From £22,200
A real Q-car. Very quick and pretty capable, but don't mistake this for a sports car. Prodrive Package adds more punch - especially useful for overtaking

Our Verdict

Subaru Forester 2008-2013
Subaru’s 4x4 estate morphs into bona fide small SUV

The Subaru Forester avoids the glam detailing of most other soft-roaders and sticks to traditional 4x4 spec

What is it? The turbocharged 2.5-litre range-topping Forester, with the addition of a Prodrive Performance Package. The Forester is sort of an SUV for people who don’t want an SUV, but need one – it’s higher-riding than a normal car, but nowhere near as lofty as a ‘proper’ off-roader. That means you get the benefit of more car-like handling, but a still-roomy cabin and slightly elevated driving position. Although the Turbo doesn’t get lesser Foresters' high- and low-ratio transfer boxes, it is still pretty capable off-road, and can tow up to 2000kg – making it perfect for lugging around your track day car around the paddock on a trailer. What’s it like? Quick. As in 0-60mph in 5.3sec quick. The standard Forester 2.5XT is hardly what you’d call slow, but as usual those clever chaps at Prodrive have managed to extract even more performance thanks to recalibrated engine management, a high-flow intercooler hose and a stainless steel sports exhaust system. The basic engine is pretty much what you get in an Impreza WRX, but the Prodrive upgrade is not quite as meaty. Power is up from 226bhp to 256bhp, and torque from 236lb ft to 300lb ft. As you’d expect, in-gear acceleration times are substantially improved, with 50-70mph in fifth down from 7.3sec to 5.0sec. While acceleration is brutal, however, don’t mistake the Forester for an Impreza – this is a much softer machine, with more of an emphasis on comfort and all-round ability; it understeers more easily and there’s greater body roll and pitch. That said, the Forester is still very good to drive, with well-weighted steering and nicely balanced pedal controls. Should I buy one? Yes. The Forester is an easy vehicle to like – it offers many of the abilities of an off-roader with none of the drawbacks - it’s easier to park and to drive, and its car-like looks mean you won’t have Greenpeace camping on the drive. In Prodrive form it’s also a proper Q-car – you’ll have no end of fun watching Porsche Boxsters shrink in the rear-view mirror. The only snag could be the cost – the Prodrive pack costs £1700 plus fitting (expect a total of £2000) on top of £23,640 for the Forester 2.5 XTE, and CO2 emissions of 254g/km mean it won’t be cheap for company car users. Rory Lumsdon

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales