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Forester offers a base 2.5X model, uplevel 2.5XS, and due this Summer as an early 04, a turbocharged 2.5 XT. Unchanged for 03 is the X and... Read More
Forester offers a base 2.5X model, uplevel 2.5XS, and due this Summer as an early 04, a turbocharged 2.5 XT. Unchanged for 03 is the X and XSs horizontally opposed 2.5-liter 4-cyl engine. XTs offer a similar engine but with turbocharging for a boost in horsepower from 165 to 210. All come with manual or automatic transmission and all-wheel drive without low-range gearing. Manual-transmission models resurrect Subarus Hill Holder feature designed to prevent rolling on inclines with the clutch-pedal depressed. Antilock brakes are again standard, and are joined for 03 by standard head-and-chest-protecting front side airbags. All models use 16-inch wheels. Air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt steering, CD player, and remote keyless entry are also standard. Leather upholstery is available on automatic-transmission XS and XT models fitted with the optional Premium Package. Minimize
35 Reviews from Epinions.com
Sep 26, 2002
Everything You Need to Know About the '03 Forester! (Written by someone who owns one!)
Pros: Sensible size, AWD, fun to drive, safety features!
Cons: You might get a ticket when you blaze by that Navigator!
The Bottom Line:
If you're thinking you need a car with a little more room, you owe it to yourself to check this car out!
With so-called "crossover" sport-utility vehicles all the rage, nearly every manufacturer in America is scrambling to churn out its version of the ultimate sedan/sport-ute/station wagon combo. Too bad Subaru already beat them to the punch - five years ago.
That's when the original Forester debuted. With a tall roomy cabin, elevated driving position and full-time all-wheel drive, the Forester was a crossover utility vehicle before there was such a thing.
I am the very proud owner of a 2003 Subaru Forester. I love it. I'm crazy about it! I've been driving it for two weeks, as of this review, and I have to say that if you're currently in the market for a small SUV, I implore you to check this car out. Adam and I test drove the Honda CR-V, the Toyota RAV-4, Jeep Liberty, and the Subaru. We liked all of the cars we drove, we liked them a lot- but in the end the Subaru won- hands down. Here's why.
Let's begin by looking at what all of the Forester Models come standard with:
First and foremost is the wonderful All-Wheel Drive system. Subaru have the most effective AWD system on the market, their reliability record (proven out in JD Power surveys) is class leading, and there really is a substantial difference in stability between a Forester and everything else that it competes with. Most people just don't understand the difference!
With All-Wheel Drive, the car recognizes when a wheel needs improved power and it transfers power to the wheels that need it. What this means in reality is very little slipping, ever. The tires grip the road and hold on hard, even taking a highway off-ramp at 70 MPH (I only did that once, Dad!), it grabs hold and feels totally secure.
Anti-lock Brakes are standard as well. The ABS monitors lock up on all four wheels. Only the crap two-wheel ABS systems monitor just the back wheels, and those keep the car from sliding under lock, but you can still experience brake lock! 4-wheel ABS is what you have on this car, and its the way to go.
In case you don't have experience with anti-lock brakes, they prevent your back wheels from locking up and sending you into a skid when you slam the brakes down suddenly. When this happens, you'll feel a pulsing under your braking-foot, which is normal, and continued pressure should be applied through this process. Apparently there is a problem with people not realizing how this system works- they feel the pulsing, and lift their foot up, negating the helpfulness of ABS.
EBD or Electronic Brake Distribution
(The following was obtained from various sites on the web-- they explain it far more succinctly than I could, and I think it is an important feature)
EBD is an enhancement to ABS that balances brake force electronically to better distribute it between front and rear wheels. Normally, because of a car's weight distribution, rear brakes can more easily lock. While a proportioning valve linked to a conventional braking
system reduces the possibility of rear brake lock-up, it under-utilizes rear braking capacity, especially in a loaded vehicle. However, Subaru's EBD technology ensures optimum use of braking force at the front and rear wheels.
