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 Marty on Tuesday, April 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good in snow"
Cons: "Noisy, unrefined ride, tranny"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"That should be the slogan: "Subaru Forrester, It's Just Fine" There is nothing really wrong with the car. It does handle the snow very well. It's just completely uninspired. If you are looking for reliable transportation in just about any climate, this might be the car for you. If you're looking for more in an automobile, keep looking. Mine had some transmission problems. It would wind up between first ans second and would slam into fourth."
By Bruce on Thursday, April 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love the AWD and good mileage (30 -32) cruising."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought it to tow behind a motor home and it has the towing hitch still installed on the front and tow bar available. I also wanted to be able to drive it off road. With the AWD, it does both very well and is also a great car for driving around town and shopping. Also has receiver hitch for towing a light utility trailer (2000 lb. capacity). It has manual transmission, very clean and non-smoker. I have had no problems with it at all and it's had regular service and oil changes."
By teach on Friday, March 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Cons: "not good back-up visibility."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Great turning ratio. Good visibility EXCEPT rear view mirrors much too big. They block vision from R & L at 4-corners. No need to have increased the size overall. 2008 was a perfect size. square back and wide vision in rear perfect. Won't own another because of the new curved and slanted rear-view windows. Too bed Subaru had to "follow the trend of poor rear visibility". Changed storage holes. They were perfect and now much lese useful."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Linda on Saturday, March 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Is holding its value well, safe, great in snow"
Cons: "body integrity is its only flaw."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have had my 2009 Forester since it was new. Living in Colorado, one can expect any kind of weather, anytime. My Forester is ready to take on the worst of conditions. When others are slipping and sliding on ice and snow, my Forester keeps me safe and sound. It is fun to drive and easy to handle. Love the fold down seats when extra space is needed. The safety factor is what really sold me on the Subaru. I frequently transport twin grandchildren and want to know that they are riding in the safest car there is. Love my Suby!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Grandma D on Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Safe, dependable, pretty."
Cons: "Loud until warmed up, road noise."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've had my 2011 Forester certified pre-owned for 2 months now. So far, so good. I really like it. My elderly mother doesn't like the fact that it's hard for her to see out through the windshield from the passenger side, but I like that it is easy for her to get in and out of... not too low and not too high. My only complaints would be road noise and loud engine noise on start-up/warm-up. Considering I live in San Diego, a cold start-up should be a non-issue. And those square cup-holders!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By JoJo on Saturday, February 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "It gets you where you want to go (within reason)"
Cons: "Overall, hasn't been that impressive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I bought this vehicle for three main reasons: 1) It was rated high for small SUVs in Consumer Reports 2) It was a manual (5-speed) which are hard to come by anymore. (Not many choices.) 3) The Honda Element was no longer made (which is what I really wanted) so I "settled" for this one. (I sold my Element to a friend @ 165,000 miles. It's still running @ 275,000! I drive a lot of miles in a year and felt it was time for lesser mileage.) I've had to replace the clutch and the back brakes in the Forrester already. First time I've ever had to do either on any vehicle I've owned. ... And I've been driving a LONG time (over 50 years)! I'm now doing my homework for the next vehicle. I'm certain it won't be a Forrester."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful