After five seasons in its prior form, Subarus all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossover sport utility vehicle has been fully redesigned for the 2003 model year, but observers note that the basic appearance hasnt changed dramatically. The company says the revised models character lines are more sharply defined, and the front fenders are flared. Blister-type rear quarter panels have been installed. The grille is larger, more pronounced and flanked by contoured multireflector halogen headlights. A contoured bumper cover contains integrated, multireflector fog lamps. Large, triangular taillights frame a hexagonal gate at the Foresters rear.
According to Subaru, the body structure has been strengthened and suspension tuning was revised. All models are now equipped with 16-inch tires and a new in-glass radio antenna. The front brake rotors are larger. Remote keyless entry is standard in both the 2.5 X and 2.5 XS models. A new Hill Holder clutch on manual-shift models makes it safer and easier to start up on inclines. Side-impact and dual-stage front airbags are installed in all Foresters.
The 2003 Forester is built in Japan, and the vehicle adheres to the companys sport utility tough, car easy approach. At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003, Subaru announced a Forester 2.5 XT with a 210-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. The Forester 2.5 XT is scheduled to go on sale in late June as a 2004 model.
Unlike other Subaru models, which resemble passenger cars, the four-door Forester looks like a small SUV with a taller body than its mates. The 2003 Forester measures 175.6 inches long overall, and it still rides a 99.4-inch wheelbase, which is the same span as Subarus Impreza models. The SUVs long-travel, four-wheel-independent suspension helps to increase ground clearance to 7.5 inches.
Both the 2.5 X and 2.5 XS models are equipped with roof rails. Aluminum-alloy wheels, Steel Gray metallic bumpers and lower-body cladding are installed on the upscale 2.5 XS, which also gets all-disc brakes rather than the front-disc/rear-drum setup. The automatic version of the 2.5 XS may also come with a Premium Package that includes a monotone body and power moonroof.
The Forester has new sport bucket seats in front and a split, folding rear seat; it accommodates five occupants. Subaru still emphasizes the Foresters high seating point.
A new passenger-side storage compartment is available in the center console, and all 2003 models come with a standard 80-watt AM/FM/Weather Band stereo with a CD player. Other standard equipment includes air conditioning with an electronic three-dial control, a height-adjustable drivers seat with a single-knob control, and power windows, door locks and folding mirrors. The 2.5 XS adds automatic climate control, all-disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), an in-dash six-CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Moquette upholstery. Leather-trimmed upholstery is available in the 2.5 XS models fitted with the Premium Package.
Under the Hood
The Foresters 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine makes 165 hp and 166 pounds-feet of torque; this power plant is also used in the Impreza series. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Permanently engaged AWD is standard on all Subaru vehicles.
Dual-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags and new front active head restraints are standard. Antilock brakes are another standard feature, but the 2.5 XS has an all-disc configuration and electronic brake-force distribution.
Performance is satisfying with the 2.5-liter engine in an XS, but the biggest improvement over prior Foresters comes in ride quality. The 2003 model rolls pleasantly over any reasonable road surface.
The Forester is very quiet-running and easy to drive, and it operates with light handling and a friendly, comfortable feel overall. Interior space is good, except for a bit of restriction of the drivers elbow. The seats are firm but comfortable.