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Subaru Forester vs Toyota RAV4



  • chrisl22chrisl22 Posts: 24
    I'm going to buy one of the three above cars. My situation is that I drive around town, but also every week I make a 2 hour drive (each way) to my cabin in the mountains, which ends with a 2 mile drive up a good, but steep dirt road that can get pretty mucky and slippery in the winter. I also drive dirt roads quite a bit on backpacking. What I'm looking for is a comfortable car on the highway, but also one that is the most secure on slippery dirt roads. Currently I have a 94 Landcruiser (which I don't want to drive so much alone) and my wife has a 2002 Rav4. The former is a beast off road, of course, but the Rav is much less secure, of course.

    Someone here said that Subaru's AWD is much better than the 2006 Rav's 4WD "on demand." Is that true? Also, does the 2006 Rav still brake as 2 WD? Also, generally I'd like to get a manual (I've got some plantar fasciatis problems with my right foot), but a friend that has a Forrester says the one thing he doesn't like is the the "low" drive still isn't low enough for going downhill without having to brake alot. So should I just get a manual, or is there a preferable manual model that is best on downhill?

    I've test drived all three. I like the suspension of the Outback best of all for ease of highway ride, but I like the size of the Forrester.

    Also, the sound system's important to me. Is the Forrester's good enough? Is the upgraded 6 speaker Forrester system significantly better? Or if I get a Forrester, should I just get an outside system put in?

    Finally, new or late model used, if it's a Subaru? On one hand, that regular dirt road drive will knock the car around immediately, which inclines me to a late model used Forrester or Outback. But someone told me that if you get a 2003 or newer used Subaru, you might as well get a new one since you won't be saving enough money to make it worth it.

    I'd appreciate any recommendations on any of the above questions. Thanks.
  • chrisl22chrisl22 Posts: 24
    When will the '07 arrive?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I do think the full-time system on the Forester is better, this was one thing Toyota sort of cost cut, my guess is to be able to squeeze the best possible EPA mileage numbers.

    If you want a stick shift, Subaru is it, as Toyota dropped this choice completely for the RAV4. Bummer, too.

    Manual is definitely best for ultimate control of what gear you're in. You can descend long hills in 3rd/4th and keep speeds down, and engine braking is also applied to both axles (AWD is truly full-time this way).

    does the 2006 Rav still brake as 2 WD?

    Yes, it will behave like a FWD vehicle when you use engine braking, i.e. the front wheels do all the stopping.

    Outback has a long wheelbase so it is a more comfy highway car than the Forester, but the Forester is IMO better in the city, more nimble and easier to manuever. We own both a 98 Forester and an 02 Legacy and I prefer the Forester.

    Sound? I would go aftermarket. It's double-DIN sized so you can find a lot of stuff to fit. There are even in-dash NAV options for around $1600 (search

    Depreciation is low for these, so yeah, I'd buy new, you might as well.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Probably late April or early May. I'm not predicting prices will go any lower, but I doubt they'll go up.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    About the limitations of a torque-on-demand system like the RAV4's:

  • kc456kc456 Posts: 12
    This article is not exactly representative of day-to-day use by RAV owners. RAV is not meant for off-road use.

    For the poster who needs to drive up the dirt road twice a month, I’d definitely go with Subaru, especially given the rebate on Forrester X (through end of March).
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    I'll second nearly everything juice said:

    You might as well buy new. My wife and I bought our '04 Outback at the end of the model year, as the '05s were coming out. We expected to purchase a used '03, but got such a good deal it was only a few hundred dollars more to go new. When you consider you get the full warranty and more time before you have to spend on major maintenance, it was a no-brainer for us.

    If you do decide to go used, go '05 with an Outback, not older. The Outback took a big leap forward in quality and driving dynamics that year. Much more taut and refined.

    We prefer the Outback because the ride's a little better, rear seat's more accommodating, cargo capacity's a little greater overall, and it feels more sophisticated than Forester, to our tastes. It does great on gravel, potholed Forest Service roads and tackles whatever we've asked it to. If you're backpacking with friends, Outback may be better. We recently took a 3-day winter trip with our 2-year-old and two friends. It was a little tight with all of us and our gear, but we made it without entirely blocking rear visibility. :)

    We certainly like Forester, too, though - we've turned four friends into Forester owners over the last few years, and all of them new to Subaru. Forester is less expensive, probably a little quicker because of its lower weight, and a little more nimble. Looks more SUV-ish, has a taller cargo area. If you're backpacking alone or with one other person, Forester would have ample room. I don't think the Forester could've handled everything we took on our winter trip without a cargo carrier.

