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Subaru Forester vs Toyota RAV4



  • I have driven and researched this car along with the OutBack Base. I can say both cars are quiet, offer adaquate acceleration, are decent with gas and are among the safest cars out there. The base models are equipped as well as the base Rav. In fact the base Outback offers heated seats, wipers and mirrors and alloys. Obviously there are two BIG differences. One is appearance and two is size. If you look at the Forester at the right angle it looks like a little SUV. At the wrong angle or when parked next to an SUV it looks like a wagon---a turn off to many people; inclusing my wife. This nudged us to look at the Outback. Yes its a wagon. It does not pretend to be anything else. Still is has a rugged unique look and a very plush luxuorious interior. We were actually deciding on which one we wanted when we heard about the new RAV so we have decided to see what that is like.

    The other downer on the Forester and Outback is size. Both are essentially the same in size. Each offers the same width and backseat legroom. You could likely get by with these cars but it would be nice if they were wider and longer. Now, compared to our '96 RAV they are huge. But the new RAV will be even bigger.

    So, it may come down to looks and size for us. If these things don't matter to you then go drive the base Forester X (auto) or Outback base (auto). They will currently cost you 21.4K and 24K out the door in PA at least. The new RAV likely never be anywhere near the price of the Forester. It may be close to the Outback once it drops from MSRP.
  • How do you guyz get the flag beside your name?
  • p0926p0926 Posts: 4,423
    How do you guyz get the flag beside your name?

    Lefthand side of the page, click on Preferences (under Forum Tools) and it will let you choose a flag (among other things).

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Bummer, I was hoping to see C&D compare these two directly, but they wrote that a new RAV4 was not yet available in time for the 5Best evaluations. Forester kept the crown, but let's see what they pick next year.

    Oddly, they did a full review of the V6 model in a previous issue, 2 months ago IIRC. :confuse:

  • I, too, have been faced with this choice. I also looked into the Honda CR-V, Honda Element, and read about a wide variety of other potential contenders --- but it came down to the RAV4 and the Forester. I have a 1998 Forester which I love but I wanted to get an update --- the idea of buying a different car appealed to me (sometimes it's nice to have a change of pace).

    I personally love manual transmissions, so I was skeptical of the 2006 RAV4 and its automatic-only design. However, on a test drive I was pleasantly surprised --- this is a superbly tuned automatic transmission, shifting just when you'd like it to shift, without that auto tranny lag that I hate so much.

    There are lots of nice touches to the RAV4 --- like the little handles that let you fold down the rear seats from the rear access, etc. The interior is larger than the Forester, so one would imagine a bit more utility as far as hauling stuff.

    However --- the RAV4 is over a foot longer than the previous version, which some might find appealing but it makes it half a foot longer than the Forester. I live in a place where I frequently need to parallel park, so half a foot can make a big difference when it comes to squeezing into a tight spot. Yes, the RAV4 has more cargo space but frankly I've found my 98 Forester surprisingly capable when it comes to hauling loads of stuff.

    The 2006 Forester handles really well, as always, but it's clear that Subaru has spent some time tuning things since 1998 --- it's even more sprightly, even more responsive. The 2006 base engine is clearly more powerful and has more usable torque earlier in the RPM curve than it used to --- the RAV4 4-cylinder engine is more than adequate but still, not quite the same feel as the Forester. And the Forester has higher ground clearance than the RAV4.

    RAV4 also has a peculiar part-time AWD system that is supposed to instantly activate when needed --- but I prefer the Forester's always-on "symmetrical" all wheel drive --- when I hit that patch of black ice around a blind curve, I don't want to wait even that tiny fraction of a second it might take for the RAV4's AWD system to decide it is needed. I like the fact that the Forester now has limited slip differential standard in every model --- something my 98 model lacked, which would have come in handy during the last snowstorm (it still handled the snow very well, but there were moments when a limited slip diff clearly would have been an advantage).

    The clincher, however, for me was Toyota's bizarre inventory allocation policy. In New York, where I live, there are no RAV4 Sport models with side/curtain airbags (absurd, no?) That is something that will likely change --- but it is obviously a stupid attempt to force people to buy the more expensive Limited --- but if you're like me and want sporty performance, you want a Sport, not a Limited, which has things I don't want (leather seats --- never liked that) and lacks things I do want (sport-tuned suspension). What's worse, a Toyota dealer (*****Westchester Toyota --- avoid them like the plague!*****) told me that they had two RAV4 Sports with side/curtain airbags but they didn't --- despite the fact that I TWICE called before making the long journey there from the city to ask them to check it. I believe they were engaging in bait-and-switch tactics --- I actually asked the girl, "Tiffany", what the MSRP was of these supposed RAV4 Sports, and she told me $25,430, *which is what the Sport would have cost with the options I wanted* --- but of course when I arrived at the dealer, they didn't have it, and the salesman explained that "Tiffany" doesn't sell cars so she doesn't know what she is talking about, trying to make it seem like an honest mistake (after a $30 cab + train ride and an hour of wasted time) --- yet the fact that she gave me a fabricated list price and insisted on telling me that she had "checked with the sales manager" makes me think this is part of a calculated bait-and-switch ploy on the part of this dealership. This and Toyota's practice of allocating different vehicles to different markets (so I'd have to go to Philadelphia to get a car I wanted) was the last straw --- I stuck with my tried and true brand, Subaru, and bought a Forester 2.5X Premium at Stamford Subaru --- an *excellent* customer experience, I highly recommend them if you live in the area. No nonsense, friendly, conscientious, straightforward, no hard sell. Amazing.
  • suvshopper4suvshopper4 Posts: 1,110
    Sounds like you got what you wanted.
    Good luck with your new Subie.

