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Subaru Forester (2002 - 2008)

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Introductionword count: 125

The Subaru Forester is a car that in many ways links 'old' Subaru with the new face of the company. Subaru was once a car manufacturer that appealed solely to eccentric country types and those who appreciated wilfully quirky engineering. Over a period of time, the company became better known for its rocket ship Impreza models and the increasingly sophisticated Legacy variants. The Forester, however, was still a little raw around the edges but nevertheless offered a very rare appeal. Few cars that are practical and reliable are in any way fun but the Forester serves up the fun factor in spades. Any Forester will paint a huge grin across your face and that alone is reason enough to track down a decent used example.

Modelsword count: 14

Models Covered: Second Generation [2002- to date] 2.0, 2.0 turbo, 2.5 turbo [X, XT]

Historyword count: 318

Although the Forester originally made landfall way back in September 1997, the model we're concerned with here is the second generation car, launched five years later in summer 2002. The Forester had been making reasonable sales over this period but was starting to look a little old. The post 2002 car looks a little less cereal packet than its predecessor, the wheelarches neatly integrating into the slightly more voluptuous wings, the front end less resolutely craggy. The body continues an evolutionary styling theme, despite being completely different. Up against the tape the second generation Forester is slightly shorter than its predecessor but a handy bit wider, especially when it comes to rear seat accommodation. If the body has come in for an extensive reworking the same can't be said of the engines. There are still two to choose from, both flat fours in proper Subaru tradition. The one without the turbocharger manages 123bhp, the one with 174. A number of incremental changes such as exhaust gas recirculation and refettled piston rings on the normally aspirated model and hollow camshafts, lightweight valve gear on the turbo engine has meant smoother, more tractable and cleaner engines. Weight saving seems to have become something of a preoccupation. The bonnet, roof rails, sunroof frame and bumper beams are now fabricated from lightweight aluminium. Even the anti roll bars are now hollow tubes. In February 2004, an XLn special edition was announced which added satellite navigation and leather trim to the standard Forester specification. In the autumn of 2004, a 2.5-litre turbocharged Forester XT was announced. This vehicle came in to top the range with 210bhp and a 6.0s 0-60mph time. Next, just under a year later, the whole car received a substantial re-working. The 2.0-litre engine was boosted to 156bhp and the 2.5-turbo got 230bhp. A revised grille and headlamps were introduced as was a 'Sportsshift' automatic transmission for the range-topping engine.

What You Getword count: 245

While the late shape Forester's a marked improvement over the old car in terms of overall ambience, it's still light on style or the conspicuous design many customers in this market sector crave. Jump from, say, a Nissan X-Trail into a Forester and you'll think you've regressed a few years. Nevertheless, everything functions superbly, it's comfortable and competitively equipped. All Foresters are fitted with remote central locking, a Thatcham Category One alarm, a CD stereo, dual airbags, windscreen wiper de-icers and climate controlled air conditioning. Electric windows and mirrors, a tilt adjustable steering wheel and dual 12v power outlets are also fitted. The XT adds alloy wheels, cruise control, heated front seats and a gigantic electric sunroof. You won't buy a Forester for all its gadgets however - or for its luxury ambience. The key appeals are the 200mm of ground clearance and the promise of as much four-wheel driving ability as you can probably cope with. Compact and wieldy, it's big on practicality, roomy, versatile and, if recent customer satisfaction surveys are to be believed, almost impeccably reliable. Whichever Forester you select, the design features a lower centre of gravity than any of its full-time four-wheel drive rivals, yet it still offers that extra ground clearance - over say a Legacy - that could make all the difference on bumpy tracks. Subaru learned the value of this in the forests of Carlisle, the gravel of New Zealand and the snow and ice of Scandinavia.

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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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