Subaru Forester The Subaru Forester debuted in the late 1990s as an option for consumers interested in the emerging segment of compact SUVs. Subaru, long known for offering its seamless all-wheel-drive (AWD) system on all its vehicles, brought out the Forester to compete against the small sport-utilities from other Japanese automakers. Essentially a tall station wagon with AWD, the Forester offered buyers the rugged style of a traditional SUV along with carlike ride and performance characteristics. Based on the rally-proven Impreza platform, the Forester uses the same AWD system found in other Subaru models.
Thanks to its hunkered-down stance, low center of gravity and car-based foundation, the Subaru Forester handles better than most of its rivals. The trade-off is lower ground clearance and less off-road capability. Those "negatives" are typically not concerns for most buyers who are looking for a vehicle that can handle inclement driving conditions, ski vacations and the occasional trip to the trailhead as opposed to hard-core off-road boulder-bashing.
Today, the Subaru Forester faces a lot more competition, but this versatile small SUV has adapted by offering more variety within the lineup. An example of the latter is a turbocharged version that combines the performance of a small, powerful sport sedan with the cargo capacity and foul-weather capability of an all-wheel-drive Subaru wagon. With some of its former mini-SUV competitors bulking up, the compact Forester still offers buyers its traditional strengths of easy maneuverability, sure-footed handling in slippery weather, solid build quality and different styling from the rest of the pack.
The current Subaru Forester model, now in its second generation, debuted in 2003. Although it doesn't look much different from the previous version, improvements include more interior room, a stiffer body structure, a revised chassis and more standard feature content. All this was done while keeping exterior dimensions the same and reducing the curb weight by 90 pounds. Currently, there are three trim levels: base 2.5 X, the upscale L.L. Bean Edition and the luxury/performance 2.5 XT Limited (in previous years, an XS trim was also offered). The X comes well-equipped with most of the essential features that buyers expect from this class of vehicle, including ABS and side airbags. The L.L. Bean Edition is a bit fancier thanks to some extra features and special styling details. In addition to a more powerful engine, the XT Limited has the most standard features of the Forester lineup.
Performance for the Forester ranges from adequate to exciting. Most Foresters come with a 173-horsepower, 2.5-liter flat-four engine, but buyers who want some thrills should check out the Forester XT. With an eager 230 hp on tap from its turbocharged version of that engine, the XT is a hoot to drive, especially when fitted with the five-speed manual gearbox. Note that regular Foresters sold from 2003-'05 made just 165 hp, while '04 and '05 XT models made just 210.
In reviews of the Subaru Forester, this generation has drawn solid praise for its peppy performance, classy cabin and sharp handling. Consumer comments have been mostly favorable as well, with many owners noting the vehicle's comfortable seats, sure-footed nature of the AWD system, generous stowage and large moonroof. Downsides to this model include sluggish response from the automatic transmission, more road noise than expected and a stiffer ride than more softly sprung competitors.
All things considered, the Subaru Forester is one of the more sensible, yet fun-to-drive vehicles out there in the small SUV world. Along with its nimble handling, comfortable cabin, solid build quality and (with the XT) thrilling performance, there are also impressive crash test scores from both the NHTSA and IIHS. Savvy consumers who like to balance their practicality with enjoyment should find plenty to like in the Forester line.
The first-generation Forester bowed in 1998. With SUV-like styling cues on its tall wagon body and the confidence-inspiring grip of its all-wheel drive, the first Forester was an instant hit. Performance from Subaru's 2.5-liter, 165-horsepower flat four was snappy for the time, and back then packed the most power one could get in a small SUV. Other strong points for the original Forester include comfortable seats, plenty of storage options, impressive crash test scores and composed handling that shamed its rivals of the day, including the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
As this generation ran toward its end point (2002), gradual improvements were meted out, such as more torque for the engine and increased luxury appointments (including leather seating). The lack of major changes required to keep the first-generation Forester viable underscores the fact that Subaru got it right the first time. Add in an impressive reliability record, and a well-kept, lower-mileage Forester is a no-brainer choice in the compact SUV used vehicle segment.

Subaru Impreza
In the small car segment, the Subaru Impreza is often overshadowed by more popular nameplates. There are two primary reasons behind this: the Impreza's higher-than-average pricing and a lack of brand awareness regarding Subaru vehicles. But for the right kind of buyer, especially one seeking driving excitement, the Subaru Impreza can be an excellent choice among compact cars.