  • nibsnibs Posts: 65
    IMO there is nothing out there comparible to the quality, sportiness, safety and fun factor of the FXT. I am not saying that there are not vehicles that may be more comfortable or shinier.

    I drove the Rav, CRV, Pilot, and just about every AWD/4WD vehicle and I can honestly say that the FXT out did them all as a complete package. The bonus was that the dealership knew their product and it was a no hassle deal. :shades:
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    I have friends who are signing on an '06 Forester X tomorrow after also test driving the RAV4 4-cyl and the CRV. Forester has the best safety, best performance, best fuel economy (essentially tied with the RAV), best handling and best price. Plus no resin-finish bumpers, so it looks more upscale. Its only downside was its smaller, lower backseat.

    Add in the March $2000 rebate on the X model and it was an easy decision for them. They're paying about $2500 less than a base LX CRV, and the base RAV was even higher, more so after adding in options: roof rack, fog lights on both and airbags & daytime running lights on the RAV. All standard on the Forester. Sure it's due for a makeover, but it's still on-par or better than the competition in most areas, and is by far the best value.
  • kc456kc456 Posts: 12
    Can I ask how much your friends are paying for the Forrester? I'm getting $19,800 + TTL + a few minor options for the Forrester (rebate already accounted for); very similar for CRV (I expect $20K with options, like roof rack etc). RAV4 is up there (due to alloy wheels, roof rack, side airbags/side curtains) at about 3K over Forrester. But it seems CRV and Forrester are pretty close right now at least in base price. (I'm comparing Forrester X to CRV-LX to RAV4 Base -- all in AWD or 4WD).
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    They're paying $19,196 + TTL, and, like you, are adding a few minor options on top of that. That makes the Forester $2600 below invoice (after $2000 rebate).

    Best offer on the CRV was $500 over invoice, which would be $21,504 + TTL. Add on the roof rack and fog lights (standard on Forester) for another $500, and suddenly you're $2800 more than the Subaru. And the CRV had by far the weakest engine of the three, plus the worst gas mileage. I did like the utilitarian interior design of the CRV, though, better than the RAV's modern dash. Forester was somewhere inbetween, nice and clean though.

    I highly disliked the side-opening rear hatch on the CRV and RAV4 - I parallel park regularly and would often not have the huge amount of room required to swing those doors open. I was able to open the Forester's hatch with less than a foot of space between it and the car behind it. Also, the side-opening rear hatches block the curb side of the vehicle, so you have to walk all the way around the hatch when you're loading or unloading, again requiring even more space. The side-opening hatches also allow the rain/snow to get in, while the Forester's hatch provides a nice shelter. Also, there's no lip to the rear bumper on the CRV and RAV, so unless you open the rear hatch, you can't step there to secure anything to the roof rack or to wash the vehicle. And the rear-mounted spare tires on the RAV and CRV stick out farther than the bumper, so if there's an impact with anything higher than two feet or so, the tire and door take the brunt of it.

    Sorry about going on like that - can you tell I didn't like the rear hatches of the RAV & CRV? :)
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    Doh! Realized my first post was a reply to a message from Oct. '04! Sorry 'bout that. Just a little untimely. :blush:
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    It's nice to have the numbers updated. :shades: I must admit that having hatches that open up on my minivans and wagons over the years has pretty much spoiled me on that issue.

    Steve, Host
  • socal2socal2 Posts: 5
    We just picked up our automatic transmission Forester X in blue. What a sweet color! It had the compass/mirror, mud flaps, cargo tray, bumper guard and netting options, bringing the MSRP to $23,867, invoice $22,200.

    I insisted they take $5000 off MSRP(which includes $2000 factory rebate) in order for the price to become competitive with what Honda CRVs go for. I guess to meet their March 31 fiscal year sales goal, they finally caved in. 6 other dealers flat out refused to sell under $19,500, as this is their cost factoring in the $700 holdback. Who knows what Subaru is kicking back for meeting sales numbers, so taking this into account, I really doubt that they "lost money" on my transaction.

