The 2011 Subaru Forester is, quite frankly, an SUV that you really don’t expect to be as good as it truly is in real world driving conditions. It’s blocky styling and somewhat ancient 4-speed automatic don’t elevate your hopes that this SUV will turn out to be anything special.
But it most certainly is with even the automatic proving to be more than capable of turning this immensely utilitarian SUV into a fun to drive family workhorse. Yes, the 2011 Subaru Forester is fun to drive thanks to the grip afforded by its standard symmetrical all-wheel drive system, tautly geared steering feel and agile handling.
While it may not be a class leader particularly in any one area, the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X tested here excelled by being truly above average in all areas. First off, it comes very well equipped starting at $23,495. This price included features like a panoramic sunroof, air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, all-wheel drive, roof rails, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, 10-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a 2.5 liter 170 horsepower/170 lb. feet of torque “Boxer” engine.
The horizontally opposed cylinders in the Subaru’s unique “Boxer” engine design are thusly named because the cylinders would look like two boxing gloves moving towards each other if you could look inside the motor when it’s running. This particular motor design is only used by one other manufacturer, Porsche, and is beneficial because it allows the engine to be mounted lower in the engine bay thereby lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity.
The enemy of safe and stable handling in all SUVs is their inherently high center of gravity and the 2011 Subaru Forester is able to fight this problem and offer drivers a car-like driving experience thanks to this special engine design and a terrifically balanced suspension set-up. On a very long road trip along Southern California’s decaying inland empire freeway system, the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X proved to be a very soothing and quiet motorway companion.
But then even when pushed at higher than recommended speeds around corners, the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X handled it all more like an Acura TSX Wagon than a Honda CR-V. Yet somehow you still get that elevated driving position some SUV buyers absolutely require. The interior, while rather lacking in visual flair, actually felt like it was made from top notch materials that should last the better part of a decade. You can’t say that about the inside of a 2011 Hyundai Tucson.
Acceleration from a standing start in the 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X is adequate for most situations with 0-60 coming up in about 9.2 seconds. But in every day driving and even when passing car on the freeway, the Forester honestly feels faster than those figures suggest. An XT Forester model is available that comes with a standard turbocharged 224 horsepower version of the 2.5 liter engine.
For most people the basic motor will be sufficient even going so far as to return 21 city/27 highway which is excellent for a car with four driven wheels. The Forester (as with every Subaru) is also very safe with proof coming in the form of a “Top Safety Pick” rating in 2011 by the IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety).
Cargo room is ample considering how small and maneuverable the Forester is when compared to its ever growing legions of competition. Behind the second row there is 33.5 cubic feet which rockets to 68.3 cubic feet with the back seats folded. Plus, there is the handy standard panoramic sunroof should you ever need to poke an extra-long piece of lumber through the expansive opening.
There is one issue with the 2011 Subaru Forester Premium 2.5X model like the one tested here-if you want USB/iPod integration and navigation it only comes in the form of a very poor in-dash Tom Tom system that has terribly small, illegible controls and it takes around two minutes each time you start the vehicle to re-boot your iPod. It is so bad that it forces you to listen to CDs, if you can imagine.
However, if you do stump up for the 2011 Forester Limited, you can get an upgraded audio system and large screen navigation unit that actually hooks up to your iPod effectively and features easy to read controls. Just avoid the Tom Tom unit at all costs but if you can afford Limited trim you also get goodies like leather seats, automatic climate control and the aforementioned automatic transmission as standard with the Limited’s $26,495 base price.
Now, you might be thinking that the Subaru Forester is just a little bit too utilitarian for you but if you live in any climate where bad weather strikes on a regular basis, there are few SUVs out there that are safer buys for your family. The 2011 Subaru Forester is also affordable, decent fun to drive, efficient, roomy, well-built and clearly built for hard work. Despite a couple of shortcomings, the 2011 Subaru Forester really is a best buy in the compact SUV class.
Vehicle Tested: 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X
Base Price: $23,495
Price as Tested: $26,315
Options on Tester: 4-speed automatic-($1,000), Option Package #33-($1,095: Heated front Seats, Windshield de-icer, Heated Side Mirror, built-in dash mounted Tom Tom Navigation Unit)
Engine: 2.5 liter “Boxer” 4-cylinder
Power: 170 horsepower/170 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
0-60: 9.2 seconds
Drive: Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 city/27 highway
As Tested Fuel Economy: 21.4 miles per gallon
Runs on: Regular Unleaded Gasoline
Cargo Room: 33.5 cubic feet
(With Rear Seats Folded Flat): 68.3 cubic feet
Tow Rating: 2,400 pounds
Curb Weight: 3,250 pounds
Crash Test Ratings (2011 IIHS): “Top Safety Pick”
Warranty: 3 year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 mile powertrain
Vehicle Assembled in: Ota Gunma, Japan
Vehicle Provided by: Subaru