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Sep 25

2006 Subaru Forester XS

Country scene meets metro graffiti. Forester right at home.

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What sort of vehicle do you buy when you need a wagon shape, occasionally drive in muddy or slightly rough terrain, and don’t want the extra fuel usage and stigma of a large 4WD?

For most people, the answer to this question comes in the form of a soft-roader (Note to our North American friends, the term may be “Compact SUV” for you). The majority of soft-roaders, however, do not give you the option of low-range. A lot of them are also dynamically suspect.

That’s where Subaru’s Forester range comes into it’s own.

Not everyone can afford a new car, so we took a look at the used Forester option.

We’ve previously driven the turbocharged XT model, and were rather impressed with it as an overall package. We were curious to see if little brother, XS, I.E. Forester sans turbo, would also prove it’s competence.

Greg Winter of Winter Cox Motors was pleased to accommodate us with a 2006 XS

Engine and Performance

From a standstill, the XS Manual covers 0-100kM/h in 9.9 Seconds, while the 400M mark disappears in 17.1.

Putting your foot to the floor from 80-120kM/h is a process that takes 7.3 seconds.

The 2457cc Horizontally Opposed Engine in the 2006 XS is of the single cam variety, as compared to the twin cam version in the turbo variants. This motor is quite strong in the mid-range, but lacking in the bottom end and breathless towards it’s 6200rpm redline.

The gearing of the manual gearbox is uncomfortable, with a ratio spread that often drops the engine into the torque-weak lower end, or has it screaming to keep up.

Fuel Economy

Economy from the 2.5L Boxer was a quite reasonable 9.8L/100kM overall average during the time we had the vehicle. This included plenty of freeway and mountain climbing miles, as well as some light low-range testing.

Interior and Accommodation

The Forester’s high roofline offers tons of headroom, allowing driver and passengers of all heights to sit upright.

Front legroom is very good for this class of car. Although the Forester, like most vehicles based off the Impreza platform has a very narrow footwell area on the driver’s side.

The steering wheel and front seats offer plenty of adjustment and finding a comfortable position is an easy, trivial
matter.

The front seats have a decent amount of lumber support and also have quite effective side bolstering for hard charging through corners on the bitumen, or for driving soft bush tracks with lots of sideways movement.

The steering wheel itself is a pleasant feel in the driver’s hands and just the right size for this application.

In the back, legroom is quite restricted, an inevitable result of the car’s very short 2525mm wheelbase. Thankfully, apart from the amount of longitudinal space, the rear seat is a pleasant place to be, with a long cushion base offering plenty of under-thigh support and well-angled backrests that offer rear passengers a good compromise between awareness and comfort.

The materials inside the XS manage to pull off the duplicate trick of looking classy, but also being very easy to clean. Which is a bonus if the Forester is to be your family conveyance. Anyone with young kids knows the kind of grot that can end up in a car’s interior.

Usefully, the Forester includes cup holders and storage spaces throughout the vehicle, including a lift-up area on top of the dashboard.

The Subaru’s stereo system offers good tone, volume and adjustability, with a 6 stacker in dash that is not susceptable to jumping or skipping.

The XS has simple to understand rotary controls for ventilation and climate control.

The rear seats are in a practical 60/40 folding arrangement and three seperate child restraint hooks are available on the rear ceiling.

Accessibility to the Forester’s boot space is excellent through the high lifting rear wagon door. The luggage space itself is reasonable, with a virtually cube shaped area in which to place shopping/holiday goodies etc.

Ride and Handling

This is where the Forester seriously seperates itself from the rest of the soft-roader herd. The car’s relatively light weight, shorter wheelbase and viscous-coupled AWD system including LSD provide an overall nimble feeling. No matter the type of corner, be it a slow, tight bend or a long, flowing, fast curve, the Subaru is controlled, predictable, neutral and secure.

There is excellent mid-corner chassis balance and the car can be made to understeer or oversteer at will. Wet or dry, the Forester feels equally safe.

Body control is remarkable, especially considering the roll angles that the elevated ride height requires of the chassis. The ride is comfortable, if not plush, with very good damping. Typically rough patches on country roads are dispatched without fuss or trouble.

Braking

The brakes, 294mm ventilated discs up front and 266mm solid discs out back, are maybe a touch too small in their XT application, but they are more than up to the job of hauling down the lower-paced XS. The pedal is feelsome and the ABS intrudes at just the right amount of pedal effort. The car bites well and pulls up in a straight line with no hassles.

On the Road

The Forester’s high ride height combined with a low waistline and low cowl dash mean exceptional visibility. Our tallest tester, at over 6’6, had slight problem with the thickness of the B-pillar during head-checks, but everyone below monster-size had no such problems.

Steering feel is light and delicate, with consistant weighting from lock to lock.

The Subaru standard headlights are rather poor on low-beam, but reasonably good in high-beam mode. Seperate switchable driving lights help to eliminate down low and to the sides of the road. Handy for spotting wild life.

The Forester is fairly refined, with no unpleasant engine noise to speak of. There is also very little in the way of wind noise at freeway speeds. Perhaps because of all this relative quiet, the Forester’s noisiest aspect becomes very pronounced. The sound from the tyres is a touch intrusive.

Off the Road

During our time with the little Subie, we didn’t venture far off road and didn’t drive through mud. We did get the chance to drive it on gravel and dirt though, and in these conditions, it thrived. The chassis balance encountered on the blacktop continues in the gravel and dirt experience.

Pricing

At the time of our testing, this Forester XS, in excellent used condition, was selling for $15,000 on the road from Winter Cox Motors. For Foresters, or any other Subarus, or indeed any used cars, please visit the Winter Cox Motors website linked on our main page or call Greg Winter on 0419 136 658

Conclusions

The 2006 Subaru Forester XS is a bit of a paradox.

It’s very conventional in some ways. The styling is very deliberately a traditional 3 box wagon look. The major and minor interior controls are in a typically orthodox arrangement. The engine too, is the expected 2 point something litres four cylinder.

But then there is the other side to the car. The things that give the Forester range unique character. Things like the off-beat throb of a boxer engine, the low range gear selection, the car-like dynamic properties and even it’s frameless windows.

It all mixes together rather well to answer the questions we asked leading into this review. It also adds good resale value, a 5 star ANCAP safety rating and a solid feeling of quality to the equation.

The Forester XS isn’t perfect. It could do with a better matched set of gear ratios and a little less tyre noise. These annoyances aside though, the XS is about the best thing available for it’s specific market. Unless you can afford to spend the extra and buy the XT or XT Luxury that is.

Michael Adams and Ryan McCallister for Infinite-Garage
Article Originally Produced for www.worldcarreview.com

1 comment

  1. Jason

    Well done old friend.

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