The Impreza's performance edge comes from its distinctive powertrain, as this model has always been available with all-wheel drive. It provides extra traction in slippery conditions and, on higher-horsepower models, works in combination with the Impreza's well-sorted chassis to provide excellent handling. For power, the Impreza has always been equipped with its unusual horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine.
The Impreza's most recent, third-generation model is larger and more refined than its predecessors. It should appeal to a wider audience, but it's not as fun to drive as the previous model. As a used vehicle, the second-generation Impreza is an excellent choice; the turbocharged Subaru Impreza WRX, in particular, provides exceptional bang for the buck. Earlier Imprezas are rather unremarkable, although Subaru made enough improvements during that first generation's run that the latter-year cars are a decent choice for a small car.
Current Subaru Impreza
The Subaru Impreza was fully redesigned for the 2008 model year. It's offered as a sedan or four-door hatchback. The latter essentially replaces the former wagon and has more of a European flavor to its design. But overall, the styling for this Impreza is not as dramatic as in past generations.
There are four trim levels: 2.5i, Outback Sport, WRX and WRX STI. The 2.5i and Outback Sport models have a horizontally opposed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It's rated at 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Impreza WRX models receive a turbocharged version of that engine that produces 224 hp and 226 lb-ft of torque. The STI ups the turbocharged output to 305 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. All engines send their power to all four wheels, while all but the STI come with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with manual shift control. The STI comes only with a six-speed manual.
Subaru doesn't equip base 2.5i levels with much equipment; most examples on dealer lots will be fitted with desirable optional equipment. The WRX comes with most of the Impreza's options as standard and has specialized wheels, tires and suspension tuning for increased handling ability. The Impreza Outback Sport is offered as a hatchback only and has a slightly raised suspension for better ground clearance and a two-tone exterior paint scheme. The STI is also only available in hatchback form and gains more muscular body panels, an upgraded suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes and aggressively bolstered sport seats.
In reviews, we've found that this Subaru Impreza provides enjoyable levels of performance. Thanks to all-wheel drive, there's plenty of traction, particularly in wet-weather conditions. Though acceleration of the 2.5i model is adequate, most people will be happier with the WRX. Lacking, however, is the fun-to-drive spirit of earlier Imprezas. The suspension tuning is softer and the car is less eager to corner aggressively. As such, competing performance models might be a better choice for driving enthusiasts. The STI is an entirely different matter, as it gives those same enthusiasts exactly what they want -- a taut suspension, quick steering response, strong brakes and a potent rush of acceleration.
Past Subaru Imprezas
The previous Subaru Impreza was sold from 2002-'07. It was available as a five-passenger sedan or a wagon. Mechanically, the two body styles were similar. At its debut, this Impreza was sold in the following trim levels: 2.5 RS sedan, WRX sedan and wagon, 2.5 TS Sport Wagon and Outback Sport wagon.
Powering non-WRX models was a 2.5-liter engine making 165 hp. The WRX had a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 227 hp. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Imprezas of this period were reasonably well equipped, with the most features and performance-oriented hardware coming on the WRX.
Though all years of this Impreza are highly regarded, there are some changes to be aware of. Models made for 2004 and later benefited from a variety of feature updates, including revised front-end styling, updated suspension components for a better ride quality and more convenience features. For 2006, Subaru updated the Impreza's front styling again and introduced updated engines. The renamed 2.5i trim levels came with 173 hp, while the WRX sedan and wagon gained a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine producing 230 hp.
From 2004-'07, Subaru also sold the ultra-high-performance Impreza STI. This special variant of the sedan came with a 300-hp version of the 2.5-liter turbo engine, a six-speed manual transmission, an even stiffer suspension and powerful Brembo brakes. It also had exclusive features like a driver-adjustable center differential and a water sprayer for the intercooler.
At the time, we found the second-generation Subaru Impreza to be one of the best performance cars available for the money. Though lacking the most up-to-date features and suffering from an increasingly dated interior design, this generation had a fun-to-drive personality that kept it competitive with more modern performance hatchbacks and sedans. The STI, meanwhile, was capable of out-accelerating and out-handling many dedicated sport coupes of the time.
