On paper, the powertrain of our 2009 Subaru Forester 2.5XT contender is nothing new or particularly special. Forester models receive a version of the 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder found in the Impreza sedan. Transmission options are even less stunning: a carried-over five-speed manual or four-speed automatic for entry-level 2.5X models; auto only if you opt for the turbocharged 2.5XT variant.
At the track, the four-speed, 224-horsepower Forester 2.5XT zips to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and to the quarter mile in just 15.5. Not as impressive as the 6.6 and 15.1-second runs a similarly equipped Forester 2.5XT managed in our previous comparison ("Turbo Chargers," September 2008), but still as fast or faster than all but the BMW X6, Lexus LX 570, Toyota Sequoia, and Infiniti FX and EX.
It's not just fast, but fuel friendly, too. In that comparison, the Forester 2.5XT logged the best observed and EPA-certified city/highway fuel economy (19.6 mpg, 19/24 mpg) against the turbo fours and six-speeds of Mazda CX-7 and VW Tiguan, and posted the best observed fuel-economy numbers (16.0 mpg) for an all-wheel-drive SUV in this year's competition. Says St. Antoine, "I'm amazed at how well the powertrain works with only a four-speed. The turbo four is torquey enough not to feel like it needs more ratios, and at cruising speed it's not revving overly hard."
Some judges also dinged the Subaru for its "parts-bin interior" and lack of style. Others pegged this simplicity as back-to basics goodness.
Do you think the 2009 Subaru Forester has what it takes to take home the title of 2009 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year? Find out who the winner is at midnight eastern time on Oct. 16.