2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring
2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring. Click image to enlarge

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Subaru Forester

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Subaru Forester

In the compact crossover set, the manual transmission plays hard to get. Many of the big names, like the CR-V, RAV4, Rogue and CX-7, come only with automatics. The ones that can be bought with a stick, such as the Tucson, Sportage and Ford Escape, force compromises on the buyers, such as limiting the availability of a manual transmission to models with front-wheel drive, in a class where many shoppers place a high priority on all-wheelers.

This is where the Subaru Forester is a unique choice among its compact crossover competitors: it comes standard with all-wheel drive (naturally) and can be fitted with a manual gearbox: gearheads rejoice!

The Forester, of course, is also unique in its competitive set for Subaru’s dedication to horizontally-opposed (or boxer) engines, and for 2011, the Forester gets a new version of the company’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder. The changes aren’t revolutionary. The only mechanical update that might interest the casual consumer is a move to a chain-driven twin-cam valvetrain, in place of last year’s belt-driven single-cam set-up, a change that eliminates the need to replace a timing belt every 100,000 km or so. Fuel economy in manual transmission models improves to 9.9/7.4 L/100 km (city/highway), compared to the 2010’s 10.6/7.5 L/100 km ratings; economy in automatic models improves similarly.

2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring
2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Touring. Click image to enlarge

The Forester’s base price is $25,995, which includes standard kit like a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, powered and heated outside mirrors, stability/traction control and two-step heated front seats. My tester had the 2.5X Touring package, which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, reclining rear seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever, 10-way power driver’s seat, an upgraded stereo with USB audio input, Bluetooth connectivity and an auto up/down function for the driver’s window.

The Touring group is the only option available to stickshift buyers, and it boosts the price to $28,695. A four-speed automatic transmission is the other gearbox choice, and comes standard in trims other than the base and Touring models.

The new motor makes the same 170 horsepower as the outgoing engine, but torque rises by four pound-feet to 174 at 4,100 rpm (compared with a 4,400 rpm peak in 2010). That means that if I hadn’t just told you about the new engine, you’d be none the wiser driving this 2011 model back to back with a 2010.

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