2003 Forester New Car Test Drive
Extensively revised for 2003, the second-generation Subaru Forester adds sports appeal and improved handling. The new Forester is roomier than before and comes with new features that move its image slightly upscale. Yet it still combines fuel efficiency, cargo room, safety, and the foul-weather advantages of all-wheel drive.
Introduced in the 1998 model year, the Forester mini-SUV soon became a household word. Subaru's answer to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 carved a niche and achieved respectable sales. The Forester looked more rugged than Subaru's Impreza sedan and less like a wagon than the Outback. It also boasted a relatively high ground clearance, respectable stowage space for gear and a four-wheel-drive system adopted from Subaru's world champion rally cars.
The five-passenger Forester is part of a mixed heritage. Although Subaru has sold the best-selling imported wagon in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, the brand has not been easily categorized. Buyers have traditionally gone to Subaru for reliability, but just as many nowadays are more interested in performance. The Forester attempts to combine the best of both worlds. It works well as a grocery getter, and excels as a backcountry runabout for family camping trips. It's more powerful than the small SUVs in its class and is backed by a legendary four-wheel-drive system. It's also great on gas and comfortable enough for cross country road trips.
The 2003 Subaru Forester comes in two versions: the basic 2.5X ($21,070) and the up-level 2.5XS ($22,895). (Suggested retail prices include destination charges.) The two models share basic equipment and drivetrains, but the XS offers additional comfort and safety features.
All Foresters come with Subaru's all-wheel-drive system, horizontally opposed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and upgraded suspension components.
Both the 2.5 X and the 2.5 XS are available with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The transmissions operate with two different all-wheel-drive systems: Manual transmissions use what Subaru calls Continuous All-Wheel Drive; automatic transmissions use Active All-Wheel Drive.
New standard features include a 100-watt stereo with CD player, remote keyless entry system, 16-inch sport wheels and variable intermittent windshield wipers. Upgraded standard safety features include a dual-stage deployment front passenger airbag, front-seat head/chest side-impact airbags, active front-seat head restraints, and pretensioners and force limiters on the front seatbelts. Standard on both models is a four-channel, four-sensor antilock brake system (ABS).
2.5 XS adds automatic climate control, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Gray Metallic finish lower body cladding, a six-disc CD changer and tricot sun visors. An optional XS Premium Package includes monotone exterior trim and body cladding, a power moonroof and optional leather upholstery with automatic transmission models. An All-Weather Package is also available.