    Also, when comparing the AWD Forester X to the Honda 2-WD CRV LX, realize that AWD is worth at least $1000. In addition, when you sit inside the CRV, and say to yourself, "wow, this is really spartan", there is a reason. You have to "accessorize" the CRV to a tune of $1000 to make it as refined looking as the base Forester.

    Here is a table of what is missing in the CRV LX, with Honda's MSRP as well as street numbers for each accessory. Note that you would have to spend your weekend installing these, as labor is extra:

    Honda Accessory Honda MSRP Street Price
    Roof Rack $262 $208.75
    Security System $228 $170.00
    Fog Lights $329 $248.75
    Cargo-Area Cover $189 $143.75
    Metallic Trim Kit $199 $148.75
    Total $1207 $920.00

    In addition to these standard Forester X items, I have the following options installed, and still came in below what a base CRV LX sells for. It would take another $400 to make the CRV LX equivalent:

    Honda Accessory Honda MSRP Street Price
    Auto Day/Night Mirror $279 $215.00
    Front Splash Guards $63 $38.75
    Cargo Tray $105 $78.75
    Rear Bumper Cover NA NA
    Chrome Exhaust Finisher $29 $18.75
    Cargo Net $42 $31.25
    Total $518 $382.5

    So all in all, the Forestor really is a "best buy", and those smart enough to not cave in to "herd mentality" and opt for a CRV, will be more than rewarded by the Forester's "fun" drivability factor :D .
  • jeffmcjeffmc Posts: 1,742
    To CRV's credit, it does come standard with an engine immobilizer, so that kind of negates the standard alarm on the Forester, to me. CRV has more interior room and also stability control, though stability control may not be needed as much on the Forester, since Forester still has a better rollover rating than the stability-equipped CRV. CRV also has 4-wheel disc brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution - Subaru requires you to step up another $2800 to the X Premium, to get 4-wheel discs and EBD. Which they'd make that standard. Forester seems to have the advantage in every other way.

    Particularly with the current $2000 rebate on the X, you're right - Forester is by far the best buy, and has the lower insurance rate, too. If you got that vehicle for $5000 off the $23,867 MSRP, for a price of $18,867, you got a truly amazing deal! To the best of my knowledge, that's under dealer cost (invoice minus $750 holdback?)! Not sure where they're making a profit on that one.
  • kc456kc456 Posts: 12
    I test drove the CRV 4WD and it did not appeal to me. It did not handle as well as the RAV4 or Forrester (I thought), so did not feel as comfortable driving it. Forrester and RAV had nicer interior, too, each in a different way. Overall, Forrester is "rugged and outdoorsy" while RAV is "refined and smooth". And CRV was just bland. I also did not like the steering-column-mountered gear shifter. Reminds me too much of American cars!

    So now it's back to the RAV4 vs Forrester. It seems like RAV4 is a step above in refinement, and has some nice safety features – vehicle stability control, brake assist, and side curtain airbags. Still, the price difference between the two is $3,500 which makes it very difficult to make a decision. Forrester can be had under invoice, while RAV4 is about $1,000 over.

    I’m comparing Forrester X auto (options: auto-dimming mirror, bumper protector, all-weather mats, cargo tray, splash guards) with RAV4 4WD 4-cyl (options: side curtain air bags, alloy wheels, roof rack, floor/cargo mats, cargo cover).
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Wait 5-6 months and the RAV4 will be down to around invoice pricing. It's still very fresh and initial demand is high. Avalong prices were the same way, now they're down to earth.

  • kc456kc456 Posts: 12
    yes, BUT -- we kind of want the car now! And the Forrester deal will go away soon, so we are still deciding.
  • kdshapirokdshapiro Posts: 5,751
    "Still, the price difference between the two is $3,500"

    If you take the $3500 and step up to the XT premium, it's a different vehicle. Have you considered the XT? You might as well compare vehicles in the same price range.
  • kc456kc456 Posts: 12
    Do you mean Forrester X Premium or Forrester XT Limited (turbo)? There's no Forrester XT Premium.

    On these two, X Premium (automatic) invoice is 24.1K (23.1K with rebate). XT automatic invoice is $26.7K ($25.7K with rebate), and this vehicle is more comparable with RAV4 V6 4WD Limited. Yes, the X Premium in comparable in price with the RAV4 I’m considering, but it includes the options I don’t really care much about like the moon-roof or CD changer. So I don’t think it helps me to make a decision!!

    What makes the base X model such a deal is the 2K rebate plus the dealer’s desire to move it off he lot, so that they are willing to sell below invoice.

    I think the other poster is right; Toyota has always had the ability to bypass deep discounts and rebates, and with a new “hot” vehicle they have even less incentive to do so. Bad timing, I guess.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    They'll probably offer a new deal on the Forester when this one expires. The best time to buy an '06 will be right when the '07 arrives. You will have less selection, but that is when prices hit their year-long lows.

    Although...prices for the 06 are about as low as they got for 04 and 05 models, so if you like it, go for it.

  • 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: 535

    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

This discussion has been closed.