I've owned a 2001 Forester since June of 2000 and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This is an eminently practical car that's fun to drive.
Overview and Handling
Having driven BMW's and Land Rovers for most of the last decade, I finally decided that my dog was senselessly destroying a $40,000 european luxury car and it was time to get a little more practical. The Subaru seemed to offer the right combination of affordability, durability and driving fun (something I had been spoiled with by BMW).
Don't get me wrong - this ain't no beemer. But it's not a velour-lined aluminum-can either. The Subaru all-wheel driving system is everything the advertisements promise and provides excellent handling and control. The steering is reasonably tight with very good road response - especially in adverse (slick / icy) weather conditions.
The gas mileage is a huge relief especially when compared to it's gas hungry cousins in the SUV world. I've found that I easily get mid to high 20's in miles per gallon for both city and highway
driving. Let me put it this way - last summer as gas prices were skyrocketing I didn't feel the pain quite like my Suburban driving friends.
Current owners of other SUV's may balk the car's low profile.
The driver's seat is not that much higher than the Outback or any normal passenger car. Don't be looking for a grand view like you might get from a Ford Expedition or similar Mac truck big-rig. But the Forester provides just enough height to get a peek over other cars at the traffic ahead.
Interior: Good but not Luxurious
The Subaru interior has been thoughtfully designed to optimize comfort and convenience. They have corrected many of the flaws Suburus had during the late 80's and 90's such as the elimination of the "control pads" behind the steering wheel. Control buttons are now easy to find and oversized.
The front seats are comfortable, even on long trips, although rear passengers sometimes complain of being a little cramped. The car will seat five passengers, although I would not
put 3 adults in the back for more than about 2 hours. In-cabin, engine and highway noise is kept to a minimum.
For cold weather climes, the winter package - heated seats, mirrors, etc is a must-have and all features work great, especially the "hot" seats. If you want to play a joke on your passenger, just flip on the heated seat in summer and wait for them to say, "Geez, it sure is hot today."
The oversized moonroof is one of the most noticeable and impressive features. The enormous size make this as close to a convertible as an SUV can get. The auto-dimming mirror and mirror compass are great as well. The in-dash CD/cassette swallows 6 CD's
and is far easier to use than a trunk or under-the-seat mounted player. The premium stereo system pumps out terrific sound even at highway speeds.
When I bought the car, Subaru did not allow you to get both leather seats and a moonroof. Duh. I opted for the Texas-sized moonroof and the grey velour upholstery, which is holding up well to my dog's frequent assaults with muddy paws. My understanding is that Subaru has changed it's offering so that you can get both the premium package and the leather seats.
The interior cargo area is surprisingly roomy.
Once the seats are folded down you'll find ample room for packing loads of gear. In addition, one of my favorite features is the abundance of storage pockets and hidden stowaways useful for a variety of "stuff."
If I have a couple of somewhat minor pet peeves, they have to do with the stereo controls and with the flakiest cupholders I've ever seen. While the stereo sound is excellent, the knobs are clunky, cheesy and downright hard to use at times.
Seeking radio stations while on the highway is particularly painful since you have to either use the "Scan" function (and remember to stop it when you find something you like - or you'll never find it again) or you can try to use the "Seek" function.
It seems Subaru either couldn't find enough room or put enough thought into adding in a proper Seek feature which most radio and cd-surfers like me will wear to tatters. It's an awkward process of holding the tuner clockwise for 2 seconds, counting backward from pi, holding your left leg at 26.2 degrees to horizontal, and praying you've got the timing just right or it'll skip about 4 stations. This is clumsy at best and dangerous at worst when barreling down the interstate at 70mph. When you do get it to work, forget about going backward to a station you just passed, and the Scan (also forward-only) won't do that circus trick either.
The Forester's cupholders deserve special recognition for "Poor Design of the Year" Award.
Flimsy and very plastic, they pop out of the dash board blocking a bouquet of climate and stereo controls. Like delicate origami, they fold up to return back into the dash and, like delicate origami, you wouldn't expect them to suffer the pressure of a two-pack of even the lightest diet-cola on the market. And no, they will definitely not support the All-American 64oz. Mega-Super-Deluxe-KingSize-"Gotta Pee Real Bad"-Slurpies. For such treats, Subaru adapted the center console. The only problem is that you can't really store anything inside that console if you're planning to use it to hold your pony keg of Coca-Cola.
I haven't taken nor would I take this car off-road in Montana like I did the Land Rover (see my review "Almost Too Close to BigSky" for the 1999 Land Rover Discovery). It's just not up to the task for serious driving over rocks, bushes, creeks, etc. The 4x4, however, is terrific for wet and icy roads.
It also runs great on unpaved roads but I wouldn't jet off over the Rockies carving great new trails in this car without a GPS and a cellphone just in case.
Seven months of owning the car and no glitches.
The Forester provides comfortable highway riding but seems to really excel in urban environments where it's compact size make zipping around town and parking in tight spaces a breeze. As a top-rated SUV for safety, this one has just the right combination to make it a pleasurable and worthwhile car to drive.
Specifications on Model Tested
2001 Subaru Forester S
4-Speed Automatic Transmission
Premium Package (power moonroof, monotone paint, allow wheels, side-impact air bags)
All Weather Package (heated seats, heated mirrors, windshield de-icer, slip differential)
Premium Sound System
Auto-dimming mirror and compass
Rear cargo cover
Custom Tailpipe Cover
Length of Time: 9 months and still counting...
2/8/01 - Further discussion on stereo equipment and cup holders
2/10/01 - Added interior cargo, error corrections and bolding
3/17/01 - Major content and format changes
Amount Paid (US$):
2001Model and Options: