2011 Subaru Forester Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
The Subaru Forester receives praise for its sporty, sedan-like ride and standard all-wheel drive. The base engine is adequate, though the turbocharged variant is even more powerful. One of the only concerns is that the optional automatic transmission offers only four speeds when most competitors offer five or six (the standard manual transmission, on the other hand, is a five-speed).
- "Around town, the Forester 2.5XT Limited proves an easy driver. The seating position is high enough to give a good view of surroundings, yet the car feels light and nimble. The engine moves the car along without strain, and the four-speed-automatic transmission delivers mostly transparent shifts." -- CNET
- "Ride is well-controlled with a polished feel, the steering arcs through bends with nice weighting and feedback, brakes are strong, and you've always got Subaru's full-time all-wheel-drive system on hand should the road turn gravely, wet, or snowy." -- Motor Trend
- "The relatively sporty Subaru Foresters of yore are sadly gone, replaced by a bigger, taller vehicle that remains easy to drive but doesn't elicit the same sort of driving enjoyment. We're guessing most folks won't mind, though, since the trade-off is one of the most comfortable rides in the segment." -- Edmunds
- "We found the Forester dazzling in its sure-footedness and comfortable ride, never once whimpering in the face of abuse. The suspension isn't firm but offers relatively long travel.” -- New Car Test Drive
Acceleration and Power
The base Forester gets a new engine for 2011. It’s a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, that makes 170 horsepower – the same as the old engine. But, torque is up to 174 pound feet. 2.5XT Premium and 2.5XT Limited models upgrade to a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 224 horsepower and is paired with the four-speed automatic. Reviewers find that power from both engines is excellent. However, they complain about the primitive four-speed automatic transmission and overwhelmingly recommend the five-speed manual.
According to the EPA, the Forester with the base engine should earn 21/27 mpg city/highway with both manual and automatic transmissions. Models with the turbocharged engine should net 19/24 mpg. These figures are about average for the class.
- "Both engine choices are highly competitive in terms of power and fuel economy, although an automatic transmission with more gears than the Forester's four would make a big difference. Not only would fuel economy theoretically improve, but more narrowly spaced ratios would make downshifts smoother and less noticeable as well." -- Edmunds
- “The conventional 4-cylinder has no surplus of power, but is plenty adequate for around-town driving. After a brief bout of turbo lag, the 2.5XT's engine delivers stronger acceleration in all situations. Despite having just 4 speeds, the automatic transmission matches quite well with either engine."-- Consumer Guide
- "Managed by a four-speed automatic, the power came on smoothly without a noticeable lag or uncontrolled jolt of ‘oomph.’ The Forester moved without fuss into and through traffic, and there was a sense that this was a capable, easy driving vehicle." -- Associated Press
- "The 5-speed manual transmission might be a good idea if you spend a lot of time on the road -- it's rated at 2 mpg more than the automatic on the highway -- but I would recommend the optional 4-speed automatic. Around town, the manual requires a lot of work to keep the engine in the power band, and the automatic is nearly as good on gas.” -- MSN
- "The four-speed-automatic transmission seems primitive compared with the competition.” -- CNET
- "On the freeway, a Forester 2.5X has to work to keep up with a Forester XT. We found the four-speed automatic transmission and the 170-horsepower engine a weak combination. Running with the flow of traffic into LA on an extremely slight upgrade, ours needed to frequently kick down." -- New Car Test Drive
Handling and Braking
Test drivers praise the Forester's handling for its sporty feel, which is aided by its standard all-wheel drive system.
- "Forester has a car-like demeanor. Steering is direct with sporty heft. Lean in corners is kept well in check, though some testers complain of a slightly top-heavy feel." -- Consumer Guide
- "The Forester responded expertly -- gripping as needed when needed; preventing short turns into skids from becoming longer, more dangerous skids; and handling potentially upsetting vehicle weight transfers with aplomb." -- Washington Post
- "There was a lot of body lean, even at slower speeds, as I drove through curves and corners. But the suspension soaked up most road bumps and kept roughness away from passengers." -- Associated Press
- "When cornering on smooth roads, the suspension feels relatively soft, though on dirt roads or rough pavement it feels perfect. The suspension does a good job. The highway ride is comfortable, with no harsh spots." -- New Car Test Drive
- "Off on a side road, the pavement ends in favor of dirt. The Forester 2.5XT Limited doesn't feel bothered, chunking along while its suspension damps out the bigger ruts and holes." -- CNET
The Forester comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive, which makes it a great value in its class. The system impresses test drivers with its abilities in snow, slippery conditions, and even off-road.
- "Up and down steep and rutted dirt roads normally closed off to all but cloven-hooved bison, the Forester clawed its way, standard symmetrical all-wheel drive pulling and pushing as grade and grip dictated, almost never faltering. The Forester went well beyond what 99 percent of crossover buyers would ever consider--and even beyond what we expected it could do." -- AutoWeek
- "Subaru does AWD as well as Volvo does seats." -- USA Today
- "Off-road, the Subaru Forester won't replace your Jeep Wrangler, but with an available 8.9 inches of ground clearance, this is more than just a cow-trailer. There's no low-range gearing, of course, but the boxer engine has enough grunt to power up hills, through mud holes." -- Orlando Sentinel
- "Trekking through a meadow, the Forester really seems to be in its element, a perfect car for a back country picnic. This dirt road work hardly taxes the all-wheel-drive system, which would find its best use helping the Forester 2.5XT Limited tackle ski trips up snow-covered roads." -- CNET