    Both are extremely safe and reliable, so you're getting the best whichever you select. Just gotta choose the one that fits your life. :) Have fun!
  • thecatthecat Posts: 528

    I think this article spoke more about a problem w/ the 4cyl in extreme heat then it did the 4wd system. Whatever the problem was it was not repeatable. ???

    Did I miss something.

    BTW it's nice and warm here in Ft. Lauderdale. :) Hope it warms up at home by the time I get back.

    - hutch
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They made it sound like the traction control was limiting forward momentum (not engine power), so it was a combination of power and traction. That's a situation where a little slip might actually have helped it climb the grade.

    Having said that, we never did get our Foresters out on that farm off roading session we wanted to do, so it'll probably never matter. :shades:

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    BTW, aren't you a little old for Spring Break? :P

  • rnw96rnw96 Posts: 2
    Thanks for sharing your experience with the Toyota & Subaru dealers in the NYC area. I've had similar experiences with Toyota dealers.

    The past two weekends, I've visited dealers for the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester.

    Originally I had my heart & mind set on the Rav4 Sport with the V6 engine. The problem: the Toyota dealers I've visited have made the buying process so difficult, it gets my blood boiling.

    First, I had a very similar experience as you at *****Westchester Toyota --- avoid them like the plague!*****. Walked in and nobody greeted me. Finally chased down a salesperson and asked him if I can see the Rav4. He said they were sold out, but I could look at two sold vehicles that were in the back. With no directions, my wife, father, and I wandered around and found "the back" on our own. Not much to see with the doors locked, so we come back inside. My salesperson (does he qualify for that title at this stage?) is speaking with someone so I ask an unoccupied salesperson next to him, when they expect the Rav4s back in stock. He refused to answer my question and said I have to talk to the salesperson assigned to me.

    So I wait for my "salesperson" to finish his conversation with someone else. Answer: in about a week. I have to ask if he can notify me when they come in stock. I suggest perhaps taking my name and number. He acknowledges this is a swell idea and proceeds to take them down. I then ask him his name. Again, he follows my lead on this innovative suggestion.

    Needless to say, I haven't heard back from him yet and it's been a week. Believe me, I'm not sitting by the phone.

    The next three Toyota dealers I visited weren't much better. The next one was in the heart of the Bronx and was rundown. They didn't have any Rav V6s, but at least the salesperson was courteous and thought on her own to ask for my name & number. Again, no call back occurred, but at least she went through the motions.

    Next came a Toyota dealership in Bergen County, NJ. Much bigger, nicer, and more professional outfit, but the short story is that even though they had the car on the lot, they wouldn't let me test drive it. I had to make an appointment for next week.

    Finally I went to a Toyota dealer in Queens today. You would have thought that someone was filming a parody of the car dealer experience. The salespeople certainly dressed and acted the part. Sloppy, rude, and pushy. They let me test drive the Rav4, but only on local streets and for less than 10 minutes. Then they spent 25 minutes trying to convince me to place an order today, even though I told them from the outset that I wasn't there to buy that day, but would buy within a couple of weeks. Plus, I wasn't prepared to order a vehicle that could take 6 weeks for delivery without exploring my other options. And I certainly wasn't going to buy after a 7 minute test drive. When I mentioned that I was looking at the Forester too, the salesperson said "What?! Are you 80 years old?" (I'm 31 by the way).

    By comparison, the Honda dealer I visited in Paramus, NJ was completely professional and courteous. The test drive experience was very pleasant and the salesperson did a great job of answering my questions afterwards, without pressure. I would strongly consider buying from her if it wasn't for the fact that the CR-V drove just like the rumors suggest (tin can on wheels). I had read those posts about the strange cup holder/tray and shifter being "deal breakers" and thought the people were crazy. Now, I guess I have to consider myself crazy right along with them.