It evens out braking forces between the front and rear wheels according to how the vehicle is loaded with passengers and cargo. It works similarly to ABS, but works at lower speed than ABS typically operates.
Front and Side Airbags for both the driver and passenger. The side airbags are mounted on the seats, so no matter what your position is in the car, you're protected.
Hill Holder Clutch You really must drive it to believe how wonderful this feature is. In the manual model, this standard feature prevents you from rolling back when starting on a hill! Yes, that's right! You have your foot on the brake, you put your foot on the clutch, and when you take your foot off the brake to put it on the gas, with the clutch depressed you don't move an inch. LOVE this feature! It automatically knows when you are on an incline and works the emergency brake for you, so you can concentrate on working the clutch and gas!
Here is some technical info for you regarding engine and whatnot:
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine sits horizontally in the compartment. Porche does this with their cars- The term to is "boxer" which describes the layou, and it allows the pistons to move more smoothly, making fewer vibrations, which is a good thing.
The Forester has 165 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque. By no account is it a WRX, but it moves quickly and responsively. Acceleration is smooth and seamless, even in a manual.It's a revvy unit that motors as well as any of its competitors, and is very enjoyable to drive. It cruises with complete stability at any highway speed, and will
keep up with any traffic you like. It's also got a great little gearbox that's easy to shift, and the car is torquey enough that you don't have to govern the gears too closely to make clean progress.
The car runs on regular Unleaded (87) Gas, and gets about 25 MPG.
If you're hard-core about specs, here ya go, courtesy of Subaru.com-
Type: Horizontally opposed 4-cylinder with die cast aluminum-alloy block and aluminum-alloy cylinder heads.
Displacement 2.5 liters (150 cubic inches) Horsepower 165 @ 5600 rpm
Torque (lbs.-ft.) 166 @ 4000 rpm
Valvetrain 16-valve with single overhead camshaft design (SOHC).
Fuel System Sequential multi-port fuel injection system.
Engine Management ECM Engine Control Module manages fuel injection and ignition systems and features learning, self-diagnosis, limp-home and anti-knock capabilities.
Fuel Tank Capacity 15.9 gallons 2003
EPA Mileage Estimates (mpg, city/highway) 21/27 (manual transmission), 21/26 (automatic transmission)
Body Construction: Unitized with hydro-formed front sub-frame, front and rear crumple zones and aluminum-alloy hood. 72% of body sheet metal is two-sided galvanized.
Suspension Fully independent, heavy-duty raised type with coil springs and struts. Front: Lower L-arms with liquid-filled rear brushings and stabilizer bar. Rear: Parallel links and stabilizer bar.
Brakes Power-assisted with dual diagonal hydraulic circuits and 4-channel/4-sensor anti-lock braking system (ABS). Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD). Front: 11.4-inch ventilated discs with twin-piston calipers. Rear: 10.3 inch discs.
Steering Variable ratio rack-and-pinion with engine-speed-sensing power assist.
Manual Transmission 5-speed manual with overdrive.
Automatic Transmission (Optional) 4-speed electronically controlled automatic with overdrive. Automatic power mode engages with rapid use of the accelerator pedal.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD) Full-time AWD system automatically distributes power between front and rear wheels based on traction needs: Manual transmission models have a viscous-coupling locking center differential. Automatic transmission models have an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch. 2.5 XS models have a viscous limited-slip rear differential.
Wheelbase/Length 99.4/175.2 Width/Height 68.1/65.0 Track: front/rear 58.9/58.5
Minimum Road Clearance (at curb weight) 7.5
Headroom front/rear 39.8/39.8
Legroom front/rear 43.6/33.7
Interior Volume (cubic feet) 93.5 EPA
Cargo Volume (cubic feet) 32.0 (rear seat up). 61.4 (rear seat down-SAE).
Towing Capacity (pounds) 2000 Automatic Transmission (Class One).
