Frank S. Washington, Sat, 21 Jan 2012 05:06:04 PST
Subaru is trying to broaden its appeal.
The Japanese automaker has always been known for well engineered vehicles but they didn't look all that great. Still, the company has a loyal following of customers who swear by their Subaru.
In fact, Subaru sales are up 20 percent in a depressed economy. It's obvious that the brand is well regarded.
So Subaru's challenge to increase sales is on the design side of its business. A new chief designer was hired two years ago and he seems like he's got the right stuff. Still, it will probably be a couple more years before we see his first offerings.
But that hasn't stopped the tinkering. I had a 2010 Forester crossover vehicle and even though the utility had been completely redesigned in 2009, Subaru tinkered with it some more for 2010.
The Forester now has Bluetooth which is paired with a navigation system available in certain trim lines. That's good but I was more impressed with the revised instrument cluster. The instruments with their new backdrop blue arcs jumped out at me in a good way. They were very clear and easy to see. And my 2.5X Premium model gained a 10-way power driver's seat.
The center stack was wide and straightforward. My test vehicle did not have a navigation system, one is available, but the controls were intuitive. Audio controls were on either side of the information screen and the climate controls were beneath it.
My test vehicle had a gray cloth interior with matching floor mats. The material had a pattern that made it look thicker than it was. And the matching floor mats didn't hurt the look. Neither did the bottom of the cupholders and the bottom of the storage bins which also matched the carpet and cloth seats. That's attention to detail that is usually reserved for more expensive brands.
The interior of my test vehicle was comfortable. Obviously, the front seats were good. The driver's seat had a power lumbar support. But I was impressed with the back set as well. The seat cushions were soft and the seats themselves were spacious. There was plenty of leg room and head room, there was lots of it. I think the back seat could carry three folks abreast in comfort. That's saying something for a small utility vehicle.
But don't get it twisted. This generation Forester has grown. The new model has a 3.6 inch longer wheel base than the model it replaced and when the 60-40 rear seats are folded, the cargo floor is 5.2 inches wider at the wheel wells
My Subaru Forester had a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four cylinder engine that made 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque (there is a 224 horsepower turbo version of this engine). And though a five speed manual gear box is available, my test vehicle had the four-speed automatic.
The Forester had enough oomph to stay out of harm's way. It accelerated well and responded to driver input smartly. Cornering was good, braking not bad and I really liked the high seating position.
Subaru is the only manufacturer that makes all of its vehicles with all-wheel-drive. The automaker has branded its technology as symmetrical AWD. It means that power is being delivered to all four wheels all the time. A lot of brands with all-wheel-drive don't do that.
The Forester had a Boxer engine which lowered its center of gravity and enabled better handling. There are five trim levels in the Forester lineup. My 2.5X Premium had a large moonroof and its all weather package featured heated front seats, heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.
My test vehicle had steering wheel mounted controls, CD player with MP3 capability and a tire pressure monitoring system was amongst the equipment. And it had satellite radio capability.
The sticker on my 2010 Subaru Forester was $25,394. That was surprisingly less than I expected.