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2009 Subaru Forester - Full Review

This five-passenger compact crossover SUV offers impressive maximum cargo capacity and interior space. Based on the rally-proven Impreza platform, the Forester uses the same AWD system found in other Subaru models.  The Forester gets standard all-wheel drive and comes in a choice of regular or turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The 2009 Forester trim levels range from the 2.5 X to the luxurious Forester L.L.Bean Edition. The main downsides to the Forester are that the turbo requires premium fuel, the radio buttons are small, the automatic is a bit slow to react, and there is no telescoping steering wheel in non-turbo models.  The benefits of driving the 2009 Forester is its no-nonsense cargo area, its low base price, solid brakes, good rear visibility, and comfortable seats. 

Forester Power  

For 2009, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines that power the Forester have been modified to give more power at low engine speeds. The manual transmission is a five-speed, and a four-speed automatic with a sequential-shift mode is optional. The transmissions come with different all-wheel-drive systems. According to Subaru, the automatic comes with Variable Torque Management that shifts power to the front and rear axles by monitoring throttle position, battery voltage, generator rpm, wheel speed, brake status, lateral g-force and automatic transmission fluid temperature.

Drive the Forester  

Sixteen-inch steel wheels are standard, and 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels are optional. The manual includes Incline Start Assist, which is a refinement of the older Hill Holder feature. It prevents the car from rolling backward when taking off from a stop on an incline. The previous Forester's strut-type rear suspension is replaced by a double-wishbone design, which is theoretically superior.

The hood is higher, even though Subaru has always noted that its horizontally opposed engine style helped keep the hoodline low and visibility high. Ground clearance is also raised a bit, to 8.9 inches. Fog lights are an option. Turbo versions are distinguished by a hood scoop that funnels cooling air into the intercooler just under the hood.

2009 Lineup

Originally, this Forester came in base 2.5X and upgraded XS trims, with the XT (later XT Limited) arriving for '04 and the XS L.L. Bean trim for '05. Despite all these trim name changes and additions, the XT never wavered from being the more powerful and better equipped Forester. The 2009 Forester comes in four trim levels: 2.5X, 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT and 2.5XT Limited.  The base model is very modestly equipped, but some of the XT's features are available in a Premium Package that includes alloy wheels, sunroof and a reclining rear seatback. The Limited models gain luxury items like leather upholstery, a power driver seat, automatic climate control and an upgraded stereo.

Cabin Features

The interior gets some updates for 2009, including some faux metal and higher-quality cloth seats. The door openings are larger and the rear window is enlarged for better visibility. The Forester's new platform gives a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase, which adds to interior roominess. A center armrest is standard for the backseat, and a retractable center tray is optional. The standard stereo includes an input for MP3 players, and the optional navigation system adds full audio/video inputs for playing a video game or some other video source on the dashboard screen when the car is parked. Both XM and Sirius satellite radio are offered, as is a premium stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and an MP3 player input with iPod control connections.


The Subaru Forester is new and improved for 2009.  Now in its third iteration the Forester is longer, closer to competition in size, and more refined.  New or used, the Forester offers buyers the strengths of easy maneuverability, sure-footed handling in slippery weather, solid build quality and different styling from the rest of the pack. In addition to the required front airbags, there are side-impact torso airbags for the front occupants and side curtains that protect front and backseat occupants against head injury. A rollover sensor can deploy the curtain airbags to protect occupants and prevent their ejection in the case of a rollover. Active head restraints are standard for the front seats. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control are standard on all trim levels. The optional heated front seats come with heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.

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