The Subaru Forrester or the little car that could. I was assigned a brand new Subaru Forrester after accepting a field assignment in Elko, Nevada. The job was soon to grow from 2-3 weeks to over three months during winter conditions in several Western states. During the first three days of driving my ICT tech and I encountered a trifecta of hazardous conditions: on day one we encountered mud bogged down roads of extensive lengths, on day two we found ourselves above the snow line traveling a narrow highway over unplowed snowfall, and day three found us in what I will characterize as proper bush roads. We are talking double track roads with 2-3 foot high sage brush growing in the middle of the two tracks. To be clear our daily assignments require us to drive specific maps regardless of whether a road is paved or not.
I am not a professional road test driver but I will try to give you a user’s guide to this handy crossover utility vehicle (CUV). Having received the vehicle brand new I can tell you it retails for $23,100 as tested. The only added package was the luggage racks on the roof which had no real impact on my review as I will focus on road worthiness. I will state up front that I became very impressed very quickly as I took this Subaru through its paces in NE Nevada, Southern New Mexico and Western Texas roads, (we also spent a week on the Eastern Slope of the California Sierra Nevada near Mammoth Lakes). As I indicated above we encountered a trifecta of difficult road conditions immediately upon beginning our assignment. The little Forrester out-performed my expectations on nearly all surfaces encountered. The CUV was not outfitted with any special tires so all driving was on factory street/highway radial tires.
Mud roads, there were several instances that recent rains had accumulated mud puddles and created a soggy surface of an ordinarily dirt road. At least a half dozen times I would encounter a stretch of road which looked impassable; I’d assess the best looking line and drive that line firmly and slightly aggressively. The Subaru with its All Wheel Drive (AWD) would transfer power to whichever wheels need it the most and in all circumstances it would hop skip and jump across the worst mud tracks you can imagine. The AWD never once got bogged down or stuck in the mud. Regarding the AWD system in this model Subaru, I never felt out of control despite traveling these difficult ‘highways’ in these Western States. The only surface where I felt the least bit out of control was an alkili surface of dust and dirt that when moistened is referred to as bug dust by the locals. I did feel just a bit out of control on that surface it was like steering a boat.
Icy and snowy conditions, under these conditions the Subaru seemed right at home. Indeed as I surveyed the scene in Mammoth Lakes it was a popular make as it seemed nearly one in every five cars was a Subaru. As work commenced in Mammoth Lakes the first evening’s drive was through blizzard conditions. It was a stage one chains restrictions and the Subaru performed magnificently. That night’s drive consisted of well over 200 miles of driving mountain highways during a consistently driving/blowing snowfall. I moderated my driving to the conditions and only once or twice felt control/traction was an issue. Overall the performance was again better than I felt I had a right to demand.
Dirt roads, here again the Subaru was living up to my increasingly demanding expectations. As I got comfortable with the AWD and the characteristics of her handling the Subaru continued to deliver. Frequently we would be up against a deadline to finish a drive under an allotted time frame and I’d push her a little toward the edge and time after time the AWD would perform up to and above my expectations. Mind these dirt roads were frequently the double track described in the first paragraph with large rocks littering the road tracks increasing the hostility of the roads. At the other end of the spectrum we would encounter the dirt road degenerating into sand. At those sandy spots I really felt the AWD technology take control and adequately distribute power so that there was rarely even a semblance of loss of traction felt by the driver.
Specifications and miscellaneous, The 2010 Forrester I drove came with a 2.5L 170 HP four cylinder motor. It rates 19-21 mpg city and 24-27 mpg highway (these mpg ratings were realized during the course of my 3.5 months ‘drive test’). This CUV is rated a top safety pick by the insurance institute for highway safety for four years running. While I drove an automatic the vehicle is available in standard transmission with comparable fuel efficiency. Of note to this writer the Forrester is a PZEV or partial zero emissions vehicle. And for those of you who are determined to lessen your carbon footprint know that Subaru manufactures in a zero landfill plant in the US meaning everything gets recycled or reused.