of the most compact crossovers on the market is also one
that's been around for a while. Subaru jumped the gun years
ago by expanding the traditional wagon into its Forester,
a taller, more flexible, more versatile, and definitely
kickier set of wheels to drive.
the Forester has remained more diminutive than some competitors
in the small, sport utility/crossover genre, its appeal
has not diminished. It fits neatly into the between spot
that's often being ignored of late for more bloated vehicles
contending for the disenfranchised minivan crowd. Forester
makes a better sedan replacement, with similar agile drive
characteristics. (But don't expect to pack in your progeny's
basketball team, especially in the second row.) And while
not quite true off-road ready, we found it sloughed through
some slick, muddy pathways with the famed Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive
and low-mounted engine control we'd noticed on other Subaru
vehicles -- actually on all other Subaru vehicles.
2005, Subaru has added a different tweek: A tonier, pricier
L.L. Bean edition that suggests Forester's woodsy heritage,
that makes it the official vehicle of the active lifestyle
and equipment outfitter. Based on the premium-level 2.5
XS Forester model, the L.L. Bean edition is powered by a
165-HP four-banger, transverse-mounted "boxer"
engine and 4-speed direct control automatic transmission.
A self-leveling rear suspension keeps it even despite a
heavy load in back.
the rugged but comfortable spirit, the special edition is
fitted with 10-spoke alloy wheels, beige leather trim, perforated
bolsters and the exclusive L.L. Bean logo. It shares a new,
three spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with the three
other Forester models.
bumped up the base price of its entry level 2.5 X 5-speed
manual version $400 from last year, just over the $21,000
mark. The L.L. Bean level starts at $26,395, about $1,800
below the top-of-the-line 2.5 XT premium. Not cheap, but
perhaps well worth the feel of secure driving.