Best Bet
  • (4.6) 34 reviews
  • Available Prices: $1,612–$9,444
  • Body Style: Sport Utility
  • Combined MPG: 20-24
  • Engine: 165-hp, 2.5-liter H-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel Drive
  • Seats: 5
2004 Subaru Forester

Our Take on the Latest Model 2004 Subaru Forester

What We Don't Like

  • Moderate front-seat space
  • Limited rear-seat room
  • Undramatic performance

Notable Features

  • New turbocharged 2.5 XT
  • AWD
  • Active-type AWD in new 2.5 XT
  • Manual or automatic transmission
  • Side-impact airbags

2004 Subaru Forester Reviews

Vehicle Overview
After five seasons in its prior form, Subaru’s 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 Forester’s 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 Subaru’s Impreza models. The Forester’s 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 turbocharger’s intercooler.

Sport bucket seats in the front and a split, folding rear seat accommodate five occupants. Subaru emphasizes the Forester’s 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 Forester’s 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.

Driving Impressions
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 driver’s elbow, interior space is good. The seats are firm but comfortable.


Reported by Jim Flammang  for;
Posted on 5/7/03

Consumer Reviews


Average based on 34 reviews

Write a Review

The most beautifu, venerable, and puissant car eve

by Sean Doyle from Roanoke, va on November 16, 2017

I am in love with this car. its exterior is incredible. It feels like it drives you. I have named my car Steve, and he is my only real friend/ boyfriend.

Read All Consumer Reviews

3 Trims Available

Photo of undefined
Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2004 Subaru Forester trim comparison will help you decide.

Subaru Forester Articles

2004 Subaru Forester Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports


There are currently 2 recalls for this car.

Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $4,800 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Other Years