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Subaru has always marched to its own drum, embracing boxer engine design, turbochargers and all-wheel drive when competitors stuck to more conventional technology. The Japanese automaker was typically ahead of the crossover curve when it launched the Forester in 1998.
That first Forester looked like a tall wagon with a slightly lifted suspension. Recently redesigned for the 2014 model year, the fourth-generation Forester now has the appearance of a more conventional crossover. But the boxer engine design, (optional) turbocharger and all-wheel drive remain.
The 2014 Forester features a brand new exterior design as well as the introduction of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that allows the Subaru to achieve up to 32 mpg highway, as well as serving as a replacement for the long-outdated four-speed automatic. Other adjustments include an improved suspension and bracing for the turbocharged XT model. The VDC mode, which aids traction on poor surfaces, is still available.
The third-generation Forester was the most revised model to date, with increases in height (4.3 inches), length (3 inches), wheelbase (3.5 inches) and width (1.9 inches) over the previous model, as well as a complete redesign for both the exterior and interior. Cargo capacity and interior space in general was improved due to the increased wheelbase. Interior features were also upgraded with the addition of a new stereo and Bluetooth.
The second-generation Forester had quite a few styling upgrades, as well as some improved elements that allowed the new car to save some weight after the introduction of the new Impreza platform. Perhaps the biggest change was the introduction of the XT model, which featured the turbocharged boxer four-cylinder engine from the WRX, producing 224 horsepower. This proved to be a popular addition among critics, customers and Subaru enthusiasts.
The introduction of the Subaru Forester in 1998 played an important role in the emergence of crossover sport utilities in the years to come. The Forester featured Subaru's all-wheel drive system and sported a larger body based on the Impreza's frame, but with a 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine instead of the smaller 2-liter. This allowed for a greater cargo capacity without sacrificing much in the way of the Impreza's handling characteristics.