Considering the glorious halo associated with this second generation, it might be somewhat surprising to learn that the Subaru Impreza had a rather meek American debut for 1993. The first-generation model was available as a sedan or wagon and came equipped with a 1.8-liter flat-4 good for just 110 hp. All-wheel drive was optional, not standard. There were three trim levels: base, L and LS. The LS (later renamed LX) came with more equipment, including a standard four-speed automatic transmission and antilock brakes.
Subaru made its first major changes to this generation for 1995. Additions included a two-door coupe model, the Outback wagon and a larger 135-hp 2.2-liter engine option. The larger engine was available only with a four-speed automatic, however. This situation was rectified in '96 when the five-speed manual became available for the 2.2-liter. That year, Subaru also made the larger engine standard on all trims except the low-budget Brighton coupe.
The first-generation Subaru Impreza continued to improve in its later years. For 1997, Subaru brought out an improved Outback model, increased the power output of the 2.2-liter, made AWD standard and dropped the LX trim. A year later, the desirable Impreza 2.5 RS debuted. Though not as powerful as the turbocharged WRX versions that Subaru was selling in other parts of the world, the coupe-only 2.5 RS came with a 165-hp 2.5-liter engine, a sport-tuned suspension, a non-functional hood scoop and 16-inch wheels. It also tied in nicely to the Impreza's success in the World Rally Championship during this time. No more significant changes were made to the Impreza, though a 2.5 RS sedan did arrive for 2000.

Subaru Legacy Introduced almost two decades ago, the Subaru Legacy is the company's longest-running nameplate in the United States. Thanks to its all-wheel drive, the Legacy is often selected as a winter-beating alternative in the midsize sedan or wagon segment. It's also been highly regarded by editors and has won two Editors' Most WantedSM awards.
There have been four generations of the Subaru Legacy. For the current model, Subaru revamped the vehicle and its image by adding power and moving it more upscale with a slicker profile and premium standard features. The most significant change was the addition of the Impreza WRX STI's turbocharged engine, which slots the powerful Legacy GT Limited into a category that's typically occupied by European cars.
The Subaru Legacy has really come into its own with the current model, claiming the role of Subaru's premium sedan. True, it's not a groundbreaking design, and it even bears some of the quirks that have come to characterize Subaru, such as a chunky hood scoop. But the Legacy does possess a more metropolitan character than in generations past. The interior materials are excellent, and style, fit and finish are competitive with more expensive European marques.
Current Subaru Legacy
The Subaru Legacy comes in only one sedan body style, available in six trim levels: 2.5i, 2.5i Special Edition, 2.5i Limited, 2.5 GT Limited, 2.5 GT spec.B and 3.0 R Limited. Although the base car is a bit of a stripper, the other trims are well-equipped and can make the Legacy as luxurious and comfortable as some midsize cars wearing luxury badges.
Powering the 2.5i trim levels is a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine. The sportier GT Limited trim gets an exciting turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 243 hp. These models come with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The 2.5 GT spec.B adds a firmer suspension, 18-inch wheels and a six-speed manual transmission. The 3.0 R has a 245-hp 3.0-liter flat-6 that comes with a five-speed automatic transmission. As with all Subaru vehicles, AWD is standard across all models.
In road tests, our editors found the Subaru Legacy to be both sporty and comfortable -- a challenging combination for manufacturers to master. The steering is perfectly weighted. The ride is quiet. The 2.5-liter engine provides adequate power, but the Legacy GT Limited (with its turbocharged engine) is truly a fun car to drive hard. The one glaring bit of criticism has been the GT Limited's automatic transmission, which seems to be ill-suited for the vehicle's turbocharged engine.
Past Subaru Legacy Models
The current generation for the Legacy debuted for 2005. Until the 2008 model year, it was also sold in a wagon body style with the same trim levels available on the sedan. The budget-priced 2.5 GT trim level was discontinued for 2006, while the GT spec.B was added. That year also saw the addition of a DVD-based navigation system.
The previous, third-generation Subaru Legacy was more of a rugged all-weather performer than the current model. Sold from 2000-'04, it launched with three primary trim levels: base L, sporty GT and premium GT Limited. A Brighton value trim was also included in the 2000 lineup for the wagon, but was removed the following year.
