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Subaru introduced the Forester in 1998, due to poor sales of their Outback wagons in the U.S. market. It seems that SUV buyers thought it was just to "wagony" in appearance. So Subaru put a taller, more squared-off body on its wagon chassis and called it good. The Forester is a Subaru parts bin exercise, and since the parts bin is rather small at Fuji Heavy Industries, the car is cobbled together from a mixture of Impreza and Legacy bits.

Based on the rally-proven Impreza platform, the Forester has amazed the automotive community by blurring the line between Sport Utility Vehicle and Sports Sedan. The Forester uses the same Full-Time All-Wheel Drive system found on other Subaru models. The 2.5-liter boxer engine comes from the Legacy Outback (or Impreza 2.5 RS) and makes 165 horsepower and 166 ft./lbs. of torque in the Forester. This makes the Forester the most powerful SUV in its class.

Also, thanks to its hunkered-down stance, low center of gravity, and a car-based foundation, the Forester handles better than the Chevy Tracker, Honda CR-V, Suzuki Sidekick, and the Toyota RAV4. The trade-off is lower ground clearance and less capable off-road ability. Very few SUVs actually see anything more than dirt roads, anyway, and the Forester is more than capable on all but the most rugged of trails.

Inside is room for four adults, with room for a fifth rider in a pinch. Cargo space is equivalent to what you find in the RAV4 or Tracker, and storage room abounds. All in all, the perfect vehicle. 





Why Full-Time All-Wheel Drive?

If the purpose of All-Wheel Drive  is to help you avoid accidents, shouldn't you use it all the time? We think so, and judging from the popularity of Subaru with safety-conscious drivers like policemen, firefighters and educators, a lot of other people agree.

Though part-time four-wheel drive vehicles are okay for extreme, rugged off-road driving, the truth is they're less than ideal for the type of driving most people do. Typically, these vehicles are rear-wheel drive until the driver engages the front axle. Operating them in four-wheel drive on dry pavement can damage their drivetrain.

You can count on Subaru full-time All-Wheel Drive to provide you with outstanding traction on virtually any wet or dry surface in any weather. To help keep you safe and sound, it also constantly monitors road conditions, sensing any loss of traction and automatically varying the power between front and rear wheels, as needed. New for 2000, some Subaru vehicles have a viscous limited-slip rear differential. With this enhancement, should one rear wheel lose traction, power is automatically diverted to the other rear wheel.

The bottom line is that safety is important no matter where you are or what you're doing. That's why full-time All-Wheel Drive is built into every Subaru.

All-wheel drive is considerably better performance-wise than Front Wheel Drive (even with a traction control) in all driving conditions (see chart above). That's why Audi AWD cars were banned from British Touring Car Championship racing for having an unfair advantage, even with their severe weight penalties. Sorry, but I'll take all the unfair advantage I can get. 

Subaru is the only car manufacturer that equips every car it makes with All-Wheel Drive. 


The Two Kinds Of All-Wheel Drive offered by Subaru

Forester models offer a standard 5-speed manual transmission with continuous All-Wheel Drive or an optional 4-speed automatic transmission (4EAT) with active All-Wheel Drive.  The 5-speed All-Wheel Drive system uses a viscous coupling locking differential, while the 4EAT All-Wheel Drive system uses an electronically managed variable transfer clutch. Both the 5-speed manual transmission and the 4EAT were redesigned for the 2000 model year.

Continuous All-Wheel Drive: Simple, Effective And Reliable

  5MT/Viscous LSD Center Differential AWD

In Subaru vehicles with the 5-speed manual transmission, the All-Wheel Drive uses a viscous coupling in a center differential inside the transaxle case. It contains a series of opposing discs attached to the front and rear output shafts, surrounded by a type of silicone fluid. In normal operation, power is distributed equally between the front and rear wheels (50/50 power split). Slippage at the front or rear wheels causes a rotational difference between the front and rear discs in the viscous unit, which then shears the fluid.

The shearing action heats the fluid, causing it to thicken. As the fluid thickens, power transfers from the slipping wheels to the wheels with the best traction. When the slippage ceases, all the discs turn at the same speed, restoring the 50/50 power split. The process is quick and unnoticeable to the driver and passengers.

The continuous All-Wheel Drive system is simple, compact and virtually invisible in operation. Its traction adds a significant margin of safety on slippery or unpaved roads and enhances dry-road handling.

Electronically Controlled Active All-Wheel Drive

E-4AT Active Torque Split AWD   

Subaru models equipped with the 4-speed electronic automatic transmission (4EAT) feature a unique type of All-Wheel Drive that anticipates wheel slippage and transfers power before slippage occurs.

