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2011 Subaru Forester Performance

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The big news is that the Subaru Forester gets an all-new engine for 2011. While it's only modestly more powerful—and makes the same 170 horsepower—the new engine gets slightly better fuel economy. With chain-driven double overhead cams, it promises fewer maintenance needs, too, than the belt-driven single overhead cam design it replaces. You'll find reasonably quick acceleration with the five-speed manual transmission, but it's hampered slightly by the wide ratios of the four-speed automatic.

XT variants get a turbocharged four-cylinder with 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque. It moves very quickly, but with only the four-speed auto, it's not as enjoyable as it could be.

The Forester's strength is handling; it's by far the best-balanced, most dynamically proficient crossover, and the rather low seating position and low center of mass helps instill a stable feel on twisty roads and tight corners. The way the Forester handles is positively carlike, and the all-wheel drive system assists with traction out of corners, enhancing its already admirable poise. Yet the Forester has just enough give, and 8.7 inches of ground clearance—especially useful for negotiating deep snow or climbing up a modest trail to a camping spot.

Handling and poise are still strengths for the 2011 Subaru Forester, though its old-tech four-speed automatic is a weak link.

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