2008 Subaru Forester


$5,273 - $7,683

2008 Subaru Forester Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Subaru Forester was new.


Performance: 7.8

Reviewers love the 2008 Forester's quick acceleration and standard all-wheel drive, with the only performance complaints having to do with a sometimes stubborn transmission. "On the whole, this is one fun-to-drive crossover," says Edmunds.

Edmunds goes on to note that the Forester's light weight and small dimensions give it "a tossable feel." New Car Test Drive says, "Forester is much better than nearly any SUV that comes to mind for driving the way most people drive most of the time."

Auto writers generally agree that the Forester is a quick ride for a small SUV. Though only available with a four-cylinder engine, the higher-end trim levels come equipped with a turbocharged engine -- standard.

While the base X trims are very competent, it's the XT trims that reviewers rave about. "Simply put, the Forester XT's are very fast, and the power is so steady and even that there's almost no clue that you're wrangling a turbocharged engine. It's so much fun that you'll want to floor the gas pedal at every opportunity, just to feel the exhilarating rush of acceleration," says New Car Test Drive.

Acceleration and Power

The Forester 2.5 X, Sports 2.5 X and 2.5 X L.L. Bean Edition are powered by a 173-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine that makes 166 pound-feet of torque. The 2.5 X and Sports 2.5 X are available with a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The 2.5 X L.L. Bean Edition, however, is only offered with the automatic. Most reviewers aren't too impressed with the base engine. Edmunds says performance is "no more than adequate, though its generous whack of low-end torque makes the Forester feel spirited around town." Another downside: Many find the automatic transmission stubborn. Edmunds notes, "Enthusiastic drivers might also find the automatic transmission slow to downshift."

The Forester Sports 2.5 XT and XT Limited are significantly more powerful than all three 2.5 X trim levels. Powered by a 224-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged boxer engine, they make 226 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. With such power, it's no wonder that an Edmunds auto reviewer described his experience test driving the 2.5 XT Limited as "the funnest SUV I've ever driven." MSN claims that the turbocharged Forester's ability to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds (with the manual transmission) makes it a "hot rod crossover." Kelley Blue Book similarly boasts that its snappy acceleration makes it an "eager and frisky performer."

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the base model with manual transmission is expected to net 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway, or

20 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway with the automatic transmission. Models with the turbocharged engine and manual should get 19 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway, while those with the automatic net 18 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. While both Edmunds and New Car Test Drive agree that the turbocharged models' fuel economy is "good" for its class, New Car Test Drive cautions that XTs require "more expensive premium fuel for maximum performance."

Handling and Braking

Although consensus concerning the Forester's acceleration is clear, opinions on handling are not. While many reviewers, like Cars.com, agree that it's "easy-to-drive" and "maneuvers nimbly," others complain that stubborn shifting detracts from overall ride-quality. Cars.com describes the four-speed automatic as seemingly "harsh" and "generally confused, holding gears too long before upshifting and downshifting unpredictably." The Washington Post adds that for the manual transmission, "working the clutch in this one [2.5 XT] took some getting used to." MSN describes the Forester's handling as car-like, but still complains of heavy steering detracting from its overall "quick and accurate" capabilities. Edmunds finds the steering "a bit light," but still says the Forester should be "nimble enough to suit most drivers."

Standard on every 2008 Subaru Forester is a four-wheel independent heavy-duty raised suspension system with stabilizer bars in the front and rear. While the 2.5 X and Sports 2.5 X are equipped with standard front-wheel anti-lock ventilated disc/rear-wheel drum brakes, the 2.5 X L.L. Bean Edition, Sports XT and XT Limited all come stocked with a four-wheel disc/ventilated front braking system. All Foresters also get Electronic Brake Force Distribution. Among the many features included in the 2.5 X Premium Package is a four-wheel disc/ventilated front brake system.

Although reviewers at MSN claim that "the brake pedal is almost too soft," they agree that its "linear action allows smooth stops." New Car Test Drive adds: "The brakes are excellent. We experienced no apparent fade after three consecutive full-on stops from 65 mph, and Forester comes to a halt in short order."

All-Wheel Drive

Like all Subarus, the Forester comes standard will full-time Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. On top of that, the Sports 2.5 XT features Traction Control, Variable Torque Distribution and Vehicle Dynamics Control systems to ensure optimum road traction and safety. Manual transmission models also get a Hill Holder feature to prevent rollbacks on inclines. According to Cars.com, "Forester won't be mistaken for a tough off-roader, with its drive system designed for wet, snowy or graded-dirt roads." Still, MSN notes, "The solidly constructed Forester is surprisingly capable during fairly rugged off-road driving."


All five trim levels of the 2008 Subaru Forester maintain a maximum towing capacity of 2,400 pounds. As New Car Test Drive explains, that's "enough for personal watercraft or a snowmobile but not enough for a car trailer or weightier boat."

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