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2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover

4dr 2.5 XS Manual

Starting at | Starting at 21 MPG City - 28 MPG Highway

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  • $23,270 original MSRP
Printable Version

2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover

Printable Version

2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover


2004 Subaru Forester

Source: New Car Test Drive

Base Price (MSRP) - $20,895
As Tested (MSRP) - $25,520


There used to be a poster of Ted Turner wearing cowboy boots and a charming cocky grin, saying, "I was country before country was cool." The Subaru Forester could borrow that expression and say, "I was crossover before crossover was cool."

The Forester may have invented that style of semi-SUV in 1998, before the word came along. Now the new crossover vehicles are finding their own identities, including higher performance, but the Forester isn't letting them get away.

The new 2004 Subaru Forester 2.5 XT (T for turbo) brings 210 horsepower to the table and a dazzling 235 pounds-feet of torque for exhilarating acceleration performance.

The rest of the Forester line continues to offer reliability, fuel efficiency, cargo room, safety, and its time-tested all-wheel-drive system. Extensively revised for 2003, the second-generation Forester is roomier and more upscale than before. It has comfortable, highly supportive seats. On the road, the Forester offers excellent handling and brakes. It's a better vehicle on treacherous roads than an SUV.


Model Lineup

The 2004 Subaru Forester comes in three versions: the basic 2.5 X ($20,895), the well-equipped 2.5 XS ($23,145), and the new high-performance 2.5 XT ($24,970). The X and the XS produce 165 horsepower and 166 pounds-feet of torque, while the turbocharged XT raises the level to 210 and 235.

Standard features include a 80-watt stereo with CD player, remote keyless entry system, 16-inch sport wheels, variable intermittent windshield wipers and a trailer harness connector.

The 2.5 XS adds automatic climate control, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), lower body cladding, leather accents and a six-disc CD changer. Forester XS with the Premium Package & Leather ($25,695) comes with an automatic transmission, monotone exterior cladding and a large power moonroof.

The 2.5 XT adds the turbocharged engine, upgraded brakes (four-piston front calipers), a hood scoop, and 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/60 R16 all-season tires. Forester XT with the Premium Package & Leather ($27,520) includes the automatic transmission, leather upholstery, sunroof, and monotone exterior cladding.

The Forester is available with a choice of five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic ($800). All Subarus come with all-wheel drive. A limited-slip rear differential is optional. Also available are heated front seats and exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.

Safety features include ABS and pedals that give way in a crash, reducing leg and foot injuries. The airbag system is extensive, including front airbags with dual stages for the passenger, and side-impact airbags in the front. Other safety equipment includes a child restraint system called LATCH and front seat active head restraints.

Subaru offers a bevy of factory-installed accessories that add to the Forester's versatility. A supporter of Tread Lightly! and the official vehicle of groups like the American Canoe Association, Gary Fisher Bicycle Components, and the Professional Ski Instructors of America, Subaru offers components for carrying bikes, skis, kayaks and canoes on top of standard roof rails.



The Subaru Forester isn't an eye-catching car, although the hood scoop on the XT is subtly impressive. It's relatively small, noticeable when parked alongside a mid-size SUV like an Explorer. It's boxy, as is any such car that uses space so efficiently. It's when you look for the details that you begin to understand the effort in the design, the function and the possibilities.

The grille has a wide but not unattractive mouth, and is complimented by the contemporary contoured headlights. There's 7.5 inches of ground clearance, under a large molded front 5-mph bumper with integrated fog lights and a horizontal air intake at the bottom. The standard roof rack with cross rails is flat black, and the body cladding comes mostly in different shades and textures of gray on different models, but the higher-priced monotone looks best because it doesn't add clutter to the car's shape.

The aluminum hood is sculpted with a slight wide bulge, and the front and rear quarter panels have sculpted lines that flow rearward, and would be more effective without the cladding. The RT features good-looking alloy wheels, called six-spoke but actually 12 as the spokes are grouped in twos.

The vertically triangular taillights frame a large hexagonal rear gate with a lot of glass for good visibility, and which opens with an easy touch.


