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Subaru Forester (up to 2005)



  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Where are MY tweeters? I know they weren't on my sticker but I want some anyway! ;-)

  • kenskens Posts: 5,869
    Dude, you really want to hear Elmo's higher frequencies? ;-)

  • jdwagsjdwags Posts: 3
    My wife and I are seriously thinking of jumping off the Honda ship and purchasing a new Forester after trying out most of the small SUVs and concluding the Forester was the best vehicle by our standards.

    I have two basic questions I'm hoping some of you seasoned Subaru owners can answer for me.

    First, is the Subaru AWD system's reliability as good as the systems offered by Honda (CRV) and Toyota (RAV4). Or stated another way, the fact that the systems operate differently from one another, will one system wear out before the other?

    Second, concerning the boxer engine. The information I read and hear about the boxer engine makes alot of sense to me namely how the engine is so well balanced, compact, can be positioned further back in the chasis and so on. If in fact this is such a good way to build an engine, which I believe it is, why haven't the other manufacturers, namely Honda and Toyota, built a boxer engine themselves?

    Would appreciate some feedback on these two questions as I usually drive my vehicles a long, long time so long term reliability is of major concern to me. Out here in Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Subarus are as common as any brand and I am impressed at how many real old Subarus are still running around.

  • jeijei Posts: 143
    I have a '99 Forester "S" automatic, which has been very reliable as of 92,000 (mostly highway) miles. My previous car was an '85 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon, replaced at 280,000 miles.

    We also have '92 Legacy wagon with 206,000 miles, which is still running OK but has begun to feel tired lately. Its AWD system is "tight" now; the electromagnetic clutches at the center differential don't fully release each axle. Some bindup is noticeable at low speed turns on dry pavement. Replacement or rebuild of the clutch pack is in the $1,000 range. The 2.2 liter engine uses and leaks some oil, but runs well otherwise. This car has had more short trips and also multiple drivers, including 2 teenagers learning how to drive. Not sure we want to put a lot of money into this car.

    I don't know the AWD reliability/durability experience with the CRV or RAV4, but suspect the Toyota would be the more durable of the two. I have utmost respect for Toyota's build quality as probably the best worldwide. I just don't feel their product packaging & marketing strategy provides the best value in the small/midsize sport utility/wagon market these days. I bought the Forester instead of the RAV4 because the Subaru is more solid, carlike and fun to drive. I would do the same thing again today. IF I were in the $27,000 - $30,000 market today (fantasy only...), the Toyota Highlander would compete seriously against the 6 cylinder Outback for my dollar, even though it would have less equipment for the buck.

    My bottom line: The Subaru Forester provides a much better designed package at a better price for the combination of charachter, features & equipment - even if over its long life with me I may spend a thousand or two more for rebuilds & repairs vs. a comparable Toyota.

    Boxer engine? Good question. Subaru is a relatively small car company. Fuji Heavy Industries probably decided to put its eggs in this particular less conventional basket. They have good company: Porche. There has been some cross pollination with Porche / Audi over the years, I believe. Subaru's other (conventional) automotive engines are all small 3- and 4 cylinders. I wonder what Subaru would do if they went to making larger vehicles, if they would keep the boxer design for say a 5 liter 8 cylinder engine. I don't know what the engineering limits on the boxer are. I don't think FHI has the resources to develop a radically different larger engine on their own, the way VW has. FHI's collaboration with GM may change this, though.

    Last thought: The redesigned 2003 Forester is expected at dealers in the spring and is from all accounts even more refined. No doubt worth the wait. (I'll be checking it out at the NYC Auto Show at the end of the month. Still plan to keep my '99 to 250,000 miles though.) Good luck, and keep us posted.

  • asplundhasplundh Posts: 27
    I have a 2002 Forester L. From day 1 I have complained to the dealer about the alignment. I've gotten nothing but the run around. They blame everything from tire inflation to rotation of the tires. Meanwhile the lousy Duelers that are on the vehicle are almost completely worn out on the outer threads with only 7400 miles. Most people in here praise Subaru but so far I am very unhappy. I've gone back 3 times on this problem and have gotten nowhere.
  • storytellerstoryteller Posts: 476
    Wags: If you read enough posts here you'll see that Subie fans have a lot of respect for Honda and regard the CR-V as the best competitor, so you and your wife are on the right track.

