$6,312 - $8,584

2009 Subaru Forester Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Subaru Forester was new.


Performance: 8.2

The 2009 Subaru Forester receives praise for its sporty, sedan-like ride and standard all-wheel drive. The base engine is adequate, though the turbocharged variant is even more powerful. One of the only complaints is that the transmission offers only four speeds when most competitors offer five or six.

  • "Under all manner of crappy road conditions -- bring rockslides and potholes and gawdawful ruts, dirt, and general muddiness -- the '09 Forester remained poised, agile, ready to negotiate the next dip, swerve, ditch, or, if called upon, to scale what looked like a 40-plus-degree grade." -- Jalopnik
  • "I spent a week in the turbo 2.5XT -- a feisty, wheel-chirping, gun-it-on-the-freeway kind of week, and I came away really impressed. Of all things, the turbo Forester is actually pretty fun to drive. It has good low-end torque, and the automatic transmission grabs and goes as it should." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "We spent half a day driving over steep and rutted dirt roads on Catalina Island, and the Forester was dazzling in its sure-footedness and comfortable ride, never once whimpering in the face of abuse." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The ride is comfortable, the seats supportive and the turbo engine has more than enough power, although a five- or six-speed automatic transmission would be welcome." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • "The ride is soft and the steering is light, though cornering is well-balanced and predictable . The all-wheel drive is seamless, helping Forester maintain traction under all conditions. Obviously, this is the a big draw in snowy climates, while it gives Forester some back-country capability." -- Arizona Republic  
  • "We're not sure why Subaru elected to offer the Forester with a four-speed automatic transmission instead of the company's five-speed unit, as this puts the redesigned crossover at a distinct disadvantage relative to top-selling competitors like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. On the whole, though, the 2009 Subaru Forester has outgrown its quirky phase and looks like a legitimate contender for the compact crossover SUV crown." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The Forester still comes with a choice of two 2.5-liter engines -- a regular or a turbocharged four-cylinder -- which both offer more torque than before. According to the EPA, the Forester with the base engine should earn 20/26 mpg city/highway with the manual or automatic transmission. Models with the turbocharged engine should net 19/24 mpg.

  • "Despite the new car's 100-to-150-pound weight gain, the base engine is still up to the task of moving it along, and the turbo once again provides welcome and well-integrated extra urge for the Forester XT. Both engines could use an extra gear (or two) for their automatic transmission, which is only a four-speed." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The non-turbo engine, at 170 hp, is sufficient unless you always run loaded (the vehicle, not the driver) or tow or live in the mountains." -- USA Today
  • "Acceleration is modest in 170-hp form, and the turbo model isn't exactly stirring, either. It also suffers some turbo lag when pushed hard. Even so, performance is more than sufficient for a compact crossover/SUV. " -- AutoMedia.com
  • "Its 170 hp moves the SUV to highway speeds with acceptable oomph, especially with the smooth-shifting manual transmission. I actually preferred that engine's gradual whine to the turbo's choppy roar. The turbo engine's extra grunt (224 hp worth) moves the Forester with authority, but its power comes and goes in patches." -- Kicking Tires
  • "The turbocharged, 2.5-liter flat 4-cylinder engine pulls hard, and when paired with a four-speed automatic, this is a very quick little crossover -- as it should be. This is very same motor Subaru installs in the high-performance WRX sedan and five-door hot rods." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Didn't feel that early burst of adrenalin in the Forester we tested, rather a heavy dose of 4-cylinder growl and some hesitation between kicking the pedal and engine response. The delayed reaction is similar to the lag waiting for the turbo boost to kick in. Maybe that's the price for gaining length, width and height-and more than 200 pounds." -- Chicago Tribune  

Handling and Braking

The Forester features four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and a heavy-duty raised four-wheel independent suspension. Test drivers praise the SUV's handling for its sporty feel.

  • "We drove both turbo and nonturbo models on more than 100 miles of Southern California highway (on the mainland) and found the handling exceeded the standards in the class, with a little less roll and plow." -- AutoWeek
  • "Forester snaps around corners with agility remarkable not only for an SUV, but also for a small sedan. In fact, it's more like a sedan than rivals, so it might be for you if your preferences skew more to car than truck." -- USA Today
  • "Several journalists on the media drive complained of excessive body roll - possibly the result of no rear stabilizer bar, which was standard on the outgoing model -- but I think most drivers will find that the Forester's handling ranks among the sportier SUVs in its class." -- Cars.com
  • "This 3,427-pound Forester comes to a halt from 60 mph in 125 feet, an impressive performance that beats the Honda CR-V by 6 feet. Unfortunately the brake pedal action doesn't give you confidence, as our drivers describe it variously as soft, mushy and squishy." -- Edmunds
  • "Like the previous-generation model, Forester retains its car-like demeanor. Steering is direct with sporty heft. Lean in corners is kept well in check." -- Consumer Guide   
  • "The Subie is a comfortable ride on a long haul, until the wind picks up a little and you realize how sensitive it can be in crosswinds." -- Popular Mechanics

All-Wheel Drive

The Forester comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive that impresses test drivers with its abilities both on- and off-road.

  • "Up and down steep and rutted dirt roads normally closed off to all but cloven-hooved bison, the Forester clawed its way, standard symmetrical all-wheel drive pulling and pushing as grade and grip dictated, almost never faltering. The Forester went well beyond what 99 percent of crossover buyers would ever consider--and even beyond what we expected it could do." -- AutoWeek
  • "Subaru does AWD as well as Volvo does seats." -- USA Today
  • "Off-road, the Subaru Forester won't replace your Jeep Wrangler, but with an available 8.9 inches of ground clearance, this is more than just a cow-trailer. There's no low-range gearing, of course, but the boxer engine has enough grunt to power up hills, through mud holes." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "Where the all-wheel drive shines, though, is on wet pavement. Even on rainy Texas roads, it's a valuable asset." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • "In daily use, the simplicity of this [all-wheel drive] system means the driver cannot feel the system switching power from front to rear. In snow or ice, the transfer is just as seamless, but the result is steady traction. All-wheel drive also enhances tight cornering and braking." -- Kansas City Star  

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