Review - Subaru Forester 2.5XT

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 11, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    PRESIDENTIAL TOWER, GREAT AGAIN, NY
    With a new turbocharged engine, a real hood scoop, and a slick new interior, this is the SUV version of the WRX STi. Almost.

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    BY JIM McCRAW
    August 2003

    In Silverthorn, Colorado, there is a place called the Eisenhower Tunnel, at 11,000 feet above sea level. It was the site two years ago of somber discussions between members of the Subaru Forester engine testing and development team and their boss, Kazuharu Ichikawa, the man who has been working on Subaru's famous boxer engines for close to 25 years.

    At altitude, the Forester engine just didn't have enough suds. That's a real problem for a Subaru, because Subaru wagons have become standard issue in ski areas. If the Forester were going to succeed at altitude against new competitors, more suds would have to be found.

    So they rigged up a test mule with the 2.0-liter turbo engine used in the Impreza WRX. Even with a turbo, it was the little engine that couldn't. It was decided the larger 2.5-liter engine from the Forester would get a turbo of its own, and the Forester 2.5XT was born.

    But this is not the 300-hp, 300-pound-feet engine from the '04 WRX STi. That engine, with its big IHI turbocharger, wasn't what the doctor ordered for a family SUV. Nor was the 227-hp engine from the standard WRX.

    What we have here is a custom-made 210-hp, 235-pound-feet DOHC 2.5-liter boxer four with variable intake-valve timing through 35 degrees of crankshaft rotation and its own smaller Mitsubishi Heavy Industries intercooled turbo, a unit that produces faster throttle response and spool-up than the IHI unit. Boost maxes out at 11.6 psi versus 14.5 psi for the STi engine, and that figure of 235 pound-feet at 3600 rpm is a whopping 42 percent more than the plain-vanilla engine generates.

    There's a patented new trick to this engine, too. Ichikawa-san's engineers found that the aluminum rear main bearing cap was letting the crankshaft wobble a bit, opening up the bearing clearance over time and generating a rattling noise. So they invented a new kind of main bearing cap that has a shaped sintered-steel core and an aluminum wrapper that does the job with two conventional bolts. The 2.5-liter XT turbo engine also gets a new semi-closed-deck block, heavy-duty connecting rods, forged pistons, and a drive-by-wire throttle setup.

    But no turbo model worthy of the name, the name in this case being Forester 2.5XT, to go along with the X and XS models already in the lineup, goes to market with the same look as its naturally aspirated siblings. It simply isn't done. So the Subaru guys did a complete package for the turbocharged Forester. First, and most noticeable, is the functional air scoop in its aluminum alloy hood.

    The turbo, the intercooler, and the scoop are joined by a set of tasty split-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels and matching high-performance tires; a special combination of instruments, seats, fabrics, textures, and interior graphics; a seven-speaker, 120-watt sound system with a six-CD changer; a chromed exhaust tip; brushed aluminum roof rails; and 2.5XT badging—all in a package for which the company is asking $1825, bringing the price of a five-speed manual version to $25,520 (compared with $23,695 for the Forester XS five-speed). The Premium package—leather seating, a sunroof, and an automatic transaxle—will set you back another $2550.

    [​IMG]

    For high-density commuting, you might consider the 2.5XT with a four-speed automatic, priced at $26,320. When you order the auto version, you get a different engine calibration as well as active all-wheel drive. The manual XT turbo varies its 50/50 front-to-rear power delivery through a viscous coupling depending on measured wheel slip, but the active version used with the automatic uses an electronic continuously variable transfer clutch, varying torque depending on whether the Forester is accelerating or decelerating.

    Our test mount, a silver 2.5XT manual, was subjected to a few days of generalized abuse in Lake Placid, New York, before setting off on a 600-mile, one-day blitz back to the offices in Ann Arbor and then being passed around to the staff for two weeks. At no time during this period did anyone not smile a little when driving the XT.

