2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT LimitedPosted on May 25th, 2009
Sport-utility function in a fuel-efficient package
By Nina Russin
I’m hammering up the 17 freeway between Phoenix and Sedona in the ’09 Subaru Forester, after idling in wall-to-wall traffic just north of town. Through all of my weaving and cursing, the fuel gauge has stayed fixed at 23.6 miles-per-gallon. Either this is a very Zen car, or the fuel meter is broken.
Why not top off the gas and find out? After doing the math, I confirm that the gauge is working. The Forester is my new Bodhisattva.
For those unfamiliar with Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are the Mahayana version of angels on the right shoulder. The fact that the Forester has both saved me from myself and achieved better-than-average fuel economy means that it is a tolerant and spiritual car.
Why Subaru loves athletes, and athletes love Subarus
Back in the mid-1970s, Subaru engineers figured out a way to make carburetors adapt to altitude. The early Subaru wagons with aneroid bellows carburetors were the only small engine cars that maintained good power in the mountains.
People living in the Rocky Mountain region, many of whom were athletes, developed a love for the Subaru’s small, fuel-efficient cars. In homage to its burgeoning fan base, Subaru sponsored the US Ski Team: the first of many affiliations between Subaru and organizations which support active lifestyles.
Anybody who has trained in an endurance sport such as running, triathlon or cycling understands the importance of mental toughness. A person can buy an entry in a marathon, but he can’t buy the finisher’s medal. Somewhere between the start and finish line, the runner realizes that outward appearance isn’t nearly as important as what’s on the inside.
Subarus, with the possible exception of the WRX, aren’t flashy cars. But they are durable and fuel-efficient: ideal for drivers who need four-wheel traction and a configurable cargo area. Most athletes would rather spend money on bicycle parts that gasoline or car repairs.
The Subaru Forester’s cargo bay is big enough to sleep in with the rear seat folded flat: it can easily hold a couple of bikes and camping gear. The standard cloth upholstery does a good job of concealing sweat stains from its occupants. All of the cupholders are big enough to hold twenty-ounce water bottles.
A wet day in northern Arizona
As my husband and I neared the town of Sedona, the wind picked up and a series of thunderheads covered the area. By the time we parked the Forester at the local Safeway, rain was coming down in droves. The storm followed us north on Oak Creek Canyon Highway to the access road for our cabin, which happened to be on the other side of Oak Creek.
Since rain in Arizona rarely lasts more than a couple of hours, flash floods subside quickly. I assume this is why the resort owner decided to install a road rather than a bridge across the creek. When we arrived, several inches of water flowed over the road at a good rate. I was relieved to be driving an all-wheel drive wagon with eight inches of ground clearance.
As we wound our way through the property, I saw fellow vacationers peeking through their windows at the storm and the rising creek. My guess is that many of those guests would be hiking down the footpath to the nearby campground, where they could take a bridge over to the highway.
The rain continued hard throughout the evening. By dawn, it had moved east, leaving some intermittent clouds and a very full creek in its wake. After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to go running. I suited up, grabbed a water bottle and jumped back in the Subaru.
The good news was that the rain had kept most people off the road. Oak Creek Canyon Highway was deserted, as was the dirt road heading west from town to the trailhead. Personally, I was glad to see water puddles. I wouldn’t want to return the Forester without some mud on its quarter panels.
There are hundreds of miles of fire roads in northern Arizona: more than road crews can keep up with when rain comes through the area. The clay-laden red dirt washes away, leaving lots of ruts and tea kettles in its path. The Subaru’s fully independent suspension absorbed most of the bumps in the road, sparing my lower back.
Inside, the standard navigation system on the Limited model guided me to my destination. Before I got out of the car, I checked the ambient temperature readout, and adjusted my gear accordingly. I stashed my valuables in the glovebox and headed off on my run.
More Forester to love
The Forester has grown in length: the current model has a 103-inch wheelbase, versus a 99.4-inch wheelbase on the car it replaced. The 2.5 XT Limited is the heaviest of all the grades: curb weight is just under 3,500 pounds. Turbocharging gives the four-cylinder engine enough power to accelerate hard and pass other cars at speed.
Its 34.4-foot turning radius is adequate for most situations, though there were areas off the dirt road where a smaller car would have been more maneuverable. The standard hood scoop is in the driver’s forward line of vision, but it doesn’t obstruct visibility. Visibility to the sides and rear of the car is quite good.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear fashion. The rack-and-pinion steering system has plenty of assist for maneuvering at slow speeds, while maintaining a positive feel on the highway.
The Forester’s spacious interior and standard roof rails should meet most athletes’ cargo needs, right out of the box. With the second-row seats folded flat, the Forester easily meets our bicycle friendly standards. Towing capacity is 2500 pounds, below our minimum standards, but adequate for a small trailer.
The ten-way power driver’s seat and standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel make it possible for drivers of all sizes to find a comfortable position. Both the driver’s and front passenger seats have plenty of lower lumbar support. Steering-wheel mounted audio controls minimize driver distraction.
Both rows of passengers have plenty of head, hip and legroom. A center tunnel limits legroom in the center rear position, so two passengers will be more comfortable in back than three. A large power moonroof brings plenty of ambient light into the car.
The standard audio system includes an AM/FM radio and single CD slot. To operate the CD player on navigation-equipped cars, one must first tilt the navigation screen out of the way. It’s easy for the front passenger to do, but difficult for the driver. XM satellite radio is a $453 option.
Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, vehicle stability control, and active front head restraints. All cars come with free 24-hour roadside assistance for the first three years or 36,000 models.
Subaru builds the Forester at its assembly plant in Ota Gunma, Japan.
Likes: A versatile, spacious sport-utility vehicle with standard all-wheel drive and excellent fuel economy.
Dislikes: CD player is hard to operate. The car’s longer wheelbase makes it less maneuverable than former models.
Model: Forester 2.5 XT Limited
Base price: $29,995
As tested: $31,143.
Horsepower: 224 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 226 lbs.-ft. @ 2800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/24 mpg city/highway
6 responses to “2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited”
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