KBB Logo Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.

You'll Like The 2011 Subaru Forester If...

If you like your SUVs to be true to the "Utility" in "Sport Utility Vehicle," while still being small enough to comfortably maneuver in a city, the Forester may be the vehicle for you. With a low starting price, standard AWD, proven reliability, more towing power than many others in its class and great visibility all around, there’s certainly a lot to love.

You May Not Like The 2011 Subaru Forester If...

If you want a V6 engine, room for seven or rear-seat entertainment, the 2011 Subaru Forester may not be for you. And although a manual transmission is offered on some trims, a SportShift four-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the turbocharged engine.

What's New

A revised model range now includes Standard, Premium, Limited and Touring trims for the 2.5X, and Premium and Touring trims for the turbocharged 2.5XT. An all-new 2.5-liter engine produces more low-end torque and better mileage in the base trims, while Bluetooth is now standard on all but the base models. New radios include an available removable TomTom navigation unit and a rear backup camera (standard on Touring trims.)

Interior Features

The 2011 Subaru Forester features gauges that are colorful and easy to read, plus audio and climate controls configured in a logical, clear manner. A single cup holder is located next to the driver, while an additional bottle holder is situated in each door. Back in the second row, leg room is plentiful and the seats are wide and comfortable. In all trims except the 2.5X, the second-row seats recline. Cargo room in the back is a respectable 33.5 cubic feet, made all the more accessible thanks to a wide-opening rear gate door.

Exterior Features

The latest version of the Subaru Forester is a little less wagon and a little more modern crossover. Overall, the vehicle bears a slight resemblance to the BMW X3, with its swept-up rear quarter window and sporty wheels. The Forester offers up to 8.9 inches of ground clearance, a necessary requirement when the road gets ugly. Up front, a large grille and "hawk eye" headlight treatment impart an aggressive appearance, especially when paired with the available turbocharged engine’s air scoop and fog lights. The optional chrome door handles and tailpipe add a bit of fresh bling to the Forester’s exterior, while the wheelwells are filled with 16-inch steel or available 17-inch alloy wheels.

Driving Impressions

Off-roading in the 2011 Subaru Forester showcased the vehicle’s stiffer suspension, direct steering and notable ground clearance, all of which came into play when traversing rocks and ditches. Also helpful was the Forester’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (AWD) system, capable of transferring up to 100 percent of the available power to the wheels with the best traction. Back on the pavement, we liked the added get-up-and-go provided by turbocharged models (who wouldn’t?), but those with a more practical and budget-minded outlook will be just as happy buzzing around town with the normally-aspirated engine. Getting in and out of both rows of seats was a breeze thanks to wide-opening doors, and we found the all-around visibility from the driver’s seat to be excellent; a boon when changing lanes, reversing, and exploring dirt roads.

Pricing Notes

A base 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X with manual transmission starts just over $21,000, while the 2.5X Limited with navigation bumps the price to about $29,000. Stepping up to the XT Premium trim brings the price closer to $28,000, while the XT Touring with navigation and satellite radio will run closer to $32,000. At the Forester’s base price, its closest competitor is the Nissan Rogue – but the Rogue does not offer AWD as standard in base trim. The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe all start around $23,000, also without AWD. However, as inexpensive as the Forester seems at first blush, adding options quickly makes the price move upward and it ends up on the higher end of many of its competitors. In terms of resale, the Forester is expected to maintain value better than the Rogue and the Santa Fe but below the industry stalwarts CR-V and RAV4.

Notable Equipment

The base 2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, Hill Start Assist, 16-inch steel wheels and 8.7-inches of ground clearance. Notable interior touches include a height-adjustable driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support and auto-off headlights. Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio streaming and iPod integration is standard on all but the base trim. Opting for the XT trim will add the turbocharged engine, SportShift four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, 17-inch wheels (helping to bump ground clearance to 8.9 inches), fog lights, 10-way power driver’s seat, rear backup camera and a telescoping steering column. The new Touring model adds HID low-beam headlamps with automatic height adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, electroluminescent gauges and side mirrors with integrated turn signals. To help keep occupants safe and sound, both X and XT trims feature six airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Control and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.

Notable Options

Some of the 2011 Subaru Forester’s most attractive options include a removable TomTom navigation system (Premium trim) or integrated navigation radio (Limited and Touring), leather seating, power driver’s seat, panoramic moonroof, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, premium sound, automatic climate control, satellite radio (choice of XM or Sirius), and cold-climate desirables like heated seats, heated side mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer.

Favorite Features

Rear VisibilityBeing able to see what’s behind a vehicle when backing up, changing lanes, or even venturing off-road can make a big difference in how someone behaves while driving. The Forester’s large back window allows the driver to see an object only 39 inches tall within 39 inches of the vehicle. Panoramic MoonroofAlthough not as large as others we’ve seen, this moonroof provides pleasant light to both the front and rear passengers, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside.