2400 Manual Transmission (Class One).
Meets all federal passenger car safety standards
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
4-channel/4-sensor Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)
Viscous limited-slip rear differential
Dual front air bags (SRS)
Dual-stage deployment passenger front air bag (SRS)
Front-seat head/chest side-impact air bags (SRS)
Active front seat head restraints
Daytime running lights
3-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, force limiters and height-adjustable shoulder belt anchors
3-point rear seatbelts for all three seating positions with height-adjustable outboard shoulder belt anchors Energy-absorbing collapsible steering column
Energy-absorbing front and rear crumple zones
5-mph impact-absorbing bumpers
Side-impact door beams
3 rear child safety seat anchors
LATCH system: Lower Anchors and Tether for Children
Child safety rear door locks
There are essentially 4 models of Forester: X, XS, XS Premium, and XS Premium Leather.
Let's have a look at what each offers.
The 2.5 X is most easily recognized, for it has the dark grey, almost black cladding on the bottom. This is the most basic model and is still nicely equipped. It comes with power windows, locks and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control and tilt steering. It also has 16-inch wheels and tires (not alloy, but they look as good as a non-alloy can, really), a 100-watt (got this info from their site, wattage means nothing to me) AM/FM/weatherband CD stereo, and remote keyless entry. This model has both drum and disc brakes.
The 2.5 XS Moves up a notch. This model contains all of the above features, with the following changes/additions: Rather than the dark gray body cladding, you get a metallic silvery-gray on the bottom (see photo on Epinions, above), chrome door handles, a cold weather package (heated seats, mirrors and glass under wipers), the side mirrors themselves are larger. You get aluminum alloy wheels, and all disc brakes. The XS model gives you automatic climate control, with llarge and easy to understand buttons.
You also get a six-disc in-dash CD changer, rather than the solo-cd model that comes standard with the X. A limited slip differential is standard on the XS. The fabric is slightly different in this model as well. I wouldn't say it was better, just different. It has almost a chennile like feel to it, where the X model looks more like a tweed.
The 2.5XS Premium is the model that I have. It has everything the XS has, with the addition of same color body cladding (mine is all silver), chrome door handles (interior), and the biggest damn moonroof you've ever seen in your life. The thing is massive! It also comes with a leather wrapped steering wheel, stick shift and parking brake. A limited slip diff. rounds out the extras nicely.
Lastly, the 2.5 XS Premium Leather is identical to the XS Premium, but with beautiful, supple leather upholstery. Sadly, this model only comes in automatic, and we wanted a manual transmission. If you want all the bells and whistles, you have to go with an automatic! The leather really is beautiful, though!
The interior of the Subaru is streamlined and attractive. It has better upholstery than the CR-V and I like the center console better than the RAV-4. The driver's seat has a lever to move your seat up as well as back and forth. The driver's seat has a lumbar option, as well. The center console is a sleek silver color, which compliments the platinum colored accents of the exterior nicely. The stereo on my Forester has an easy to operate 6-disc in dash changer, radio (including a weatherband option), and a cassette player. Located above the radio on the dash is a small storage compartment (this is where the gauge pack option would go if you equipped it). Above, there are two compartments for sunglasses. Between the seats is a small covered compartment with an extra power source. I keep my extra phone charger in here, and when I charge my phone while driving it all tucks away neatly. There are two large cup holders here, as well. There are also two rear cupholders for back seat passengers.
There is more than enough headroom in this car, even with the moonroof. My 6'2" boyfriend has inches to spare, and for him, that's rare. Pretty much anybody short of Andre the Giant will have enough headroom, even with the moonroof!
There is also plenty of legroom for front seat passengers. The back seat is a little tighter, but Adam can sit comfortably in the back seat, as well. There are plenty of little cargo nets and storage spaces within the car to keep everything tucked out of the way and looking neat.
The dash and trim of the interior is a dark gray extremely tactile material that looks funky and so far, seems quite durable. I like this trim detail, and think it makes the car look nicer on the inside. The chrome door handles are a nice touch, as well. There is a cover for the moonroof in case it is too bright, and when you have the cover off and the roof closed, a strong UV tint will help protect you and yours from the sun. The interior is incredibly airy, thanks to large windows throughout- this is especially true if you have the moonroof!
