2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X Review

Expert Reviews Subaru

By Mary Ellen Ash


  • Excellent interior space – leg-room and storage
  • Standard All-Wheel Drive
  • Good MPG – 21 city, 27 hwy (25.5 mpg observed)
  • Integrated GPS, stereo, and Bluetooth
  • Extra large moonroof


  • Minimalist center console
  • Cheap plastic interior and poor panel alignment
  • Uninspired vehicle design
  • Uncomfortable rear seating

Verdict: Not fancy or overly stylish, but it is rugged, reliable and versatile for many occasions

The Subaru Forester is one of Subaru’s best selling vehicles — a five-passenger mid-sized SUV that offers impressive interior and cargo space, good fuel economy,  and standard AWD  — making it a strong contender for active SUV shoppers and outdoor enthusiasts who are on a budget. Subaru is well known for building very practical cars, minimizing all the frills to give you an economical car that gets the job done. Period. As with its previous iterations, the current Subaru Forester is still a strong entry in the constantly growing mid-sized SUV segment and is comparable to its best-selling competitors from Honda and Toyota.

2011 Subaru Forester

Driving Impressions

New for 2011 is a 2.5L engine with better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Power, 170 horsepower, is the same as before, with maximum horsepower being attained at a slightly lower rpm; torque is up to 174 lb.-ft. at 4,100 rpm (vs. 170 @ 4,400 rpm). Fuel economy has also improved with the new engine getting  21 mpg city / 27 mpg highway.

Subaru has kept its popular two engine choices: our 2.5X model came with a 2.5L DOHC aluminum-alloy 16-valve horizontally opposed Subaru Boxer© engine capable of 170 horsepower and 174 lbs.-ft. of torque. Moving up to the 2.5 XT model gets you a 2.5L turbocharged engine which has 30% more power compared to the non-turbo engine. For our 2.5X test vehicle, we found the automatic shifting a bit rough and unrefined at times, which led to some jerky accelerations. For those need-to-go-fast accelerations, beware, the Forester plodded along at its own tempo. Even the sport-model manual shifter did little to negate the Forester’s lack of vigor. But once at speed, the drive was smooth and quiet.

Utility is the Subaru Forester's middle name2011 Subaru Forester packed and ready for action

All Forester models come standard with symmetrical AWD, which is fully active and provides power to all four wheels simultaneously. Sadly, I wasn’t able to utilize the Forester’s ability to perform in unfavorable conditions. When tackling the twisty roads, the Forester tracked well and maneuvered with confidence through the corners. It was not so good at moving up steep inclines with its small engine, but once back into its comfort-zone on rolling to flat terrain, the Forester merrily moved along.

The Forester epitomizes the crossover vehicle class. We liked the Forester’s car-like driving character as opposed to piloting a big, clumsy SUV. The driver still gets a nice view of the road and good all-around visibility. In addition, the Forester has excellent ground clearance — a plus for those who often drive off the beaten path.

Mary Ellen and the 2011 Subaru Forester

Build & Styling

The 2011 Forester, which was an all-new, third-generation model for 2009, doesn’t have any new exterior styling changes for 2011. The 2009 Forester brought a bolder, more SUV-like design and made a major leap in safety technology, comfort, refinement and driving dynamics. For 2011, standard features include a new audio system for the 2.5X Premium and 2.5XT Premium and a backup camera as part of the new audio system if you move up to the 2.5X/2.5XT Touring.

Subaru is good about outfitting the Forester with a host of safety features, including a full complement of front and side air bags, ABS brakes, electronic stability and traction controls, and the aforementioned symmetrical AWD. The Forester generally scores really well on safety and is a “2011 top safety pick” by the IIHS.

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