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

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2011 Subaru Forester

Every now and again, I end up in a vehicle that really doesn’t stand up and holler to me in any regard, and yet, the entire package turns out to be a genuinely nice vehicle that I’m actually sorry to have to return to the company. That turned out to be the case with the 2011 Subaru Forester.

I’ve always been keen on this practical-sized SUV, and for 2011, Subaru has made a few important changes, including an all-new engine, gently-revised styling, and on my Touring trim line tester, new wheels and upgraded audio system. Pricing starts at $25,995 for the 2.5X with five-speed manual transmission, and tops out with the naturally-aspirated 2.5X Limited at $32,995, and a turbocharged 2.5XT Limited at $34,595. My tester, the 2.5X Touring with four-speed automatic transmission, was tagged at $29,795.

The new engine is the naturally-aspirated one, found in all but the turbocharged 2.5XT Limited trim line. The 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder has the same displacement as the powerplant used in the 2010 model, and Subaru says it’s the first complete engine redesign in 21 years, following the second-generation boxer engine introduced in the first Legacy models in 1989. It’s now a dual-overhead cam in place of the previous single overhead rod, and the piston stroke is longer. The horsepower remains unchanged at 170 ponies, although it now peaks at 5,800 rpm versus 6,000, while torque rises from the previous 170 lb.-ft. to 174, and peaking at 4,100 rpm instead of 4,400 rpm. Naturally, fuel consumption drops: formerly rated at 10.4 L/100 km (27 mpg Imp) in the city and 7.7 (37) on the highway, the 2.5-litre with automatic transmission now churns out published figures of 9.9 (29) on the highway and 7.5 (38) for the highway. In combined driving, with bitterly cold weather and including a couple of days stuck in city traffic, I averaged 11.4 (25).

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

Other changes to the engine include lighter-weight components, a compact oil pump, improved intake port configuration and better cooling. Subaru says that the engine is specifically designed so that future upgrades can be easily and seamlessly made. As I’ve noticed with most of this automaker’s engines, the 2.5-litre isn’t entirely smooth at idle, making almost a buffeting sound when it’s sitting, especially when it’s cold. It smoothes out on acceleration, though, and other than that, I have absolutely no complaints. It’s a perky little engine that does a great job, whether when passing trucks on the highway or gently nudging around traffic on congested streets, and with nice throttle tip-in for smooth acceleration. The four-speed automatic still holds its own in a world of five- and six-speeds, with manual shift mode on the lever but no steering wheel-mounted paddles. Even so, that was no great loss; the engine and transmission are well-mated and I really didn’t feel much need to override the gearbox’s decisions.

The Forester remains one of the best-driving sport-utes on the market. It feels “right-sized,” the handling is crisp and confident, the seating position and visibility are good, and it seems stable and well-planted whether driving straight or taking a meandering motorway. Naturally, it uses Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel drive (the name refers not to the torque distribution, but to the fact that the components are arranged symmetrically on either side of the vehicle’s axis), running 60 per cent front and 40 per cent rear in normal driving, and transferring torque up to 50/50 when wheel slippage is detected.

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