehicle had low miles, looked at the carfax and that was good. this is the 5 speed manual transmission. I purchased an extended warranty and my first unpleasant surprise was that the worry free driving was about to end. the throw out bearing($1,000) had premature failure, and was not covered by the extended warranty(read the fine print). Next the catalytic converters failed, another $1,100 and now replacement of the timing belt and water pump, another $1,000. this past weekend it snowed in MN and now I have more engine work related to the exhaust system, another $200+. none of this work covered by any warranty and the dealership told me to call the Subaru USA number. they offered $200 out of pity, but still have not received the voucher in over a month. my advice is to run, not walk away from this "rugged, reliable vehicle" and to read closely any aftermarket warranty sold by Subaru. read the posts from consumers with multiple problems with the 2009 and newer Foresters, you will be shocked how the quality of these vehicles has gone down hill. I purchased the Forester in 2011. i'm retired and these repair bills have been devastating."
10 people out of 25 found this review helpful