Since its introduction for the 1997 model year, Subaru's somewhat oddly proportioned Forester has been a welcomed alternative to more traditional SUVs, thanks to its uncanny ability to handle the road like a car, haul cargo like a small sport/utility vehicle, and scramble through a snow drift or a sand dune with equal aplomb. Subaru's multi-talented trucklet enters 2006 with a significant freshening, including revisions to the standard, normally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the optional turbocharged version. The model range has been simplified, making it easier for buyers to identify the right Forester for them. Together, these changes should help the Forester retain its status as a strong pick in the small-SUV class.
A thorough exterior update touched nearly all non-sheetmetal parts, including front and rear fascia, grille, headlamps, taillamps, rear glass, and C-pillar (now body colored). The alterations breathed fresh life into the Forester, giving it a more upscale presence and moving the front-end styling in the design direction exhibited by the new B9 Tribeca and updated Impreza. Even with these changes, however, the Forester still won't be mistaken for anything else on the road, with its upright stance and very tall greenhouse. Visibility in all directions is excellent--including upward, thanks to a truly enormous power moonroof, standard on 2.5X Premium Package and 2.5XT Limited models. Front- and rear-seat ingress and egress are exceptionally easy, and a car-height rear bumper makes loading heavy objects into the cargo compartment no trouble at all. All Foresters feature 16-inch wheels--stamped steel on the base 2.5X, aluminum alloy on all others. The sporty 2.5XT is easily identified by its functional hood scoop, which feeds outside air to the turbocharger's intercooler, and the upscale L.L. Bean Edition features a two-tone paint scheme.
Standard equipment on this five-seater includes air conditioning, an AM/FM/Weatherband stereo with single-disc CD player and four speakers; power windows, mirrors, and door locks; and a remote keyless entry system. The available Premium Package adds heated front seats with eight-way power adjustment for the driver, an automatic climate-control system, and an in-dash six-disc CD changer. The turbocharged 2.5XT Limited adds leather, and the L.L. Bean Edition sports logo-embossed front seats with perforated Alcantara side bolsters and a Momo wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel. All Forester models feature a standard 60/40-split folding rear seat, providing a maximum of 57.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity. For 2006, the rear seat now features a fold-down armrest, and the previously optional security system is now standard.