    At the Forester dealership in Queens, NY, again, the experience was completely courteous. I asked for a test drive and immediately the salesperson brought a car around. We took it for a spin and he encouraged me to take it on the highway. Again, a really nice guy. And since I was really impressed with the feel of the car, he has a chance of getting my experience.

    After evaluating the Rav4 and Forester point-by-point, the pluses and minuses pretty much balance out for me. I know the Rav4s are the hotter, sexier commodity, but I wish Toyota would reserve the attitude for their cars, not their salespeople. They've successfully driven me to an imminent Subaru purchase.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Van Bortel is a no-haggle Subaru dealer in NY. See what their price is like and ask your dealer to beat that price. It makes the negotiation process simpler.

    Good luck, and keep us posted?

  • smittynycsmittynyc Posts: 291

    I hope you can make things work with the Queens dealer. If not, you may want to check out Smith-Cairns in Yonkers or Milea in the Bronx (East Tremont). I bought from Milea and got a very competitive price and enjoyed the experience overall (although I didn't have a trade-in to contend with).

    The problem with Milea is their service department. I can't begin to describe how chaotic and unpleasant it is. I had such a terrible time with my initial oil change that I now go to Town Motors in Englewood (which is phenomenal).

    Good luck with everything.
  • chrisl22chrisl22 Posts: 24
    I really appreciate the help several of you have given me re. my question of Forester, Outback, or Rav4, given the two mile dirt road I negotiate each week. And that I should probably buy new.

    If I decide on an Outback, which engine should I get? I'm conscious (environmentally) about mileage, but the 2.5 Outback seems to have significantly less zip than a 2.5 Forester. I'm disinclined towards turbos because of mileage (although I'm sure they're great engines). My cousin has a turbo Forester and loves it. Is a 3.0 the way I should go if I get an Outback? I just don't want to be struggling at all going up any hills...

    And by the way, I had the same problems trying to look at Ravs in San Jose, California. Twice they've driven me all the way around their lots looking for a 4WD Rav for me to test-drive -- and never found one.

    Thanks in advance.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The Forester is up to 173hp with the base engine, while the Outback now makes 175hp, though the latter is heavier. Both are perfectly adequate, but the lighter Forester does feel zippier to me.

  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    Outback 3.0R has some nice features over the 2.5i, including what I think is a better transmission - the automatic 5spd SportShift. Other benefits include: upgraded VTD all wheel drive system, tire pressure monitoring sytem, 6disc CD changer, dual zone front climate control, body colored mirrors with turn signals, and rear seat armrest. The downside... it's about $2700 more and gets 19/26 MPG rather than 22/28 (which isn't really a big decrease considering it's 75 more horsepower).

    So if you go with Outback, do you want more goodies and more HP but lower MPG & a higher price, or higher MPG and lower price but less goodies and less horsepower? Personally, I think the 2.5i engine has more than adequate, but not spirited, power. I don't think you'll be struggling up any hills with it. I know the 3.0 has a reputation for smooth, refined power delivery. Drive 'em both & see what you think.

    You can compare details of the different Outback models here:
    And Forester here:
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The 2.5i Limited has a lot of the equipment from the 3.0R model, but I think the 3.0R is a better value because prices get a bit too close.

    Having said that, the real bargain is the 2.5i SE, you get a lot for next to nothing, and the rebate is bigger to make the difference even greater.

  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    Yup, good point. SE's definitely the most-bang-for-the-buck choice, as far as feature content goes.
  • chrisl22chrisl22 Posts: 24
    The SE and 3.0R both sound good. I'll definitely test-drive them both. One thing about the SE is that it only comes in automatic, and since my 2 mile dirt road is steep in places, I'm wondering if a manual might be better for control of downhill speed (rather than having to brake too much)?

    How is the 3.0R's 5 speed automatic for downhill slowing?

    I have a neighbor who loves his Forester (he drives even further along the dirt road). He says that the one thing he regrets is not having a manual, since the low on his Forester still requires more downhill braking then he'd like.

    You guys are such great help. I haven't ruled out a Forester either, but the Outback's comfort and suspension are enticing me.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Well, you have SportShift, so you can put the automatic in a specific gear and do the same thing.

This discussion has been closed.