Although it was a bit lacking in refinement, the previous Legacy was well stocked with standard features, including AWD. All trims came with a smooth and responsive 165-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. In 2003, Subaru moved the L trim upscale and added the L Special Edition trim, which was renamed the 35th Anniversary Edition a year later.
Value-minded buyers looking for an all-weather vehicle might take a look at the second-generation Legacy. Sold from 1995-'99, it was best known for spawning the Outback wagon, a rugged SUV alternative that came with standard AWD. The model's one weak link was its anemic 135-hp 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, which many people felt was a downgrade from the 160-hp turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder that was available in the first generation's Sport Turbo trim (sold from 1991-'94).

Subaru Outback In the mid-1990s, America's desire for SUVs was growing at a rapid pace. To a small Japanese automaker, it was fairly obvious that consumers liked the elevated seating and macho styling of these vehicles, but had little use for their bouncy rides and poor fuel economy. This company's solution? The Subaru Outback, the "world's first sport-utility wagon."
Designed with the North American market in mind, the Subaru Outback provided many of the popular SUVs traits without any of the associated negatives. Subaru based it on its Legacy wagon and made sure the vehicle came standard with all-wheel drive, a raised suspension for better ground clearance, and special interior and exterior styling details.
At its debut, the Subaru Outback was pretty much the only vehicle of its type and was an instant hit with consumers. It did lose a bit of an edge as other automakers came up with similar crossover wagons and SUVs at the start of the new millennium, but Subaru has recently countered with its third-generation Outback. New or used, the Outback is a strong contender for shoppers interested in a car that provides plenty of everyday versatility with the type of all-season capability needed for frosty climes.
Current Subaru Outback
The current five-passenger Subaru Outback is only available as a station wagon. There are several trim levels: the base-level Outback, 2.5i, 2.5i L.L. Bean and 2.5i Limited, the 2.5 XT Limited and the 3.0 R L.L. Bean.
For power, 2.5i trim levels have a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower. The XT level upgrades to a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine with 243 hp and 241 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0 R model comes with a 3.0-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder (H6) good for 245 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque.
All Outbacks come standard with all-wheel drive. Models with either of the 2.5-liter engines can be equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is available on 2.5i models, while 2.5 XT models get a five-speed auto. The 2.5i Limited models are four-speed automatic only, and the H6 only comes with the five-speed automatic.
In reviews, this Subaru Outback has received praise for its standard all-wheel drive, long list of features, above-average build quality and balanced ride and handling dynamics. And while it doesn't quite have the off-road capabilities of a true SUV, the Outback can take on light-duty terrain without complaint. Negatives brought up in reviews typically center on the vehicle's smallish backseat, sluggish response from the automatic transmissions and limited availability of higher-end luxury and safety features.
Past Subaru Outbacks
The current-generation Outback debuted for the 2005 model year. If you're shopping for a used model, there are a few items to note. An Outback sedan was offered from 2005-'07. Additionally, all Outbacks prior to the 2008 model year lacked the telescoping steering wheel and auxiliary audio jack of the current car. Horsepower figures were lowered for 2007 due to revised SAE standards, but actual performance was not affected,
The second-generation Subaru Outback (2000-'04) was also available as either a sedan or a wagon. In its first year, this model was available in base and Limited trims, and had a 165-hp, 2.5-liter engine. The following year, Subaru introduced the L.L. Bean Edition and the VDC trim levels. These featured the more powerful 212-hp six-cylinder engine.
Compared to the current car, the second-generation Outback is a bit smaller and not quite as refined or capable. Subaru made minor improvements to this generation during the years, but none are significant enough to make any particular model year stand out. In road tests, reviewers liked its standard all-wheel drive and car-based comfort. Some felt that the four-cylinder models were underpowered, however, and that it was eclipsed by newer competition in its later years.
When the original Subaru Outback model debuted in 1995, it was little more than a trim package on the Legacy wagon. In 1996, the Outback (officially known as the Legacy Outback for this generation) gained its raised suspension, large foglights, SUV design cues and optional 155-hp 2.5-liter engine. Further improvements during successive years included the addition of a leather-lined Limited model, dual sunroofs and powertrain refinements. As the Outback was one of the first crossover wagons to be designed, consumers interested in this type of vehicle from the late 1990s will likely find it to be quite suitable, especially compared to SUVs from the same period.

Subaru Tribeca

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