With a size somewhere between a wagon and a small SUV, the 2010 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited is an odd duck, yet still immensely practical as a family camper with its roomy interior and light off-road capability. The 2.5XT Limited gets a turbocharged version of Subaru's 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder engine, giving it a little extra pep when needed. However, Subaru remains steadfastly behind the tech curve, merely making available basic navigation with a hands-free Bluetooth phone system for the Forester 2.5XT Limited.
Getting into our test car, we were disappointed to see that it lacked any of the few available tech options, the head unit space occupied by the same stereo and six-disc-CD changer we've seen in other Subarus over the last few years. We have used Subaru's navigation system previously in theand found it capable, but lacking in some of the more advanced features available today, such as traffic reporting.
The non-navigation stereo uses a relatively large monochrome display suitable for showing information from MP3 CDs playing in the changer. The Forester 2.5XT Limited can also be had with satellite radio, and information from songs also shows up on the display. The only other audio source of note is the auxiliary jack, as full iPod integration isn't available.
The audio system connected to this stereo doesn't do much for music. It is limited to six speakers, four in the doors and tweeters at the base of the A pillars, which just seem to blast out sound with no finesse or attempt at staging. Sitting in the driver seat, the left-side speakers were overly prominent, with no counter-balance from the right-side speakers. Automotive audio systems should attempt to balance out the audio experience, creating a stereo effect for all passengers.
Around town, the Forester 2.5XT Limited proves an easy driver. The seating position is high enough to give a good view of surroundings, yet the car feels light and nimble. The engine moves the car along without strain, and the four-speed-automatic transmission delivers mostly transparent shifts. Shooting it around a corner, we quickly get the message that the Forester isn't a sports car, its high center making itself known despite the standard all-wheel-drive.
Letting the Forester 2.5XT Limited stretch its legs on the freeway, the 224 horsepower generated by its turbocharged power plant help it keep up with the flow of traffic. The automatic transmission's top gear keeps the engine speed about 2,500rpm with the car cruising at 65 mph to 70 mph. As the transmission only has four gears, each has a pretty wide powerband, and we can't help but think a couple of extra cogs would help the engine find more efficient operating speeds. However, as it is, our average fuel economy hits 22 mpg, comfortably in its EPA range of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
Finding its element
Out on a narrow two lane, winding mountain highway, the Forester 2.5XT Limited definitely doesn't like to be flogged through the corners, and feels more comfortable at a moderate pace all around. The automatic transmission does have a manual mode, but considering the limited number of gears to play with, it seems more suited to engine braking during a descent. The engine doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in passing maneuvers, but we still manage to get around some slowpokes.
Off on a side road, the pavement ends in favor of dirt. The Forester 2.5XT Limited doesn't feel bothered, chunking along while its suspension damps out the bigger ruts and holes. At these slower speeds, the panoramic sunroof--a standard feature--offers a wide view for the enjoyment of the surrounding nature. Trekking through a meadow, the Forester really seems to be in its element, a perfect car for a back country picnic. This dirt road work hardly taxes the all-wheel-drive system, which would find its best use helping the Forester 2.5XT Limited tackle ski trips up snow-covered roads.
We like the general performance of the 2010 Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited, its engine and handling making it a very drivable car, while the all-wheel-drive system inspires some confidence for off-road exploring. But it isn't much of a tech car. The available navigation system is useful, but similar to those available on other cars five years ago. The stereo could benefit from a complete aftermarket makeover, as the stock sound isn't acceptable. Bluetooth rounds out the tech options, but won't offer some of the more advanced features available in other cars, such as making a phone's contact list available from the car's LCD.
|Model||2010 Subaru Forester|
|Power train||2.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder boxer style engine|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/24 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||22 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional with navigation|
|Disc player||Six CD in-dash, MP3 capable|
|MP3 player support||Auxiliary input|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio|
|Audio system||Six speaker|
|Price as tested||$29,694|