    Most of the smileage was brought on by the 2.5XT's unceasing willingness to make usable torque and to scream across intersections in first gear, which is an extra-deep 3.45:1 (the same as in base Foresters). The boost comes on right now, enhanced by a limited-slip viscous rear differential and 4.44:1 axle ratios, shorter than the 4.11:1 diffs on other Foresters. Also beneficial is a curb weight of only 3289 pounds, 78 more pounds than a no-blower 2.5X we tested in July 2002. The force-fed flat-four's combination of torque, gearing, and weight will get you a blazing 0-to-60 time of 5.3 seconds and a quarter-mile of 13.8 seconds at 97 mph, just 0.3 second slower than an $89,665 Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

    The shifter was as sweet as a peach, the clutch nice and light, and the engine truly heroic. With this kind of power and weight, the little XT ends up as the only real hot rod in the entire small-SUV spectrum; it's capable of nearly 130 mph.

    The rest of the XT running gear—the alloy wheels and the Yokohama Geolandar G900 all-weather tires overlaid on the Subie's independent front and rear strut suspension—generated more smiles. The high-profile tires are made for cutting through snow and yuck and shedding water, but that doesn't mean the XT won't corner on them with considerable verve, turning all four of them with equal grunt. Blasting across scenic Route 3 in New York through rain and fog, we felt as secure as George W. in the Oval Office. We didn't care for the too-much-slack brake-pedal action at first, but we got used to it.

    Another contributor to stable handling is that the XT, like its sister versions, is not hanging out in the stratosphere. It may be the least tall of all the small SUVs, more like a tall car. According to our brief parking-lot survey, it's significantly lower to the ground and has a user-friendly step-in height.

    Yet it's not small inside. With the rear seats up, there are 32 cubic feet of cargo space; with the seats folded down, it will carry 64 cubic feet of stuff. The roof rack will hold 200 more pounds of stuff, and the XT will trailer up to 2400 pounds with the stick shift and 2000 pounds with the automatic.

    There are lots of cars, trucks, and SUVs out there with overcooked plasticky interiors. The Subaru Forester 2.5XT is not one of them. It is the very model of restraint, with an aggregation of sport seats, textures, textiles, and metallic elements in the cockpit that put it in the same league as the attractive Mercury Mountaineer's interior design. It doesn't wear on you or distract you; it's just there to look plenty good and serve your needs as they arise.

    The nattily attired bucket seats will not fit 100 percent of the population in comfort 100 percent of the time, but we sure liked the way they held our 95th-percentile middle-aged body in and down, and we didn't have to readjust them once during the 600-mile blitz from New York to Michigan.

    Although the Forester 2.5XT will not challenge an IRL car for quick turn-in and lack of body roll in the corners, or a CART car for turbo power, it's a surprisingly easy piece to drive hellbent through the woods, with well-controlled ride motions and a smooth, quiet ride. The steering has both variable-ratio and engine-speed-related power assist and is not as cosmically connected to the grain in the asphalt as we'd like, but then we're lunatics.

    The cheap and cheerful strut suspension works okay on the street but not in the lab. Testing generated a pretty weak skidpad performance of 0.75 g, indicating that bigger tires are in order. The brakes stopped the car from 70 mph in 184 feet.

    When Subaru introduced the WRX in the U.S. a couple years ago, it expected to sell 10,000 of them a year, and the company blew it by almost 150 percent. It's now selling 24,000 a year. If the same thing happens with the Forester 2.5XT, Subaru will be happy to be just as wrong.

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    [​IMG]
    Highs: Blazing acceleration, good use of space, slick interior.
    Lows: Roly-poly on the skidpad, not exactly a looker.
    The Verdict: A skiing family's dream at $25,520.