Under the Hood

Powering the base Forester X is a newly revised 170-horsepower four-cylinder Boxer engine (a "flat" engine in which the pistons lie horizontally, an advantage of which is a lower center of gravity) with a five-speed manual transmission, available only in this trim. The new engine features a longer stroke and a chain-driven dual overhead cam replacing the old engine’s belt driven single overhead cam. Moving up to the Limited adds a four-speed automatic transmission, while the XT trims come with a 224-horsepower turbocharged Boxer engine (this engine does not benefit from the updates to the normally aspirated 2.5-liter engine.) Although the base engine is practical for around town driving, those looking for a little more power without a significant drop in fuel economy will likely appreciate all that the turbocharged version has to offer – if they don’t mind paying for premium gas. 2.5-liter Boxer-4170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm174 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpmEPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 21/27 (manual), 21/27 (automatic)2.5-liter Boxer-4 Turbocharged224 horsepower@ 5200 rpm226 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800 rpmEPA Estimated City/Highway Mileage: 19/24

Editors' Notes

With volatile gas prices compelling many large SUV owners to abandon their fuel-hungry rides, small crossovers like the third-generation 2011 Subaru Forester have never looked better. An agile vehicle built to handle practically anything man or nature can put before its tires, the latest iteration has a much more contemporary-looking exterior complemented by a more spacious interior and a smoother, quieter ride. And with a respectable four-cylinder Boxer engine under the hood and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive as standard, the Forester offers the capability of an SUV with fuel economy that won’t break the bank. This segment has seen a lot of growth in the last few years, but the Forester can go places the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue can’t.

Road Test Video Reviews

2011 Subaru Forester Owner Reviews

4.54
145 Reviews
61% 33% 4% 1% 1 star 0%
Leave your review Would you recommend this vehicle?
(Select your rating)

Great family car with plenty of space for 4!

2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X

The Subaru Forester has been a great family car for us! My husband and I have 2 children and the 4 of us find it very comfortable for daily use and very long road trips for summer vacations. It has been super reliable for us as well with no major issues. We keep up on the scheduled maintenance and love that Subaru vehicles only need oil changes about once every 4-5 months. This car gets moderate gas mileage for its size and I personally love knowing the high safety rating so I feel more confident driving my family in this. Ascetically I love that the dash is simply designed. All the buttons and controls needed are there, but nothing much more. A very clean and simple design. Also love all the space the hatch provides, enough for tons of groceries, camping gear, kids bikes, lots of mulch bags, etc., it really works well for our busy family life! The back seats can easily fold down to make even more space when needed. My only suggestion would be to make the interior fabric more durable. Considering all the usage and 2 kids our Forester still looks pretty good but there are several spots where muddy soccer cleats were rubbed on the back of the front seats and surprisingly this won't come all the way out. Same thing has happened on the plastic middle console. Seems odd dirt won't clean up thoroughly even with fabric cleaner and car cleaner. Other than that I love this car and it has been good to us.

- Lauren S

I love my Subaru! It's practical, safe and comfortable.

2011 Subaru Forester 2.5X

I love my 2011 Subaru Forester. When I was looking for a car to buy, there were a few specifications I had in mind. I wanted a car that was going to handle well in snow and ice, which my Forester excels in. New Hampshire can get very icy during the winter months. The AWD definitely comes in handy. I also wanted an SUV that had a lot of space to pack up all of my camping necessities. Luckily, my Forester has tons of trunk space and the back seats fold down with ease to add more space for me things. Then, of course I was looking for comfort. The bucket seats hooked me in right away. I like to sit far back while driving and the amount of space in the back seat allows my passengers plenty of legroom.

- Jessica B

All of Subaru's vehicles, including my model the Forester, has the highest ratings for safety and they are all all wheel drive allowing drivers to travel just about anywhere despite the weather/road conditions without having to mess with switching from 4 wheel drive to 2 wheel drive. All wheel drive makes it a breeze to drive and is more efficient.

2011 Subaru Forester

I love how my vehicle is all wheel drive and allows me to travel on just about any road despite the conditions. I also love how roomy it is as I can fit 3 kids in the back with one in a car seat and another in a booster seat. I also love the fact that my vehicle is one of the safest vehicles made. That is very important. Any complaints I have would be that you need to buy snow tires for newer versions of the Forester to get up gravel roads covered in ice. My dad has a older Forester and he can travel on icy roads without a problem. Subaru changed the engine of the Forester and now it doesn't have as much power as the older ones did. That is my only complaint about my vehicle.

- Elizabeth M

Leave your review