When the new generation came out in 2009, the Subaru Forester was named Motor Trend‘s SUV of the year. It competes in the compact SUV class against likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. It is largely unchanged for 2010. In comparison, the Subaru Outback, which is all-new for 2010, is slightly larger. It competes primarily against mid-size crossover SUV.
The Outback was named Motor Trend‘s 2010 SUV of the year, giving the automaker back-to-back awards. Subaru had an excellent year in 2009, moving from 19th to 11th place in terms of U.S. auto sales. The Japanese automaker is off to a great start in 2010, up 41 percent in sales for the year through April.
Both models come standard with Subaru’s 2.5 liter 170 horsepower boxer engine and have seating for five passengers. Neither model offers third row seating. The Forester has an 2.5XT Premium and 2.5XT Limited trims that have a turbocharged 224 horspepower four cylinde eingine, which costs only $500 more than comparable base forms. The Outback also offers a 3.6 liter V-6 which produces 256 horsepower. In base form, it costs $5,000 more than the 4 cylinder model. All Subarus come with all-wheel drive standard.
The Forester 2.5x Limited against the Outback 2.5i Limited have manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $25,995 and $27,995, respectively, a $2,000 price difference. These models have comparable features including leather, power seats, air conditioning, ABS brakes, and Stability Control. The Outback 3.6R Limited is priced at $30,995.
Fuel economy varies between the two models. The Outback features Subaru’s new Lineatronic continuously variable transmission (“CVT”), which increases fuel economy. It is an option but is standard in the 2.5 Limited. The Forester retains the old four-cylinder automatic. Fuel economy is 22-mpg city, 29-mpg highway for the Outback and 20-mpg city, and 26-mpg highway for the Forester. The 3.6R’s fuel economy in the Outback is 18-mpg city, and 25-mpg highway, while the XT trims on the Forester with the turbocharged four are rated at 19-mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
Another difference between these two models is in interior space. While the Forester appears to have a taller, more upright appearance, the Outback actually has more cargo room. It has 34.3-cubic-foot rear cargo and 71.3-cubic-feet with the rear seats folded down compared to 33.5 and 68.3 for the Forester in comparison to the Forester. The Forester XT trims have slightly smaller cargo dimensions.
On the inside, the Outback also has about 1.5 inches more of rear headroom, front hip room, and rear hip room. The interior passenger space is otherwise comparable. The Outback actually has overall larger interior room than competitors such as the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Venza. Exterior dimensions also show the Outback to be larger than the Forester. It has more than eight inches longer and 1.6 inches wider. However, the Forester is two inches taller than the Outback.
Both models are strong competitors in their respective classes. It will be interesting to see if Subaru offers the CVT engine for the Forester in 2011.