After five seasons in its prior form, Subarus all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossover sport utility vehicle was fully redesigned for the 2003 model year, though its basic appearance did not change dramatically. The front fenders were flared, blister-type rear quarter panels were installed, and the grille was enlarged and flanked by contoured multireflector headlights.
Little change is expected for the 2004 model year. At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003, Subaru announced a new Forester 2.5 XT that will be equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that makes 210 horsepower. The other models the 2.5 S and 2.5 XS continue to use a 165-hp engine. The 2.5 XT is scheduled to go on sale in late June 2003.
Unlike other Subaru models that resemble passenger cars, the four-door Forester looks like a small SUV with a taller body than its siblings. Large, triangular taillights frame a hexagonal gate at the Foresters rear. According to Subaru, the body structure was strengthened for 2003. All models are equipped with 16-inch tires and an in-glass radio antenna.
The Forester has a fully independent suspension and measures 175.2 inches long overall on a 99.4-inch wheelbase, which is the same span as Subarus Impreza models. The Foresters ground clearance is 7.5 inches.
All models have roof rails. Aluminum-alloy wheels and Steel Gray metallic lower-body cladding are installed on the upscale 2.5 XS, which also gets all-disc brakes rather than the front-disc/rear-drum setup. Body-colored side cladding and door handles, natural aluminum roof rails and special six-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels distinguish the new 2.5 XT. A functional scoop in the aluminum hood sends fresh air to the turbochargers intercooler.
Sport bucket seats in the front and a split, folding rear seat accommodate five occupants. Subaru emphasizes the Foresters high seating point. A Hill Holder clutch on manual-shift models makes it easier and safer to start up on inclines.
All models come with a 100-watt AM/FM/Weather Band stereo with a CD player. The 2.5 XS adds automatic climate control, an in-dash six-CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Moquette upholstery. Standard 2.5 XT features include automatic climate control and a seven-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer.
Under the Hood
Borrowed from the Impreza series, the Foresters 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine makes 165 hp. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. The new 2.5 XT gets a turbocharged 210-hp engine that develops 235 pounds-feet of torque and drives either a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or a new four-speed Direct Control automatic transmission. Permanently engaged AWD is standard on all Subaru vehicles, but an active-type system in the 2.5 XT uses sensors to monitor weight distribution and then determines how much power to send to the front and rear wheels.
Antilock brakes, dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags and front active head restraints are standard.
Performance is satisfying with the 2.5-liter engine in the 2.5 XS, but the biggest improvement over prior Foresters comes in ride quality. Recent models roll pleasantly over any reasonable road surface.
The Forester runs very quietly and is easy to drive. It operates with light handling and a friendly, comfortable feel overall. Except for a bit of restriction with the drivers elbow, interior space is good. The seats are firm but comfortable.