By KBB.com Editors
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2011
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 It 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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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
A base 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X with manual transmission starts just over $21,000, while the 2.5X Limited with navigation bumps the price to about $29,000. Stepping up to the XT Premium trim brings the price closer to $28,000, while the XT Touring with navigation and satellite radio will run closer to $32,000. At the Forester's base price, its closest competitor is the Nissan Rogue – but the Rogue does not offer AWD as standard in base trim. The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe all start around $23,000, also without AWD. However, as inexpensive as the Forester seems at first blush, adding options quickly makes the price move upward and it ends up on the higher end of many of its competitors. In terms of resale, the Forester is expected to maintain value better than the Rogue and the Santa Fe but below the industry stalwarts CR-V and RAV4.