2001 Subaru Forester
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The popular Subaru Forester might be considered as much of a hybrid vehicle as a compact sport utility because it's based on Subaru's tough Impreza auto/station wagon platform.
Car-derived hybrids are being given an increasingly warm reception by folks who don't want the choppy ride, bulk, mediocre handling and other drawbacks of bigger, truckish sport utilities.
And there's good attention to detail: The moonroof adds weight above the center of gravity, so Subaru gives a moonroof-equipped Forester a retuned suspension and wider rear track to ensure the same stability as a non-moonroof model.
New Side-Impact Airbags
However, the drawback here is that those bags prevent you from getting a Forester with the $1,295 leather upholstery.
It all seems like two steps forward, one step back.
The entry Forester model is the L, which stickers at $20,295. The higher-line S has a $22,895 base price, with the Premium Package adding $1,000.
The S Premium Package model also has a monochromatic look instead of a contrasting lower body color. Without that package, the S has new, attractive Titanium Pearl lower side cladding.
Not that the L isn't well equipped. It has several standard items such as air conditioning, anti-lock brakes and AM/FM/cassette.
New L features include intermittent front/rear wipers, dual retractable front cupholders, digital ambient temperature gauge and height-adjustable shoulder belt anchors for all outboard occupant positions. There's also a new 60/40-split fold-down rear seat.
All Forester models have an in-glass antenna that replaces the old-style post antenna and provides a cleaner look. The antenna is laminated in the left rear quarter window and seems to deliver the same decent reception as the post antenna.
Popular options include an $800 electronic 4-speed automatic transmission and leather upholstery. The Forester with the automatic has a better all-wheel-drive system, which can anticipate and prevent wheel slippage before it occurs.
Subaru should be given credit for providing pretty big sound-system controls. But the notchy climate controls just aren't acceptable in today's competitive market. Too bad they don't work with the almost liquid smoothness of the Forester's turn-signal stalk.
Front cupholders are sturdy, but the same can't be said for the rear ones, which are awkwardly positioned near the floor.
Good Cargo Area
Fuel economy suffers partly because this is a full-time all-wheel-drive vehicle with increased driveline friction. Expect mpg figures in the low 20s in the city and in the mid-20s on the highway.
More Highway Zip Needed
But, while acceleration is strong to 60 mph, it disappointingly becomes just average above that speed. And the tachometer shows a high 2900-rpm reading at 70 mph with the automatic transmission, although the Forester still feels like a relaxed highway cruiser.
While the automatic shifts efficiently, the standard 5-speed manual transmission enhances driving fun.
Car-like Road Manners
In all, the new Forester is an even better blend of car-like comfort and all-wheel-drive sport-ute—or hybrid-vehicle—versatility.