    Many people think Honda and Toyota are slipping just a little from their position as the gold standard for quality. I think that probably has more to do with competitive pressures than with the location of their plants.

    Do check out the 2003 Forester. I'll see my first one at the local car show in three days. On paper, it is a much nicer car that will apparently sell for virtually the same price. But you won't get the deals on the 2003 that you will on a 2002 Forester.

    Oddly enough, a reason to buy the Forester is this set of discussion boards on Edmunds. Subie owners are simply the most friendly, helpful and fun people to hang with, even if you are only hanging with them in cyberspace. And Subaru has a secret weapon in their competition with Honda. Her name is Patti, and she is the fairy godmother at Subaru who reads all these posts and occasionally waves a magic wand to help some poor soul whose dealership isn't doing the right thing by some Subie in trouble. Honda doesn't have Patti. Toyota doesn't have Patti. Just the Subaru Crew.

    Good luck. You seem to be doing this the right way.
  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Posts: 1,676
    You brightened up my morning!

  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Posts: 1,676
    I spoke to Dave at your dealership this morning. He hasn't seen your car in awhile and he'd be happy to take a look at it to see if there is something that they can do. When you get a chance, give him a call. He seemed very sincere about wanting to help you.


  • burnsmr4burnsmr4 Posts: 318

    Sorry for the TWEETER outburst, folks. I am a little high strung this week. Getting married on Saturday. {:-O

    You see, my new Forester (just turned 2000 today) is up for his first series of long road trips during the wedding and honeymoon. I was so excited about getting a bigger car to carry all our crap to and from my fiancée's hometown and our honeymoon destination. It was going to be so cool!

    Then, she told me that the back seat is for her wedding gown only. Doh! $100 later, and I have a MacNeil Automotive WeatherTech cargo carrier to install tomorrow. Most likely in the rain. Then, her parents told us that someone delivered a big wedding gift to haul back after the big day -- a piece of furniture (???). It just barely fits in a Ford Explorer. Double doh!

    You see where I'm goin' here? The utility of my Forester is suddenly at the mercy of wedding gowns and gifts. So, again, please pardon the TWEETER episode. And bring me a drink. Several of them. And a Valium. Several of them. ;-)

  • lilbluewgn02lilbluewgn02 PAPosts: 1,089
    I wish you and your future wife all the best and a bright future

    P.S. get her her own Subie!
  • armac13armac13 Posts: 1,129
    You are forgiven and congratulations. Remember, don't Valium and drive.

  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Posts: 1,676
    Deep breath now, this too shall pass - - - Have a wonderful wedding and best of everything in the future!

  • subaru_teamsubaru_team Posts: 1,676
    If my memory is failing me, sorry in advance! If not, please wish Susan a belated (yesterday??) happy birthday for me!

  • lilbluewgn02lilbluewgn02 PAPosts: 1,089
    Your memory hasn't was her birthday yesterday...I will pass on your greetings to her. Expect an e-mail
  • bsvollerbsvoller Posts: 528
    I think that most on this board would be comfortable characterizing Subaru's reliability and quality as "rivaling" if not exactly "equaling" Honda's and Toyota's.

    That said, the most recent trend in this particular segment seems to be in Subaru's favor, with CR now ranking the Forester first in reliability over the RAV4 and the CRV. This is partly due to the CRV being new and therefore not ranked this year, but any way you cut it, the Forester is statistically very, very good on both points.

    That said, the CRV AWD system is part-time, whereas the Forester's of course is full-time. I've seen reports that the CRV's system *can* overheat under prolonged use, such as a prolonged drive under bad conditions through the mountains. If this happens, it drops out, leaving you in 2WD. I can't substantiate those reports though, so treat it as a rumor for now.

    The Subaru AWD system is world rally tested and proven under extreme conditions (they dominate the world rally circuit), and is designed from the get go for full-time engagement for the life of the car. I don't think you have any worries there.

