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2004 Subaru Forester

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2004 Subaru Forester Review

Subaru reliability and greater off-road power.

Reviewed by Automotive on


First released in 1997, the Subaru Forester marks one of the safest sport utility vehicles available. The 2004 Subaru Forester features the increased structural design that first appeared in 2003, and the newest model option, the Subaru Forester XT sport utility, also became available in 2004. The XT provides a more powerful version which replaces the standard 165-horsepower engine with one that makes 210 horsepower. The legroom seems bit lacking compared to some larger vehicles in the same class, but the improved smoothness in the ride and safety more than make up for the Forester's other downfalls. With a back seat that folds down for more storage, the somewhat compact vehicle still offers great storage space when needed. With improved smoothness in the ride, decent interior space, and an extremely high safety rating, this SUV includes all of the features that work in prior models and also makes small tweaks to improve on the design.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 2.5-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Subaru Forester X, Subaru Forester XS, Subaru Forester XT

What's New

The 2004 Subaru Forester shows very few changes from previous models. The major difference concerns the new Forester 2.5 XT, which comes equipped with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that produces 210 horsepower. The 2.5 S and 2.5 XS still sport the 165-horsepower engine.


The Forrester has triangular taillights that frame a hexagonal gate, 16-inch tires, and roof rails. Aluminum-alloy wheels and a steel gray metallic lower-body remain available for the more expensive 2.5 XS, which also features four-wheel disc brakes rather than the combination of front disc brakes and rear drum brakes in the X and XT. All models stand on 16-inch tires.

The SUV measures 175.2 inches long overall with a 99.4-inch wheelbase, which matches the Subaru Impreza models. Ground clearance reaches seven and a half inches.


The Forester features sport bucket seats in the front and a split back seat to fit five occupants. Despite the amount of seating, actual legroom seems a bit lacking. The back seat also folds down to increase the amount of storage space. All upholstery is cloth except the leather-wrapped steering wheel and Moquette upholstery for the 2.5 XS.

In the front, the 2004 Subaru Forrester features a Hill Holder clutch to make it easier to shift on inclines in the manual transmission models. The X model includes a basic CD player and a FM/AM radio, and the 2.5 XS and 2.5 XT provide a six-disc CD changer and automatic climate control.

Performance & Handling

The Subaru Forester comes in three models, two sporting the 165-horsepower engine. The newest model for 2004, the Forester XT 2.5-liter with 210 horsepower, gives the option of a more powerful version of this extremely safe sport utility vehicle. The 2004 Subaru Forester's 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine generates 165 horsepower. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, but it offers an option for a four-speed automatic. The 2.5 XT contains a 210-horsepower engine that generates 235 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive in all Subaru models stays permanently engaged, but the 2.5 XT also features sensors that measure weight distribution and determine how much power the front and back wheels need for the current terrain.


This SUV offers some of the best crash test scores in its class. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration awards it five out of five stars in every category except rollover tests, which has a four-star rating. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates it ""good"" in both the frontal-offset test and the side-impact test. The extremely high ratings in the sport utility class make the 2004 Subaru Forester an extremely safe option for the family despite the lack of legroom.

This SUV comes standard with a four-wheel anti-lock brake system, dual front and side-mounted airbags, an anti-theft alarm, rear-door safety locks, daytime running lights, fog lights, electronic brake force distribution, and ventilated front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.

EPA Fuel Economy

Subaru Forester X: 19/25 mpg city/highway
Subaru Forester XS: 19/25 mpg city/highway
Subaru Forester XT: 17/21 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • All-wheel drive at no extra cost
  • High safety scores for its class
  • Engine choices
  • Side airbags
  • Good handling
  • High resale value
  • Quietness

You Won't Like

  • Lacks legroom
  • Higher price than competitors

Sum Up

Subaru reliability and greater off-road power.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Ford Escape
  • Honda Element
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Mazda Tribute
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Saturn VUE

See the New 2015 Forester.

Front & Driver Side View

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