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Well sort of. I finally have enough free time and enough beer to sit down and type this review.

It wasn't actually a test drive per se, but my mother recently purchased a Forester, and since I was home visiting family for Memorial Day weekend, I took it out for a drive, and here are my thoughts. My mother previously owned a 96 Subaru Outback wagon, and these two vehicles are more or less the same mechanically speaking, so the clutch and shifting linkage on both felt like classic Subaru setups. Both her previous and her new Subarus have the 5-speed stick, so they were easy to compare to my Rav4 with the 5-speed stick.

First impression: very good fit and finish, well placed controls, and there was not a single feeling of "cheapness" related to anything in the vehicle. The first impression I got when I sat in this vehicle rivaled even the most expensive vehicles that I have sampled in the past. THe sun roof is awesome, and the six-disc in-dash CD changer is pretty cool.

The ride was very comfortable--much like the Rav4--but it still exhibited the hoppy/clunky/jerky bumps that the Rav4 does over sharp bumps. The Forester's boxer engine is like any other Subaru boxer engine--it has a decent amount of low-end torque--but tends to get raspy once you hit 3,000 rpm. However, in the Forester's case, the sound of the engine was so well insulated to the point that it completely screwed up my shifting, because I never look at the tach and judge all of my shifting by the sound of the engine.

In terms of vehicle control, the Forester differs most from the Rav4 in respect to the clutch and the shifting mechanism. The Forester uses a linkage for the shifter, so it feels like classic Subaru shifter. However, the clutch on the Forester has very little travel, and has about the same amount of travel as the brake pedal of my Rav4. It takes a lot of getting used to, because it is really hard to modulate the Forester clutch since it is either in or out, and there is not a lot of working room in between.

As many of you may know, the Rav4 uses a cable shifter, which feels more like a truck shifter because it seems to have less give. Some of my friends prefer the linkage shifter (such as in the Subarus) but I prefer the cable shifter because it feels more defined. I may bitch and moan about the Rav4 clutch, but it seems to offer more modulation that the Forester's clutch.

Overall evaluation: the Forester is great competition for the Rav4, but I still prefer my 01 Rav4 over the 06 Forester. Don't get me wrong, I think the Forester handles very well (and probably better than the Rav4 when it comes to emergency maneuvers for the inexperienced driver). However, I think that my Rav4 provides better feedback, so I feel more connected to the road.

I have always felt that my mother's 96 Subaru Outback handled very well and had a slightly smoother ride thatn my Rav4, but I have always felt disconnected from the road in that Outback. My 01 Rav4 may not have the fancy stuff that the 06 Forester does (ABS, side-impact airbags, etc.) but that's what I like about my Rav4. It's very basic, and when I slam the brake pedal, the brakes lock up. The lack of computerized vehicle stability control systems gives me a better feel for the road, and thefore I have complete control over the vehicle. While I agree that enhancements like ABS are good for the average driver, I think they cause people to rely more on their vehicle than their individual driving skills. But that is a whole nother can of worms.

In a nutshell - Subaru Forester is a good solid reliable vehicle, but I still prefer my Rav4 because of the smalll reasons mentioned above that my not mean very much to anyone.
 

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I had a 2001 Forester Ltd, ordered it from the factory. Had nice get up & go for a 4 banger, handled nicely, had many features that were standard, and overall , loved it except for one shortcoming - the cramped rear seat. Couldn't fit two people in the rear comfortably due to lack of foot room, and rear seat had no fore and aft adjustment. The new ones still have the Impreza based 99" wheelbase, so it appears they have not addressed the problem. Nice little bump in HP to 173 should be nice. The turbo version is a whole different animal...

OC
 

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First things first!!!!.....Gotta admire a lady who continues to drive 5-speeds......wish there were more..... 8) (meaning my wife :roll: )

I saw a late model Forester being solo'd a couple of years ago....amazing :shock: .....my RAV would have been on it's side if it was thrown around like that.......inside rear would have tucked, and game over.......
 
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