If it seems funny that Subaru had us test its 2003 Forester at Alabama's Talladega Superspeedway, trust me, it was. By the third time I'd steered the second generation of this car-based SUV through the 2.66-mile oval's 33-degree high banks, I was grinning. By the end of my co-driver's turn at the wheel, I was laughing nonstop, so unlikely was the scene of this sensible Subaru all-wheel-driving at 85 mph over the same pocked tarmac where NASCAR stockers rub fenders at nearly 200. I couldn't help thinking that we should have driven the new Forester on the steep ascents of San Francisco, the better to test the famous Hill-Holder clutch, which returns in the Forester after a five-year absence from the Subaru lineup. (The food would have been better in Frisco, too.) The Hill-Holder, standard with the five-speed manual, engages a pressure-holding valve when both clutch and brake pedals are depressed. Let up on the brake, and in that brief moment when your right foot is moving toward the accelerator pedal, when normally the car might roll backward toward Fisherman's Wharf, the brakes stay locked until your hoof actually makes contact with the go pedal.
But we were not in San Francisco, and we do like Alabama barbecue, just as we've liked the Forester since it debuted five years ago as one of the first crossover vehicles.... Read full article