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In putting together this comprehensive review covering the 2008 Subaru Forester, the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com consulted with a number of review sources. To help you compare it with rival models, TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Forester and included their own expert opinion and driving impressions.
The Forester is Subaru's small crossover utility vehicle; it received new front- and rear-end treatments as well as powertrain and other upgrades in 2006. The 2008 Subaru Forester has few additional changes; it carries over the styling that's rather rugged but plain and a boxy body that affords a lot of interior space. Responsive flat-four engines and nimble handling help distinguish the Forester from the rest.
The standard engine on the 2008 Subaru Forester is a 173-horsepower, 2.5-liter horizontally opposed ("flat") four engine, with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Top-of-the-line 2.5 XT models get a 224-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter engine with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
The torquey base engine in the 2008 Subaru Forester works better with the automatic transmission than in most rivals, with relatively smooth shifts and quick downshifts; the four-speed version includes an adaptive control shift system that automatically selects between normal and "sport" shifting modes in response to the driver's throttle input. Turbo models have surprisingly rapid acceleration; they can get to 60 mph in less than six seconds. Subaru's Variable Torque Distribution all-wheel-drive system is standard across the line.
The 2008 Subaru Forester has a firm but relatively smooth ride, and it handles much better than its tall body suggests, with direct, communicative steering and good stability around tight corners. Yet the Forester has the ground clearance and toughness for modest off-roading, and the all-wheel-drive system is especially deft with mud; it manages just fine without a low range.
The interior feels very spacious, thanks to the boxy body style and upright design. The driving position itself is very upright and affords a good view for parking and maneuvering, but the front seats are quite thinly padded; the backseat is also spacious, with plenty of headroom and just enough legroom for adults. The only issue is noise; road noise can be prominent on rough surfaces in the 2008 Subaru Forester, and there can be some wind noise.
The 2008 Subaru Forester comes in a wide range of models, from the base X to the better-equipped Sports X, Sports XT, and top-of-the-line XT Limited. An upscale L.L. Bean Edition offers a two-tone exterior, self-leveling rear suspension, leather seats, and a MOMO wood-and-leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Sports 2.5X models get new six-spoke wheels and leather parking brake and shifter wraps, while the 2.5 XT picks up a roof spoiler and 17-inch wheels. Sirius Satellite Radio is available, but more contemporary tech options such as a navigation system or Bluetooth hands-free system aren't offered.
Front side airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard on all Foresters, but electronic stability control is not available. Anti-lock brakes and front side airbags are standard. XT Limited models get active head restraints. The 2008 Subaru Forester has done very well in crash tests, with top five-star and "good" results from the federal government and IIHS for both frontal and side impact, respectively. The IIHS also rated it "good" for rear impact.