Since its 2003 redesign, the Forester has been a popular choice among sensible soccer moms and outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to its rugged-ish styling, all-wheel drive, manageable size, and reputation for safety. Subaru hopes a minor refresh for 2006 will keep sales strong. The most notable changes are to the front end, both outside and under the hood. Exterior tweaks include four-lamp headlights and a new grille, bumper, hood, and fenders. The rear receives a more modest makeover with new taillights and trim pieces. The best news, of course, is that there's more power propelling the new sheetmetal.
All normally aspirated Foresters (now collectively badged 2.5 X) gain variable valve timing and an eight horsepower increase from 165 to 173. The bigger news is that the detuned version of the WRX STi's 2.5-liter turbo that powers the Forester 2.5 XT is now slightly less detuned; it jumps 20 horsepower to 230.
Subaru has also revised the suspension giving all Foresters a boost in ground clearance and a stronger rear crossmember. Additionally, the five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions have been fine tuned.
Interior changes are minimal; base Foresters now include a rear fold-down armrest and a standard security system, and top-of-the-line L.L. Bean editions get Alcantara side bolsters as well as a new wood and leather steering wheel and shift knob from Momo--all a bit precious for a vehicle whose strongest appeal is its unpretentious utility.