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2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited

Since its debut some eighteen months ago, the redesigned Forester has been the little engine that could, powering Subaru sales to new heights despite the general collapse in auto sales, caused first by the $4-a-gallon gas panic and then Wall Street's wrecking of the economy.

The new Forester possesses essentially the same virtues as its predecessors: compact overall size, good fuel economy, a useful cargo hold, and all-weather capability with standard all-wheel drive.

The styling is really the biggest change, as the Forest has shed its unique if somewhat dorky proportions in favor of a blandly handsome new suit of sheetmetal. Apparently, bland handsomeness is something lots of people are OK with-as a glance at a TV newcast would confirm.

The new body also opened up rear-seat room, which probably doesn't hurt either. We do miss the ultra-low cowl of the old car, but outward visibility is still far better than the norm-sit in a Honda CR-V or a Nissan Rogue and you'll see what we mean.

Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

I wasn't expecting the Forester to put the "sport" in "sport utility," but my, how this turbocharger works wonders. My only other experience with this new Forester was with a normally aspirated 2.5X model, which felt rather anemic. In XT form - which adds a turbocharger to Subaru's flat-four - the Forester simply scoots.

Sadly, that turbocharged engine commands approximately a $3500 premium, urges you to use premium fuel, and eats away at the fuel economy ever so slightly. Still, at 19/24 mpg city/highway, it's better than a larger SUV, and about on par with most competitors. Chevrolet's latest Equinox returns similar fuel economy figures, but offers none of the pep of the Subaru.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

Now that Subaru has for the most part shed its weird wardrobe, let me announce that the redesigned (last year) Forester is one of the more sensible crossovers on the market. When the world economy dived, Subaru sales and market share both climbed. During the first eight months of this year, the company's U.S. volume rose more than 11-percent over the same pre-recession period last year. Chalk it up to conventionality. Medium-size crossovers with all-wheel drive, ample space, and a sub-$30,000 price are hot and Subaru has excellent products for these hard times (the only exception being the still weird Tribeca). The Forester T's turbocharged flat-four engine is well behaved and reasonably potent, its all-wheel-drive system is transparent in its operation, and the interior is reasonably easy to reconfigure for a wide variety of hauling and transporting tasks. The only bone to Subie's wild days is an air and water scoop too prominently positioned atop the hood.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

Four-speed transmissions are becoming a rarity these days, but this Forester actually does all right without a fifth or sixth gear. The turbo keeps power on tap for passing without dramatic downshifts and the engine spins at less than 3000 rpm on the highway. In the city, body control is decent and steering feel is better than what's par for this class.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

The Subaru Forester is the closest thing Subaru has ever had to a home run in America. As others have already said, it's also about the most non-descript Subaru ever. This isn't a coincidence. Enthusiasts and Subaru owners may have loved the quirky looks and features of past Subarus, but the general public certainly didn't pay much attention. Now the Forester is a bit of a bore and it should be up for an award or two for improving sales so much during this economic disaster.

Why does it sell so well? Subarus are dependable, safe, affordable, and reasonably fuel-efficient given the fact every one of them is driving all four wheels all the time. There's also the backlash against SUVs for being gas guzzlers that are prone to roll over, yet a desire for the utility of such vehicles. This is Subaru's ace in the hole. With a variety of hatchbacks, wagons, and a pair of crossovers, the company has the right products at the right time. The Forester now looks like a mainstream crossover and is selling as such. The Tribeca is still a bit of an odd duck, as Don Sherman points out, and continues to sell as such. I can't wait to see sales figures for the redesigned Legacy and Outback after a few months.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

I like this car. Always have. I like the packaging, the seating position, the great forward vision through the broad windshield. I have no beef with the innocuous interior styling. There's nothing offensive here, although some people may find some of the plastics a little hard and the colors a little bland, but overall not much to complain about. What I do like are the everyday touches like the very large cup holders and the big bin at the bottom of the center stack: these are the things that make a car easy to live with. I also appreciated the decent-size space in the doors to fit a beverage bottle or sunglasses or such. The surprisingly large sunroof, standard on this Limited model, brightens up the cabin. The blue-ringed gauges are attractive. The stereo controls are a little small but pretty clear and easy to use. The HVAC system is very clear and easy to use. Neither of these functions can be taken for granted in modern cars, where they're more and more rendered confusing by perplexing technology.

The turbo engine provides plenty of power for this vehicle for freeway merging and passing. All in all, the Forester is not an exciting vehicle, but it is a very practical vehicle and you can certainly understand why it is so popular with its owners.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

2010 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited

Base price (with destination): $29,190
Price as tested: $31,494

Standard Equipment:
All-wheel drive
Side curtain air bags
Tire pressure monitoring system
Panoramic power moonroof
Automatic climate control
10-way power driver's seat
Heated front seats

Options on this vehicle:
Option packaged 10 - $1800v
-Touch-screen navigation
-Bluetooth connectivity
Cargo tray - $75
Sirius satellite radio - $429

Key options not on vehicle:
Various roof-rack accessories - varies
Trailer-hitch - $390
Remote start - $350
Subwoofer - $270

Fuel economy:
19 / 24 / 21 mpg

Size: 2.5L turbocharged horizontally-opposed four-cylinder
Horsepower: 224 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 226 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm

4-speed automatic

Weight: 3460 lbs.

17 x 7 in. aluminum-alloy wheels
225/55 all season tires