(Text & Photos by Ricardo Rodriguez-Long)
If there is a car that has a certain charisma and attributes that make people tick, that is a Subaru. In a world full of cars, Subaru has found that some folks like dependable, no-frills, efficient go all-around vehicles that can take them on adventures every weekend for a lower entry price.
The Forester came into America in 1999, and it has transformed into a small SUV. The fifth-generation still has the basic same boxer type 4 cylinder motor that powered the first one. Of course, with many improvements, the engine and trans have proven reliable, which is what Subaru customers want. I had the opportunity to drive the newest 2022 version. The Forester Wilderness edition is one for those who want to go on trails and camp under the stars of the Mojave sky. I was very curious about how this car would handle the trails. Since many companies are labeling some of their models as "adventure" vehicles, I have been disappointed more than once. Beyond all terrain tires and badges, this Subaru didn't look much different than the standard version.
To find out, I headed to Johnson Valley, where Soggy dry lake makes it one of the best places to watch meteorite showers at dawn. I noticed that the Subaru EyeSight driver aid system on the highway is quite good. In addition to adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, the forward collision can be a life saver. The car will take over and apply the brakes for you if it detects an imminent contact. The Forested will stay on its lane by slightly steering itself without much intrusion to you.
This model comes with LED fog lights, a front skid plate, an anti-glare black decal over the hood, a roof rack, 17 inch special wheels to fit off-road tires, and 9.2 inches of wheel clearance. The AWD system has a switch in the center console that allows you to adjust the level of traction and power to suit the surface you are driving on. It does make a big difference in terms of how the character of the car changes. The best part for me though is one that most specialized journalist does not mention. The suspension on this Forester is the best of the whole car. The shocks and springs are tuned to let the wheels move according to the ups and downs of the trail, and the wheel clearance enables you to roll over sand and rocky terrain without fuss. I was impressed by the ride on the trails. If, at one point, I felt the car could use a bit more power (rated at 180HP or so), the handling on the dirt made it up in spades.
What lacks in exterior design makes it up in interior space. And it is built to take it to the snow or mud. Fitted rubber mats and washable seats are not something you find in any SUVs today. The trunk ( and foldable rear seats) give you enough room to get all your camping gear, cooler, and equipment you may need for the weekend. It can also tow a couple of motorcycles or skidoo's since it can pull 3,000 lbs. Another plus to the Forester is that you have a reliable commuter for the whole week with a quick wash on Monday morning.
The base Forester starts at $27,000, and the fully-loaded Wilderness edition can get close to $34,000. There are many car options at the $30K mark, but for those that go out there and are not afraid to get their car dirty, this Subaru may fit. On top of that, you may become part of the Subaru family and never look back.