2004 Subaru Forester
2004 Subaru Forester

Interior Features

The seating position is high despite the fact that the Forester isn't a tall vehicle. This is nice, in the non-SUV department. The optional leather interior looks and feels stylish, and, not surprisingly, the instrument panel and controls are well and efficiently designed, using what Subaru calls a motorcycle-style instrument cluster. The driver's seat is highly adjustable and provides good bolstering, while the adjustable steering wheel has excellent range. The driver is afforded panoramic visibility from the big windshield, big side glass, and thin A-pillars. A wide rearview mirror and big outside mirrors provide a good view rearward. The wiper blades are designed to sweep a large area of the windshield clean.

Rear-seat passengers get good head and leg room. The Forester has great cargo capacity for its size, and lowering the 60/40 split rear seat doubles that capacity from 32 to 64 cubic feet.

The Forester works for a wide range of people, and when you consider all the airbag and seatbelt tricks, it keeps them all safe. It earned the highest possible ratings for crashworthiness in 40-mph frontal and 30-mph side impact crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the only small SUV to earn that rating in both tests.

The interior materials are nice, though the top of the dash looks like plastic. Three big HVAC knobs make it easy to adjust the temperature. The audio controls are on the fussy side, however, and the stereo sounds tinny.

Standard features include remote keyless entry, good storage space in the console, a separate storage compartment for the front passenger seat, dual visor vanity mirrors with lids, dual sunglasses storage compartments, illuminated window switches, rear window de-icer, remote release fuel door, two 12-volt outlets located in the front cabin and the cargo area, tie-downs for gear and groceries, power windows and locks, and finally a full-size spare tire.


2004 Subaru Forester

Driving Impressions

The Subaru Forester is more fun to drive than any sport-utility vehicle and will run circles around them. It handles like a car and can be driven like one. It rides well and takes bumps very well.

The Subaru Forester 2.5 XT is very fast, and the power is so steady and linear that you'd never know it was a turbo, although the functional scoop on the aluminum hood for the intercooler tells you something special is under there. Its excellent throttle response, clutch take-up, and all-wheel-drive traction allow incredibly quick launches for those so inclined.

The XT's turbocharged 2.5-liter, double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine makes 235 pounds-feet of torque, an increase of a whopping 43 percent over the non-turbo engine, and with Subaru's experience with turbocharged engines from its years of racing in the World Rally Championship, there are no turbo lags or bugs, period. Subaru's variable valve timing system helps too. The horsepower peaks where it's effective, at 5600 rpm, and the torque is strongest at a beautifully low 3600 rpm. One drawback to the XT is its lower fuel mileage of 18/23 mpg EPA City/Highway with the five-speed, compared to the XS model's 21/27. And the XT requires 91 octane fuel.

The standard engine delivers good acceleration, though it doesn't match the exhilaration of the turbo. Subaru's horizontally opposed engine structure (called a "boxer") is similar in concept to Porsche's. The engine design offers the ability to achieve a low center of gravity and a more rearward placement, putting less weight forward of the front axle, which helps balance handling. Though powerful, Subaru's engine isn't as smooth as some.

The five-speed manual transmission works well, though it feels a ropey and has a long throw. A special and exceptional feature is Subaru's Hill Holder clutch, which prevents the car from drifting backwards when the clutch is engaged on a hill, such as pulling away from stop signs or red lights.

The Forester offers excellent handling. The variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering offers quick response, while allowing a turning circle of 34.8 feet. The ride is relatively firm due to the short 99-inch wheelbase. Equal-length axle shafts help eliminate torque steer. Underneath the skin, Forester's new body structure is strong and light, further improving handling and reducing stopping distances.

The cabin is quiet, even at triple-digit speeds, as we learned on the high-banked oval at Talladega Motor Speedway. Newly designed suspension struts help reduce noise, vibration and harshness. Believe it or not, the Forester is aerodynamic, achieving a 0.36 coefficient of drag. That helps reduce wind noise and improves fuel economy.

The brakes are excellent. We didn't experience any fade while braking hard for the first infield turn off of the oval lap after lap.

