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2009 Subaru Forester – Alright, NOW you can call it a Crossover SUV

The real news with the 2009MY Forester is not the drivetrain; because you still get the 2.5L H4. Nor is it the trim levels available; from X to XT to the L.L. Bean edition. The real news is image. The next generation Forester will have a much bolder image for 2009 and as a result fewer snide ‘station wagon’ remarks.


Around here segmentation is very important, it’s not always easy and it changes every year. The whole, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…” thing doesn’t always work. When it comes to segmentation there are multiple variables at work, vehicle platform, body, seating position, competition, profitability, etc., etc. And when it comes to the Subaru Forester, it seems to be one of those vehicles lost in segmentation limbo. From Subaru owner blog sites to critics asking “Is it a station wagon or a ‘crossover’ it’s been somewhat of an issue plaguing the Subaru Forester.

In the Past
The Forester already embodied crossover DNA from its unibody platform (lifted from the Impreza), it was already being marketed as a Crossover and its main competition was the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and RAV-4 (all Crossovers). But the Forester had always sat much lower to the ground than most traditional crossovers and had all the design cues (if you could call them that) of a station wagon, along with a station wagon seating position (read: low).


New Exterior
Well, the 2009MY Forester will help lend clarity to any of those misguided notions about calling it a station wagon. With a more robust exterior it finally looks much more like a Crossover SUV. It sits taller with 8.9 inches of ground clearance propped up by its raised four-wheel independent suspension, and its bodywork now points directly to the Crossover segment. The front grille and valance of the third generation Forester give the vehicle a more aggressive Crossover-like snout, the wheel well arches appear to be taller and the DLO (Daylight opening) is larger while the wheelbase and overall length grow about three inches.
For 2009 the Forester gets a roomier interior along with a dashboard and instrument panel modeled after the Tribeca. The ride is said to be quieter and Subaru is boasting a high seating point and interior versatility with passenger car comfort.
The new Forester does get the 2.4L boxer engine with optional turbocharger and intercooler. It promises car-like handling with its double-wishbone rear suspension arrangement and Subaru’s acclaimed ‘Symmetrical AWD’. Vehicle Dynamics Control and traction control will be standard on all 2009 Foresters.
Editor’s Note:
The Forester was among the first three Crossover SUVs introduced in the USA. It came out about the same time as the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. At the beginning, all of these products were wimp-mobiles. Really, just small wagons with little pretense of SUVness. They were called cute-utes and soft-roaders. With the second generation of these vehicles, Honda and Toyota pumped them up making them a bit more SUV-like. Subaru stayed with its wagon-like concept and stayed very soft. Then Honda and Toyota pulled out the stops for the 3rd Gen vehhicles. Both got much tougher, more expressive styling. RAV4 added a V6 engine option (making it the fastest vehicle in the Toyota lineup for a time). Honda sales boomed. And, now, Subaru follows a similar path with a more SUV-like Forester. They should have done this years ago, but inertia is tough to change at car companies, even companies as small and (theoretically) agile as Subaru.
Oh, another thing. The new Subaru Chrysler-esque grilles make their new vehicles look boring. I would have continued to evolve the wind and snout concept so roundly criticized on the Tribeca.

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