The sound system, factory installed, works perfectly. The sound is clear and complete. You can upgrade your speaker system if you'd like, but I found the factory system more than adequate.
We ordered a rear cargo tray for the back of the car, and I would suggest you do the same. This non-slip rubber/plastic tray fits perfectly into the space, and protects your nice carpet from the nasty things you might toss into the back of the car! There are grocery hooks, and with the seats down, the cargo room is only 1 cubic foot smaller than the Escape. How's that for roomy?
The Forester is looking more like a sport ute and less like the wagons that we Americans fear and loathe. Here, the word Wagon immediately conjures the old Buick Roadmaster, and we shudder and cringe as the avocado and wood trimmed nightmare comes to mind. Unlike the Outback series, this is more Ute than wagon. The 2003 version is sleeker and saucier, and looks great. It already has some copycats hitting the roads- keep your eyes open, and you'll see what I mean (*cough*Mitsubishi Outlander*cough*).
We opted to get the cargo tray, which is well worth the $70 or so it costs. We also got a rear bumper cover, to protect the painted bumber from getting dinged by suitcases, dog claws, etc. This option is about $50. We also upgraded the keyless entry to a security system for about $175. There are loads of extras available, so customize the ones that are right for your needs!
Why YOU should get one
Today it seems the moment a couple starts a family they run out and buy a Suburban. I loathe the Suburban. Add to that list the Navigator, Tahoe, Expedition, etc. Why do I loathe them, you might ask? Because they are excessive, their fuel consumption is outrageous, and probably about 1-2% of the fools that spend their money on them actually need the space. The rest think that they look cool. "Think" being the operative word here. Mini-utes are coming back in style, and for good reason. Now, what sets this car apart from the others out there?
Well, besides the fact that I think it has better details both inside and out, has a long proven record of reliability and safety, and a glorious AWD system, you cannot flip this car over. Did you read that? There is no warning on this car about flipping it over, because it won't happen! It has more get up and go than any of the ther cars I drove, feels safer cornering and swerving than the Liberty, Rav4 and CRV (because it is), and it stops a damn sight better than the Liberty ever could. Does it lack any option that any of the other cars have? Nope! With the CR-V, the only way to get ABS is to get the high-end model, the EX. If you like the Liberty, I hope you're planning to get the super kitted out Limited Edition, which will run you about 26K, because the lower end model looks and feels cheaper than it should.
If you like the RAV4, great! Just watch your turns, and don't swerve too suddenly- it didn't feel all that stable driving it! Not to mention the fact that all of the above cars come with 2WD. If you're one of the suckers out there who actually forked out the cash for a sport ute with two-wheel drive, please leave me a comment explaining yourself, because your logic sure as hell escapes me.
The Forester is quicker, feels more stable, and is generally much more enjoyable to drive than the comprable models by Honda, Toyota and Jeep. I also want to stress that even though the list price might seem higher, the XS Premium comes in at a comparable price with a well-loaded
RAV4 or CRV EX, if you work with a dealership that will trim their margin like ours did.
The Bottom Line
For the money, the Subaru Forester, is practical and fun to drive. It offers more bang for the buck than any of its competitors, and provides a smooth, comfortable and safe ride. It is large enough for a family of five (with room for two car seats), and roomy enough to tote your dogs along as well. Do yourself a favor, and take it for a drive today.
PS- We got a great deal at Subaru in Wakefield, MA. We used Autobytel to find them, and if you're in the area, I highly reccommend the dealership. Ask for Jon!
PPS- Pics of my car are on my profile page!
PPPS- A handy tip for you courtesy of Adam:
WHen you bring home a new car, and feel less than thrilled about the label advertising the dealership that they so kindly plastered to the rear of your car here is how: Using a hairdryer and an extension cord, use the hair dryer to heat the logo. Whether it is a sticker, or a glued on badge, the heat from the dryer will allow you to smoothly peel off whatever is marring your now perfect rear end ;)
You may have to work quickly or re-heat certain spots, but when you are done, its like it was never there!
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