Of all the vehicles in this category, the Forester blurs the lines between light SUV and true off-roader.
The Forester has an almost uncanny ability over slippery surfaces on extra slippery ground it seems to float where others plod. This, I believe, is due mostly to its high power-to-weight ratio. Traction is better than average due to its symmetrical 4WD system, viscous coupled centre transmission and rear limited-slip differential. Unlike the Freelender-2 it does not rely on electronics for its traction, which on paper appears superior, but in soft terrain is not, for the Forester out-performs the Freelander in most areas. Low-range gearing is present in the non-turbo, manual transmission variants and amounts to a 20% reduction in overall gearing, not as much as true off-roaders but enough to make a significant difference to its off-road performance. Even the non-turbo engines pull strongly from very low rpm and the flat-four boxer type engine layout gives the Forester an ultra-low centre of gravity. Handling is, as a result, far crisper, with less body roll and more sport car-like handling than any other SUV, by quite a long way.
In 2008 an all new model was introduced and while it looks really smart, it lacks something that the old model has. It has anti-skid control and softer springing which, while making it more comfortable, takes some of the familiar, crisp sportiness from it. While I love the new one, I don’t necessarily prefer it to the old one.