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    COUNTERPOINT

    Although the naturally aspirated Forester isn't exactly boring, there's no question that the turbo version is more entertaining to drive. Adding 45 horsepower and 69 pound-feet of torque has a way of doing that. Still, as quick and entertaining as this blown breadbox may be, I find myself asking the question that occurs to me with every hot-rod ute that rolls into the C/D parking lot: What's the point? The WRX wagon will do everything the Forester XT can do, including cargo carrying, with more pace and better responses, for similar money. I like the turbo Forester. But like pretty much everything in the world of sport-utilities, I don't entirely get it. —Tony Swan

    Why get this car instead of a WRX wagon? Well, the Forester 2.5XT makes almost as much horsepower and more torque and has greater headroom and a cargo hold that's larger and more regular in shape. Oh, and it's significantly quicker than the WRX. It's about the same price. And it looks better—in a dorky kind of way. For errand running and Ford Escape passing, the XT is brilliant. It uses basically the same engine as the hyper-performance WRX STi but with less turbo boost. It's torquey and exhibits no noticeable turbo lag. As good as it is, the WRX, with a smaller motor and lack of variable valve timing, never lets you forget where the power comes from. —Daniel Pund

    The Forester XT is another case of an excellent engine transforming a bland car into something sweet. With the naturally aspirated 2.5, the Forester is just another good sport-ute among many other good sport-utes. But with the turbo and variable valve timing, the Forester is arguably the best—and quickest—ute out there for $25,520. That is, of course, if you accept the notion that it's an SUV and not simply a tall Impreza wagon, which would bring another Impreza wagon into play—the WRX. A family man's WRX with 17-inch wheels can be had for about the same dough and is sportier and a lot less mommy. The choice is easy. —Ron Kiino

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    C/D TEST RESULTS

    ACCELERATION (Seconds)
    Zero to 30 mph: 1.3
    40 mph: 2.6
    50 mph: 3.6
    60 mph: 5.3
    70 mph: 6.9
    80 mph: 9.2
    90 mph: 11.8
    100 mph: 15.0
    110 mph: 19.5
    120 mph: 26.7
    Street start, 5-60 mph: 6.3
    Top-gear acceleration, 30-50 mph: 8.4
    50-70 mph: 8.1
    Standing 1/4-mile: 13.8 sec @ 97 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 129 mph

    BRAKING
    70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 184 ft
    Fade: none light moderate heavy

    HANDLING
    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.75 g
    Understeer: minimal moderate excessive

    FUEL ECONOMY
    EPA city driving: 18 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 23 mpg
    C/D-observed: 20 mpg

    INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
    Idle: 41 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 76 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 71 dBA

    ENGINE
    Type: turbocharged and intercooled flat-4, aluminum block and heads
    Bore x stroke: 3.92 x 3.11 in, 99.5 x 79.0mm
    Displacement: 150 cu in, 2457cc
    Compression ratio: 8.2:1
    Engine-control system: Subaru with port fuel injection
    Emissions controls: 3-way catalytic converter, feedback air-fuel-ratio control
    Turbocharger: Mitsubishi
    Waste gate: integral
    Maximum boost pressure: 11.6 psi
    Valve gear: belt-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters, variable intake-valve timing
    Power (SAE net): 210 bhp @ 5600 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 235 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm

    Redline: 6500 rpm

    DRIVETRAIN
    Transmission: 5-speed manual
    Final-drive ratio: 4.44:1, limited slip
    Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
    I ... 3.45 ... 4.9 ... 32 mph (6500 rpm)
    II ... 2.06 ... 8.3 ... 54 mph (6500 rpm)
    III ... 1.45 ... 11.8 ... 76 mph (6500 rpm)
    IV ... 1.09 ... 15.6 ... 102 mph (6500 rpm)
    V ... 0.78 ... 21.8 ... 129 mph (5900 rpm)

    DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
    Wheelbase: 99.4 in
    Track, F/R: 58.9/58.5 in
    Length: 175.2 in
    Width: 68.3 in
    Height: 65.0 in
    Ground clearance: 7.5 in
    Curb weight: 3289 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 56.6/43.4%

    Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal
    Oil capacity: 5.0 qt
    Water capacity: 7.8 qt

    CHASSIS/BODY
    Type: unit construction
    Body material: welded steel and aluminum stampings