Instead of a viscous coupling center differential, an automatic transmission-equipped Subaru features an electronically managed variable transfer clutch in the transaxle tail shaft. Power transfer is governed by slippage in the clutch plates, which use a special friction material that easily handles the loads generated during power transfer.

The electronic transmission control module (TCM) controls the All-Wheel Drive multi-plate clutch. The “normal” power split is 90 percent front/10 percent rear. The active All-Wheel Drive system can adjust the power split in an instant, depending on many input factors. If the front wheels begin to slip, the TCM increases hydraulic pressure on the clutch, reducing slippage of the plates. As the front wheels regain traction, the TCM reduces pressure on the clutch, increasing slippage of the plates and transferring power to the front.


Four-Wheel Independent Suspension

front suspensionrear suspension

If all roads were perfectly flat and smooth, you wouldn't need long travel 4-wheel independent suspension. Unfortunately, the real world is filled with pothole-pocked city streets and washboard dirt roads. The Subaru long travel 4-wheel independent suspension makes sure you're ready for all of them. Because each wheel functions independently with a long travel design, unexpected dips and bumps are no problem. The suspension easily absorbs road irregularities, so each tire stays right where it belongs -- on the road. It's no wonder so many mountain bikers and paddle sports enthusiasts count on Subaru to get them to the most remote trailheads and streams. But regardless of where you drive, our long travel 4-wheel independent suspension ensures that you'll always be comfortable and confident in a Subaru.

The already highly acclaimed four wheel strut suspension has been completely newly tuned and the Forester's drive made even more attractive. The anti-nose dive geometry of the front suspension has been strengthened to suppress nose dive. By increasing the negative camber of the rear suspension and widening the rear tread, the grip of the rear tires on the road has been tightened yet further, improving both on- and off-road performance.


 Four-Sensor / Four Channel Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

ABS prevents wheel lock in the event of sudden braking, ensures the stability of the car's forward movement, and enhances steering control performance. Subaru's 4-Sensor / 4-Channel ABS provides precise control for all road conditions. The system is standard for Legacy and Outback and optional for Forester and Impreza. Standard and optional features of the ABS may vary according to market.



Subaru Philosophy: Active Driving, Active Safety

With the emergence of a global automobile market, many manufacturers have come to view cars simply as a means of transportation. At Subaru, however, they have not forgotten the essential element of automobile engineering--the sheer pleasure of the driving experience. Through the application of innovative and creative technologies, Subaru consistently creates cars that enhance the pleasure of driving, a quality that lies at the very heart of motoring. The concept of "Active Driving, Active Safety" captures the essence of this idea.

From the earliest days of the automobile, drivers have enjoyed the sense of freedom and control afforded by increasingly sophisticated cars. This enjoyment is the core of "Active Driving" and is fundamentally different from the reckless pursuit of speed or danger. Rather, the driving pleasure offered by Subaru automobiles is the actual feeling the driver has from being in total command of the car. This is achieved by placing ergonomics, the science of human engineering, at the center of Subaru automobile engineering and design.

Hence, all aspects of the driving environment, from seat shape to suspension, are pursued from the driver's perspective. While uncomfortable noises and vibrations are reduced, the vehicle is "tuned" to keep the driver constantly informed of road conditions and the car's status. These efforts combine to create the renowned Subaru driving quality.

Concurrently, "Active Safety" holds that an automaker's first responsibility is to enhance the danger avoidance capability of the vehicle. A car designed to immediately respond to the will of the driver in ordinary driving circumstances must also be capable of responding effectively in emergency situations to ensure the avoidance of accidents. Thus, engineering automobiles to give the driver the greatest possible control of the vehicle not only contributes to his driving pleasure but also to his safety. Subaru has led the automotive industry in the pursuit of safety, developing front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicles when rear-wheel drive was the industry standard. Subaru was the first in Japan to mass-produce FWD vehicles, a technological innovation that brought about superior driving stability. Later, Subaru launched AWD cars, once again redefining accepted automobile design.

"Active Driving, Active Safety" embodies Subaru's basic philosophy of working to enhance the sheer driving pleasure of automobiles in the pursuit of performance and safety. Although Subaru automobiles can be seen on roads worldwide, they are all engineered with this basic concept in mind--a concept that captures the essence of the universal appeal of motoring.

For even more reasons why Subaru's AWD technology and horizontally-opposed engines are superior in handling and safety to traditional technology, visit their web page at and choose the English version of the site. Choose Subaru Safety from the menu bar at the left. They have and extensive site demonstrating the superiority of the Subaru.