Subaru says its crossover wagons have been moderately redesigned and refined for 2006. A new front fascia and fresh taillamp clusters have been developed. Body color replaces textured gray for the bumpers and protective body cladding on entry-level models. All models except the entry-level edition have larger body-colored side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
Subaru unveiled the 2.5 X L.L.Bean Edition in 2004. The L.L.Bean Edition continues into 2006 and features special embroidered floormats, leather-trimmed upholstery and an auto-dimming compass mirror. The rear seatbacks and cargo floor are covered with a water-resistant surface, and this Forester version flaunts a large glass moonroof. A new Momo wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel goes into 2006 models.
For 2006, the Forester 2.5 XT Limited is equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder, which has risen from 210 to 230 horsepower. A power moonroof and leather seating are now standard in the 2.5 XT Limited.
All models with the non-turbo engine are now dubbed 2.5 X, and engine output has increased from165 to 173 hp courtesy of a new i-Active Variable Valve Lift system. The 2.5 XS model has been dropped, but all of its features are included in the available Premium Package.
All-wheel drive is standard on all Forester models. Ground clearance has increased from 7.5 to 8.1 inches (7.9 inches for the 2.5 XT Limited). The optional four-speed-automatic transmission gains revised adaptive shift control. Reworked rear seats promise greater thigh support.
The Forester features flared front fenders and blister-type rear quarter panels. Its appearance hasn't changed noticeably despite the 2006 face-lift. Features on the L.L.Bean Edition include a self-leveling rear suspension, a security system, a durable cargo floor and 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels.
Sport bucket seats in the front and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat can accommodate up to five occupants. Subaru emphasizes the Forester's high seating position. A Hill Holder clutch on manual-shift models makes it easier to start the car on inclines.
Under the Hood
Subaru's Impreza series uses the same 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder as the Forester. The regular engine now develops 173 hp. A turbocharged version that yields 230 hp goes into the 2.5 XT Limited. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard on all models except the 2.5 X L.L.Bean Edition, which gets a four-speed-automatic transmission. The automatic transmission is optional for other models.
Dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, front active head restraints and antilock brakes are standard.
The frisky Forester XT is sensible and satisfying, especially with the turbocharged engine and the manual gearbox. There's a bit of turbo lag after pushing the gas pedal. Foresters ride pleasantly enough over smooth surfaces, but bumps and ruts can produce somewhat harsh reactions.
Space is ample in the front and adequate in back, with abundant head and toe room, though knee space is less bountiful. The front seat bottoms are short but nicely supportive. The gauges and controls are ordinary but sensible.
The easy-to-drive Forester maneuvers nimbly, handles with a light touch and yields a friendly, comfortable feel. Some driveline noise occurs while accelerating the turbocharged engine.