Multi-talented versatility and the early Subaru Forester

Most cars are fairly one-dimensional. They have a single, focused purpose. Cars are, generally, designed to be good at one thing and one thing alone. A good track-focused car isn’t much good at anything else. A good off-road vehicle is similarly purposed. It’s rare that a vehicle can handle both, but an easier point of focus is a vehicle that, with owner intervention and modification, can be tailored to do what the owner needs from it. The first and second-generation Subaru Foresters represent an example of one of the *very* few cars that can do this.

Let’s look at two different Forester XT paths. One is a 2004, one is a 2005. They’re both silver. They both have 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, boxer-style engines. They both have clean titles and no accidents on their records. Fundamentally, they’re the exact same vehicles. Until their owners got their hands on them. Then things went…well, exactly opposite directions.

The first vehicle is a 2004 Subaru Forester XT. Much like those who modify their WRX and STI cars for handling, this one appears to be lowered quite a bit and is fitted with– if nothing else– suspension, wheels, and tires designed to allow the car to handle better than it would at its factory height. It also boasts mud flaps and a roof rack so as to allow for the maximum Subaru-ness. This would be a fantastic daily driver with the ability to haul a fair amount of cargo and still bomb down a curvy back-road with confidence and aplomb. Autocross, or even a track day? Sure. A lowered Fozzy can handle it.

On the opposite side of the ring is a 2005 Forester– also an XT— with the exact opposite suspension modifications. This one is lifted and boasts Sparco Terra wheels wrapped around Falken Wildpeak tires. It, like the 2004, has a roof rack and mud flaps. It’s a killer look and gives off the impression that it should be driven down a fire road at high-ish speed. It could even likely handle a slightly difficult off-road trail. And the added suspension travel would only help with this Fozzy’s every-day compliance over awful roads.

This isn’t as much an ode to the early Forester as it is a nod to the few cars out there that can be tuned, modified, and used for an extreme, diverse selection of enthusiast activities. The Forester– and many other Subarus, for that matter– fall into this category. So do Porsche 911s, Mazda Miatas, a few pickups and SUVs, and…that’s it. Obviously there are exceptions and examples that fall outside the rule outlined here, but the few cars that can manage either discipline deserve appreciation.

It’s rare that a vehicle can do this. The ability to be modified successfully for opposing purposes is rare, and the ability for it to happen with success is even more so. The first/second generation Subaru Forester is an example of this. It’s light enough, powerful enough, and tunable enough to be nearly all things to all people. The other vehicles that can pull this off deserve praise as well. Here’s to you, multi-talented vehicles: You are proof that a vehicle, like a person, can be multi-talented and fun in more ways than one.

And, like you, I want to build a best-of-both-worlds mashup. Make mine lifted life the one pictured above, but built with heavy-duty sway bars and both suspension and engine work that allows it to hustle when pushed. A car that can run the mountains when the road is both paved and un-so? Hell. Yeah. It’s what we enthusiasts crave and what we need.

Oh, bonus round: This wood-panel-clad monstrosity. I don’t even know what to say. At least it makes a metric fuckton of power? Wood paneling is bad. It can be funny if it’s on a baby-hauling, 500-plus-horsepower vehicle shaped like the Forster. But generally, wood paneling is still bad. Yuck. Yikes. Pleaseforfuck’ssakedon’tdothistoyourownvehicleeverwhatthefuckingfuck.


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8 responses to “Multi-talented versatility and the early Subaru Forester”

  1. William Byrd Avatar

    This is a great example of a car that’s gotten better with time When they were originally out, I wasn’t a fan. Maybe it’s the 3-kid practicality that is attractive now, hard to tell. I like them both for different reasons, hard to choose which route I’d go.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      My thoughts exactly. I’m a fan of the bug-eye WRX wagon, but it’s difficult to find an unmolested example. The XT Foresters aren’t terribly common, but at least when you do find them, they’re often in relatively original condition.

      1. Ol' Shel' Avatar
        Ol’ Shel’

        I’ve found the opposite, unless you’re talking automatics. These don’t seem to be a secret anymore. I think it’s just about perfect, but I’m not paying 8 grand for a 15-year-old car with 200,000 miles that’s been ragged on by some guy(s) in their 20s.

        And forget about a clean WRX. They either don’t exist or they’re traded on some secret, old-guy classifieds.

  2. caltemus Avatar

    I’m looking into jeep patriot suspension for my mitsubishi lancer. Looks like the parts are cheaper than lancer parts, with better aviailability. 1.5 inch lift here I come

  3. Scoutdude Avatar

    The answer is always Panther, or it it Miata, both do it much better than the Forester. Lifted both are great Gambler/rally/off-road vehicles and both can also go very very low. Google will show you more images than you will believe if you type in lifted Crown Vic or Miata and there are some in my area.

    1. Zentropy Avatar

      A lifted Vic project is tempting. Those cars are tough as nails. I’ve seen some dirt-cheap prices on nice one-owner Grand Marquises lately and had visions of a 5-speed swap, but a lifted one might be even easier.

      1. Scoutdude Avatar

        Yeah lifting is quick and simple, since there are kits, intended for making a Donk. There are some 5sp swaps out there but no kits. I keep thinking about lifting my 05 CVPI and running it in the local Gambler event. Already have a slammed one, so I do kind of need a lifted one to balance it out.

    2. Rally Avatar

      How much would you need to spend to get either to the point that the Forester starts at?