    I don't know how the Toyota system compares mechanically, but someone here knows, I'm sure.

    As to why other manufacturer's don't use Boxer's, I suspect the primary reason is cost. Boxer's are more expensive to make, because you have 2 overhead cam valve trains to manage rather than one. On a small displacement engine going into an entry-level vehicle, that creates tradeoffs from a pricing perspective. They also don't fit that well into an engine bay because of their shape, so there are design tradeoffs that have to be considered when scaling them up to drive larger vehicles.

    Am I being fair here, guys ?
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    you pretty much nailed it.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    The RAV4 uses a VC system pretty much like the ones in manual trans Subarus. Both are designed to work full-time and should be extremely durable. Subaru does actually have the edge in overall reliability. :-)

    Why aren't boxers more popular? They are expensive to manufacture. My engine is a big 4 cylinder, with a whopping 4 camshafts! The Phase II engines (1999 and later) went to SOHC but still use 2 camshafts because of the layout.

    But don't take my word for it, ask BMW. Their motorcycles are boxers, and I will quote from their very own brochure, it's "the most technically advanced" and "carries its weight low in the chassis for an improved center of gravity and better balance."

    I couldn't say it better myself. Porsche won't argue with that, either.

  • johnfanjohnfan Posts: 1
    I went to test drive the CR-V last week. The was my first choice for my wife's new car. I have to say the exterior looks very nice. But once I get into the car, I almost cried. What a cheap interior it has! The old Chevette I had 10 years ago looked just like it. My wife told me immediately that she does not want it.
    We then went on to Subaru dealer to test drive Forester. What a difference! The top of the line model has the feel of a luxury car. It drives better, much more quite than the CR-V. It is a little more expensive than CR-V, but you get what you are paying for. We decided to get a Forester as soon as the 2003 model come out. I read on the net that it is much improved.
  • (Sorry, this is long--my questions are at the end) I recently had the experience of driving my 2000 Forester L (48K miles) on a fresh surface of snow during a fast-moving snowstorm. Temps were in about the low 20's, and accumulation was about 1-2 inches. I live in a warm climate, so I don't normally drive in snow, but when I have driven in snow before, I never had the ABS react the way it did this time. Basically, I could not stop at stop signs. I was driving about 20-25 mph and beginning my stops well in anticipation of the intersections. I could slow just fine to ~10 mph, but after that, the brake pedal would start pushing back, and I would hear an awful electronic buzzing sound (presumably the ABS).

    When I returned home, I had the brakes checked out just to be sure there was no problem with the ABS system. Of course the dealer said that they could not test under the same conditions I was driving in, but it felt to me that the ABS system might be functioning out of parameters (i.e. it's not supposed to activate under 6 mph). The dealer found nothing wrong with the ABS, but I had to pay $45 for the inspection, being out of warranty.

    Just for curiosity, I later took the Forester out for a spin on a nearby dirt lot to try out the ABS under different driving conditions. I accelerated to ~15 mph and then slammed on the brakes. The ABS behaved as follows: I immediately felt the brake pedal pushing back, and heard the same electronic buzz that I heard in the snow. The buzz sound and pushing back lasted until about 1 sec. after I had come to a complete stop. My question: Is it normal for the ABS to stay activated until after the car has stopped? As for the 6 mph limit, does that mean that the ABS won't activate only when braking begins at or below 6 mph? And for anyone who normally drives in snow, is it normal for the ABS to kick in just before stopping (when on fresh snow)?
  • kenskens Posts: 5,869

    The 2003 Forester is supposed to get an even improved interior so I believe it's worth waiting for.

  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    You were probably going too fast for the conditions, or you have the stock tires with 48K miles on them, which would most likely be useless in the snow.

  • The stock tires unfortunately wore out very quickly. I currently have Dueler H/L's with about 13K on them. As for going too fast, it's possible, but I was slowing down for the conditions.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    But I found even when I slow down for conditions I generally still drive too fast for them.

