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2006 Subaru Forester

by Martha Hindes

Subaru Forester
Subaru Forester Interior

Subaru, the company that set the standard for all-wheel-drive some two decades ago, has updated its small sport utility for 2006. Car-based, but definitely mud-track capable or more we've found in the past, Forester now sports a smoother, less boxy look than in previous years.

Subaru is the car company that could. When other manufacturers were trying to get it right with all-wheel drive, the Japan-based manufacturer offered it on every vehicle made, growing from autos to sportier, truck-like versions with good ground clearance in the process. Forester is somewhat diminutive compared with other small SUVs, and until now was the truest entry into that field from Subaru. (We'll review the new B9 Tribeca five- or seven-seater later this year.) But like all its kin, Forester retains the mandatory Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.

Among changes for '06 are design updates, performance-boosting drivetrain and engine refinements. The uniquely Subaru 4-cylinder boxer engine (pistons move sidewise like two fighters exchanging punches) has been tweaked for more horsepower. The 2.5 X now generates 173-HP. The 2.5 XT Limited's goes to 230.

Outside, the Forester gains new, more rugged-looking front and rear including new tail lamp clusters. An L.L. Bean edition has new MOMO leather-wrapped and wood steering wheel and shifter, and a shock-sensor security system. There's a wealth of standard amenities on the 2.5 X and 2.5 X Premium packages, including fog lights, foldable side-view mirrors for off-road duty or tight parking spaces, air filtration, roof rails and cargo utility bars. Among Premium adds are power moonroof and 8-way power driver's seat. The top-line 2.5 X L.L.Bean adds water resistant cargo floor area, auto dimming rear-view compass mirror and standard automatic. Hill Holder is standard with five-speed manual.

Subaru's slogan, "Sport Utility Tough, Car Easy," fits the redesigned Forester. If it retains the capability of its earlier rendition - we don't doubt that it does - it will offer a fuel efficient, easy handling, pavement gripping, and passenger-friendly alternative to some of the bumpier truck-based competitors on the market.