Later, we tested XS at Mudfest near Seattle, the Northwest Automotive Press Writers' annual event for new and redesigned SUVs. On an obstacle course consisting of cinderblocks and wood blocks, the Forester's 7.5 inches of ground clearance passed the test, while the ride was surprisingly non-traumatic. But it dazzled us on the slalom course. There were more than 30 SUVs of all sizes there, and the Forester XS was the hands-down winner in the slalom. It felt like a sports car as it weaved through the cones at more than 40 mph, when some of the other SUVs struggled at 30-35. It was precise, quick and steady, and was the only SUV that could clip the cones with control.

Two different all-wheel-drive systems are available. Models with five-speed manuals use what Subaru calls Continuous All-Wheel Drive, in which a viscous coupling center differential divides engine power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels, which shifts when the front or rear tires slip. Foresters with automatic transmissions use the Active All-Wheel Drive system, in which a variable transfer clutch delivers power where it's needed, as determined by electronic sensors that measure wheelspin. Both work well. Not only will you not get stuck, but they greatly enhance control in slippery conditions.


2004 Subaru Forester


When it comes to versatility there's no vehicle like the Subaru Forester. It has it all: performance, reliability, economy and function. Subaru's engineering and track record are exceptional.

Model Line Overview

Base Price (MSRP) $20,895
As Tested (MSRP) $25,520

Model lineup: Subaru Forester 2.5 X ($20,895), 2.5 XS ($23,145), 2.5 XT ($24,970)
Engines: 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 turbocharged and intercooled
Transmissions: five-speed manual
Safety equipment (Standard): ABS, front airbags, front side airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, active front headrests, 3 rear headrests, child seat tethers, safety pedal system
Safety equipment (Optional): N/A
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Gunma, Japan

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Subaru Forester 2.5 XT ($24,970)
Standard equipment: full-time all-wheel-drive, 5-speed manual transmission, Hill Holder system, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, limited slip rear differential, trailer harness connector, in-glass antenna, monotone body color, fog lights, halogen headlights, rear window washer, wiper and de-icer, remote release fuel door, roof rails with crossbars, alloy wheels; 80-watt stereo with CD player, remote keyless entry system, 16-inch sport wheels, variable intermittent windshield wipers, trailer harness connector; automatic climate control, lower body cladding, leather accents, six-disc CD changer; turbocharged engine, upgraded brakes (four-piston front calipers), hood scoop, 16-inch alloy wheels with 215/60R16 all-season tires
Options as tested: none
Destination charge: 550
Gas Guzzler Tax: N/A
Layout: all-wheel drive
Engine (Optional): 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4; 2.5-liter turbocharged DOHC inline-4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 210 @ 5600
Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm): 235 @ 3600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 18/23 mpg
Transmission (Optional): five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 99.4 in.
Length/width/height: 175.2/68.3/65.0 in.
Track, f/r: 58.9/58.5 in.
Turning circle: 34.8 ft.
Seating capacity: 5
Head/hip/leg room, f: 39.8/51.6/43.6 in.
Head/hip/leg room, r: 39.8/51.6/33.7 in.
Cargo volume: 64.1 cu. ft.
Payload N/A
Suspension F: struts, L-arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension R: struts, parallel links, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Ground Clearance: 7.5 in.
Curb weight: N/A
Towing capacity: 2400 Lbs.
Tires: 215/60R16 Yokohama Geolander mud-snow all-season
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc w ABS and EBD
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal.

Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of 11/Jul/2003.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-WANT-AWD - www.subaru.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive

Printable Version

2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade

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Passenger Crash Grade

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Side Impact Crash Test - Front

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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear

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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Daytime Running Lights Std
Fog Lamps Std
Electrochromic Rearview Mirror Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std


Alarm Opt
Printable Version

2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance 3 Years/36,000 Miles

Subaru Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

84 months or 100,000 mile powertrain (whichever comes first) from original warranty start. Many upgrade options available.
Age/Mileage Eligibility Current model year or preceding 5 yrs/80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified Yes
Point Inspection 152
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible No

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2004 Subaru Forester Sport Utility Crossover

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