  • Yes, it's possible no speed was really slow enough for the conditions. My main concern is whether the ABS was functioning properly. Should the brake pedal continue pushing back even when my speed has fallen below 6 mph? If the ABS had disengaged once the speed had fallen below that speed, I feel like I would have been able to "wedge" the front wheels in order to stop.
  • bsvollerbsvoller Posts: 528
    The CR-V is an entry-level economy vehicle ? Wow ! You drive some pretty nice economy vehicles then...

    How 'bout a Focus as an entry-level economy vehicle, or a Neon, etc. They sell for 2/3's what the CR-V is going for, are smaller, lighter, no AWD, etc.

    The CR-V might be an entry-level SUV, but that get's back into the whole "what's an SUV" thing again... :)

    Anything that goes for nearly 20k can't be considered entry-level in my book, even if the "average" is a bit higher than that (I bet the median price isn't much different).

    Just my .02
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Congrats in advance, John. I'll be looking at a 2003 as well, so maybe we'll own two!

    I've heard the Dueler H/Ls were better than the H/Ts, but I haven't sampled them.

    ABS can be bad in the snow, because in a way you want skidding - it piles up snow in front of the tires and shortens stopping distances. I'm not sure, but is ABS disabled when you pull up the parking brake just one click? That might work if you're in those conditions again.

    I'd suggest testing the car in a parking lot, perhaps with the parking brake at one click.

    On mine, yes, the ABS works at all speeds.

  • jdwagsjdwags Posts: 3
    Thanks to all you Subaru folks for your feedback on my questions concerning AWD, boxer engines, and reliability. It is hard not to like a product produced by a company named Fuji Heavy Industries. Just the name gives me confidence.

    From reading some of the earlier posts, I've decided to wait for the 2003 Forester to come out before I make up my mind to buy. May even wait for the turbo to come out the following year.

    At any rate, I'll be looking forward to reading what you current Forester owners have to say here once you have a chance to try out the 2003.

    I do believe Consumer Reports will be reporting on small SUV's in the May issue. I wish they had waited to include the 2003 Forester in their comparison.

    One last question. Why did Subaru choose to go from a double overhead cam engine to a single as Juice noted in post #4761?

  • bsvollerbsvoller Posts: 528
    Subaru went to what they call the Phase II 2.5l engine in MY1999. The changes to the head were made to increase low end torque - they roughly doubled the torque available at 3000 rpm, while maintaining the same high-end output.

    This was accomplished by changing the valve angles to increase the charge tumbling, among other things. Going to an SOHC instead of the old DOHC design enabled them to reduce friction and increase the life of the timing belt. Recommended change interval went from 60k to 105k miles.

    At the same time, they met passenger car NLEV emissions, which as I understand it, means that they meet the 2004 proposed standard now (i.e. as of 1999). Not too shabby...
  • Thanks for your suggestion, Juice. I was so excited by the prospect of being able to disable the ABS by simply pulling up on the parking brake, that I just went out and tried that. Unfortunately, that does not disable the ABS. I tested this out a few ways. First, I left the parking brake at one click, accelerated to ~15 mph, and then slammed on the brake pedal. ABS kicked in. Then, I tested the ABS by accelerating to 15 mph, then simultaneously pulling up several clicks on the parking brake and slamming on the brake pedal. In that case, the ABS still activated. In a third test, I pulled up hard on the parking brake first, then hit the brake pedal while still pulling up. The ABS still activated. So, pulling the fuse seems to be the only way to disable the ABS, but I have read on other message boards that SOA advises against doing that. Of course, one could always try stopping with just the parking brake :-)

    I also tested out the 6 mph limit, which can be tricky since the speedometer doesn't start registering until exceeding 5 mph. I tested this by coasting and waiting until the needle dropped to the 5 mph mark and then slamming on the brakes. The ABS did not activate, so at least on dirt, it seems to be functioning within parameters. I'd be interested in what anyone driving on snow finds out.
  • kenskens Posts: 5,869

    The other reason (and probably the bigger one IMO) for going from DOHC to SOHC was cost. The SOHC engine has fewer moving parts and is most likely less expensive for Subaru to build.

    The timing belt change frequency did not change between Phase I and II, however. Both are 105K miles.

This discussion has been closed.