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

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

25 August 2006

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

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