    INTERIOR
    SAE volume, front seat: 54 cu ft
    rear seat: 42 cu ft
    cargo room, seats up/folded: 32/64 cu ft
    Practical cargo room, length of pipe: 124.5 in
    largest sheet of plywood: 37.5 x 67.0 in
    no. of 10 x 10 x 16-in boxes, seats up/folded: 13/25
    Front seats: bucket
    Seat adjustments: fore and aft, seatback angle, height
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, driver and passenger front and side airbags
    rear: manual 3-point belts
    General comfort: poor fair good excellent
    Fore-and-aft: support poor fair good excellent
    Lateral support: poor fair good excellent

    SUSPENSION
    F: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    R: ind, strut located by 1 trailing link and 2 lateral links per side, coil springs, anti-roll bar

    STEERING
    Type: rack-and-pinion, power-assisted
    Turns lock-to-lock: 3.3
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 34.8 ft

    BRAKES
    F: 11.4 x 0.9-in vented disc
    R: 10.3 x 0.4-in disc
    Power assist: vacuum with anti-lock control

    WHEELS AND TIRES
    Wheel size: 6.5 x 16 in
    Wheel type: cast aluminum
    Tires: Yokohama Geolandar G900, P215/60HR-16
    Test inflation pressures, F/R 29/28 psi

    SUBARU FORESTER 2.5XT
    Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
    Price as tested: $25,520

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Wow. :eek:

    XT > WRX
     
  3. Jeebus

    Jeebus Well-Known Member

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    KNOCK KNOCK! LOL!
    13.8, WTF :eek:
     
  4. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    That car is soooooooo :cool:
     
  5. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Oh and :repost: :o
     
  6. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    End your silliness.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. bigboto

    bigboto Guest

    Wow. That'll piss of the WRX guys :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
     
  8. aznboi320

    aznboi320 OT Supporter

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    id hit it :hitit:
     
  9. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    I desperately want to drive one now :o
     
  10. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I don't think station wagons get any better than this, especially for the price!

    :eek2: :eek2: :eek2:
     
  11. pharcyde183

    pharcyde183 Nissan by nature

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    Even Buddy Jesus has a hard time with that math :eek3:


    XT=uber
     
  12. N8

    N8 This fucking guy.

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  13. Mega-JC: Da Return

    Mega-JC: Da Return Tiger Knee!

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    I kinda want one :hs:
     
  14. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Not since the 60s anyway.
     
  15. nucl3ar

    nucl3ar Guest

    Fast, but still ugly as hell.
     
  16. Kinsbane

    Kinsbane Life is a dream from which we all must wake. OT Supporter

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    Not really.. I dig my WRX and am fairly happy i could throw it in the turns more than the XT.

    But as far as hauling shit and whatnot, XT > WRX
     
  17. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    Don't you drive a Jeep? :nono:
     
  18. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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    who says lesbians have to settle for less.
     
  19. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Put some coilovers on that thing and it'll be a beast :big grin:.

    I think I'm gonna tell my sister to buy that car.
     
  20. Yoritomo

    Yoritomo dad's jar chimer

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    Damn look at the gearing. 5.3 seconds and it requres a shift to third.

    First gear must rip your balls off.

    Oh and that thing is underated as hell.
     
  21. nucl3ar

    nucl3ar Guest

    Don't you like ugly cars from the 80's? :fawk:
     
  22. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    Jeeps have looked the same since the 50s. :fawk:
     
  23. Kinsbane

    Kinsbane Life is a dream from which we all must wake. OT Supporter

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    1st gear in a wrx sucks :hs:
     
  24. nucl3ar

    nucl3ar Guest

    Obviously they are doing something right. :)
     
  25. bigboto

    bigboto Guest

    The WRX can hold it's own in the light towing category. A friend of mine trailered both my Wave Runners to the lake without any problems. They weigh about 1000# with the tandem trailer + equipment box. He said he didn't have any problems like bogging down while going up pretty steep inclines. However, he did get water in the back doors while retrieving the watercraft :rofl: :rofl:.
     

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