Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester Named Motor Trend Small SUV Of The Year!

DETROIT (AP) -- Motor Trend magazine has picked the 2009 Subaru Forester as its sport utility vehicle of the year, citing its fuel efficiency, comfort on the road and competency off the pavement.The award, announced Thursday, came from a field of 13 finalists mostly made up of car-based crossover vehicles, with few traditional body-on-frame truck-based SUVS as in previous years. It will be featured in the magazine's edition that hits newsstands on Nov. 3."The Forester's strengths are its value, versatile powertrains and fuel efficiency -- something that during these times is a gigantic plus," magazine editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie said in a statement.The all-wheel-drive Subaru Forester with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission gets an estimated 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 on the highway.

Without a doubt, the majority of Subaru Forester shoppers are going to do a little jig when they see the greater capacity. But, oh boy, will there be dissenters among the traditional Foresteristas (I already know one) who are going to wail at the growth spurt. Subaru can happy-talk all it likes about better departure angles, greater ground clearance (now 8.7 inches for the normally aspirated version, 8.9 for the turbo), and even a five-inch-tighter turning circle. But some fraction of the hard-nut die hards are going to cross their arms and say no, no, no. In addition to its gained length and width (1.8 inches fatter), it's taller by a whopping 4.3 inches. Why? Many of the Subaru Forester forum-types are asking the same thing. Probably to keep its visual proportions 'ute-like instead of going all wagonish; inside, there's so much empty air above your head the FAA might have jurisdiction. Even with the gigantic (optional) retracting moonroof in the closed position, there's space for a nice aviary overhead. The downside of this could be a higher center of gravity despite the drivetrain's fractional lowering. Of note, all Subaru Foresters now have stability control, brake assist, and tip sensing to trigger the curtain bags, in addition the all the usual tricks like hill-hold for the manual-transmission cars and electronic brake force sensing.

On our test drive, I found myself appreciating all of these viewpoints: The greater length, stretched wheelbase, and new double A-arm rear suspension (rubber isolated) give the Forester an absolutely splendid (as well as quieter) ride. Even off road, the darn thing wafts you along like a glass of expensive champagne on butler-carried tray. But you do become aware of its puffed dimensions when you turn it. Its rotational inertia, or resistance to changing direction, is greater, if only by a hairsbreadth. True, the proverbial 99 out of 100 savvy drivers probably won't notice any difference at all. And the good news is that the Subaru Forester's always delightful steering feel is still a tiny rim-tug away.

On the road, the broad-shoulder torque curves of both engines nicely balance the Forester's roughly 100 pound weight gain (which, by the way, is not a bad increase considering the dimensional upscaling). The four-speed automatic is an obvious anachronism -- and wouldn't it be nice if the turbo version could break its dependence on premium fuel (as has accomplished with its naturally-aspirated 3.6-liter H-6 engine)? Oh, yes. Still, in the face of quickly escalating fuel prices, Subaru is probably wise to avoid the ever-more-horsepower mania; in fact, in normally aspirated, automatic transmission form, mileage is unchanged, while only a single solitary mpg is sacrificed on the highway if you opt for the auto. Also unchanged are turbo version's numbers, though -- note to all you manual cog swappers out there -- the turbo/manual tranny pairing has been discontinued with this engine.

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