- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

No vehicle manufacturer is immune to a downturn in the economy. However, some seem to be able to weather the storm better than others.

Case in point is Subaru. Though sales have slowed, Subaru has been able to deliver what customers want, reliable and functional vehicles that fit into owners' lifestyles. One feature that is in every Subaru is all-wheel drive.

They do not make a vehicle available in the USA that doesn't have power going to all four wheels.

As Subaru's executive vice president and chief financial officer, Tom Doll, said in a recent interview, "All-wheel drive has become a part of our DNA. It is a big part of who we are."

People are taking notice, no longer is all-wheel drive perceived as a feature just for cold weather climes.

From columns such as this and the car magazines, buyers are starting to see the benefits of the safety and security AWD offers in the Sun Belt.

In fact, Subaru's presence in areas such as Florida will increase and you will be seeing more and more Subaru vehicles and Subaru dealers.

Part of this growth is because owners live part time in areas like Washington, D.C., and spend a substantial amount of time in Southern states on vacation and they see the advantages of having their Subaru in both locations.

In 1997, when the Forester was first introduced, it offered a midsized (in Subaru terms) vehicle between the Impreza and the Legacy and the motoring public formed a line to purchase one. As the desires and needs of customers changed, so has the new Forester.

For 2003 the Forester offers more room a

nd more features than ever before. What hasn't changed is the Subaru trademark versatility and, of course, all-wheel drive.

Forester wraps the commanding visibility and increased ground clearance of a sport utility with the functionality and practicality of a sedan, in a wagonlike platform.

All-wheel drive and increased ground clearance allow the flexibility to go a little off-road to get to those out-of-the-way camping and fishing spots. But the way Subaru packages it makes the Forester stable and sure-footed on the highway. This was quickly noticeable during a recent testing session at the famous Talladega Superspeedway. I know, Talladega, Ala., certainly isn't the usual place you'd expect to see Subaru, but combining the 33-degree banked turns along with forced slalom curves in the straights, showed the strengths of the Forester.

On the high-speed banked turns, the Forester held true with smoothness of the suspension very noticeable.

In the slaloms, the Forester showed how well it can handle quick left-right curves and even a simulated emergency lane change.

The chassis has been given more rigidity through the use of hydro-formed channels. The body rigidity has been increased by 30 percent, which gives the suspension engineers more latitude to build a superior suspension system.

While the basic profile suggests little has been changed the Forester has a stronger stance on the road. The track has been increased nearly an inch giving a better hold on the road. The body has more character lines along the front and rear fenders. And the deck lid lends a much more muscular look to the rear of the Forester.

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