- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

I noticed several Subaru Foresters on the road the week I drove the new 2009 Forester. Those Foresters looked very different from the new model I was driving. They were cute and little. The new one is bigger and assertive looking.

Subaru made the decision to go with a complete departure with the new Forester in design direction. Forester now looks more like an SUV and less like a wagon. The changes to the 2009 Forester are so intensive it’s hard for the untrained eye to know that this model is a Forester. Seemingly, the only connection it has to the previous version is the name.

Bolder elements include a larger grille, boxed front fenders, larger light clusters and a higher hood line — all contributing to a more sharply defined new Forester.

Subaru built the 2009 Forester on an all-new platform with a longer wheelbase for greater interior room, as well as an improved ride. Also giving the Forester a boost in ride and handling improvement is the replacement of the former strut-type rear suspension configuration in favor of a new double-wishbone independent suspension. Forester is equipped with 16-inch steel wheels with 17-inch alloy wheels are optional.

Along with the new platform and greater interior room come typical SUV attributes, such as a higher seat point, more cargo capacity, plus expanded hip and shoulder room for occupants.

The Forester continues with an array of five trims: 2.5X, 2.5X Premium, 2.5X Limited, 2.5XT and 2.5XT Limited. There’s a full spectrum of pocketbook choices on the new Forester. Prices for 2009 start at $19,995. A fully equipped top of the line Forester can run about $29,000.

I drove the 2.5XT with a base price of $28,195. It featured an all-weather package with heated seats, alloy foot pedals, 10-way power driver’s seat, tilt/telescoping steering column and a panoramic power moonroof. It also had the 16-valve, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine.

Some modifications have been made to the 2009 turbo engine. The engine has a new intake system and redesigned intercooler and turbocharger. The result is more torque at the lower rpm range, resulting in a smoother stream of turbo performance power, according to the company.

The revised 2.5-liter produces 224 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 226 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. The four-cylinder turbo drinks premium fuel and returns EPA mileage ratings of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. My tester’s engine was mated to the four-speed automatic with the SportShift. A five-speed manual transmission on the turbo will give back fuel economy estimated at 20/26 mpg.

The base engine on the 2.5X entry trim model is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder coupled to a five-speed manual, which delivers fuel ratings on par with the turbo at 20/27 mpg. However, unlike the premium-gas only turbo, the 2.5X takes the more economical regular grade. The 2009 manual transmission has Incline Start Assist that can prevent the Forester from rolling backward on an incline when starting off from a stop.

Subaru equips the five-passenger, all-wheel drive Forester for the first time on all its trim models with a stability and traction control system, brake assist and head-curtain airbags.

Visually, the 2009 Forester is remarkably changed. Audibly, there’s room for improvement. The tiny speakers sound like they are crowded under the windshield cowl and don’t do the sound system justice — or the Forester.

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