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Subaru Forester
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Overview: Subaru’s go-anywhere wagon is a great value at less than $25,000 with standard all-wheel-drive.

Drivetrain: The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder puts out 170 horsepower; optional turbocharged 2.0-liter increases the value to 250; six-speed manual transmission only in base models; continuously variable unit for the others.

Quite simply, the Forester is Subaru’s best-selling model and continues to receive praise for its tough-when-it-needs-to-be attitude, passenger comfort and reliability. On good roads and bad, the standard all-wheel-drive system operates virtually unnoticed. But when required, which is frequently in snow-belt regions, the vehicle’s mountain-goat capabilities make it a popular choice. The Forester’s platform offers sufficient distance between the front and rear wheels for plenty of legroom, while the tall roofline and low-rise load floor make for generous storage space with the split-folding rear seat folded flat. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. For added punch, the 2.0XT uses a turbocharged version of the 2.0-liter non-turbo four-cylinder used in the BRZ sports coupe that’s rated at 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The 2.5i Forester runs with a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable (CVT) option. The 2.0XT only comes with the CVT, but it has what Subaru calls an “engine performance management system” with Intelligent, Sport and Sport Sharp settings. In Sport mode, the throttle becomes more responsive and the steering-column-mounted paddle shifters mimic the action of a six-speed transmission. Throttle response is further heightened in Sport Sharp mode, but the CVT provides eight “speeds” to play with. This is possible because the CVT actually has no set ratios and can be programmed to act differently at different times. Standard in the 2.0XT and available in the 2.5i with the CVT is Subaru’s X-Mode control. When activated below 13 mph, the system adds greater control on slippery surfaces by shifting torque specifically to the wheels with grip, either front to back or side to side. Base Foresters arrive reasonably well equipped, while upgrading to the Premium adds a better audio system, heated front seats with 10-way power driver’s chair and a rear-vision camera. Limited models include the CVT and leather-covered seats, with the Touring edition topping out with touch-screen navigation and a 440-watt Harmon-Kardon-brand audio package.