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When the Forester was introduced to Australia in 1997 it was closely related to the Subaru Impreza hatch. Holden has caught on, so has Ford, but both have got a long way to go if they want to catch up with Subaru who hit the market in 1996 with the first family wagon with the ability to go off-road. Add to that the lack of low range gearing and no real protection for vulnerable components underneath and you get the idea that the Outback wasn’t intended to go deep into the bush. To give it the ability to go off-road Subaru raised the suspension by 35 mm and fitted some 70-series tyres to 15-inch rims, which resulted in 200 mm ground clearance and made it comparable to many more serious off-roaders. The suspension was also retuned to handle the tough stuff, with retuned shocks and springs, and increased wheel travel, which made it quite comfortable even when traversing some relatively rough forest tracks. But it was at its best on slippery surfaces when its all-wheel drive and passenger car chassis dynamics combined to give it an assurance and level of safety unheard of in an off-roader.
Power came from Subaru’s 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed double overhead cam four cylinder engine. More performance was unleashed in 2000 when the H6 was released with the 3.0-litre engine, which delivered 154 kW and 282 Nm, but ran on PULP.
Inside there was plenty of room even for tall occupants with generous front and rear seat leg and head room, plus generous load space in the rear. The interior was also well equipped with lots of knickknacks, like delay courtesy lights, cup holders, and a powerful sound system.
Early Outbacks, those between 1996 and 1998, can be had for $17,000-$24,000, add $1000 for a manual, and $3000 if you want a Limited. For later cars, 1998-2002, pay between $20,700 and $32,500 for manuals, add $1000 for an auto and $3000 for a Limited. Although few Outbacks travel off-road, apart from the odd foray down a gravel road, look for signs of bush bashing anyway. Tyres can wear out quite quickly, particularly on the hotter H6 model, and 50,000 km is not unusual.
One, Darren Wilkie, has been off roading in his and says it performed exceptionally, handling creek crossings, steep heavily rutted tracks, and soft sand with surprising ease.
Main gripe is the headlights, which a number of owners say are “poor” to the extent that they have replaced them with more powerful units. You only have to mention the Subaru Impreza and images of the hot rod WRX come flooding to mind. The Impreza has long been a well-built, reliable and popular small car and the new model introduced in 2007 was even better than those cars it replaced. There was always something off-putting about the way Impreza doors closed, a feeling of flimsiness that suggested a lack of quality.  That was before the new model in 2007, which for the first time had frames around the windows in the doors. You might think that adding doorframes is a small change, but in terms of the impact it had on the Impreza it was a major revision.  While it was a most welcome change it also seemed to signal a major change in thinking at Subaru.
It was as if Subaru had decided to come in from the cold; it was the final step from being a somewhat quirky outsider to being a solid mainstream carmaker.

Subaru only offered a five-door hatch at the Impreza's launch, but there were three models, plus the WRX, which we'll hold over for another story. Inside the cabin, there was a fresh new dash, upgraded seats and trim, better insulation and isolation, and a height and reach adjustable steering column. Under the bonnet was the familiar 2.0-litre flat-four, but with 20 per cent more power and seven per cent more torque. On the road that translated into more urge and better drivability, and motor-noters reckoned it was also smoother.  Bolted to the back of the engine was either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed auto, while drive was directed through all four wheels.
Pay $14,500-$19,500 to join the Impreza club with an R, $16,500-$22,000 for an RX, or $18,500-$24,500 for an RS. Carsguide has received few complaints about the Impreza, and those that have landed here have been of a minor nature and not to be too concerned about. ANCAP handed the Impreza a five-star rating on the back of its array of airbags, which provided front, side and curtain protection, along with its impressive active safety package.
ALSO CHECK THESEMAZDA 3 - 2007-2008: Premium small car looks good, is well built with excellent on-road   manners and plenty of safety features.
The popular small car got even better with new looks, an improved cabin and a more solid feel. As Holden rolls out the Commodore-based Adventra all-wheel drive wagon, and Ford makes noises about its all-new Territory which is due in 2004, Subaru’s Outback continues to rack up sales in a market segment that shows no sign of slowing. You get the roominess of a wagon, the dynamic safety of all-wheel drive, and the ability to explore bush tracks in the one package.
It was a Liberty wagon put on a course of steroids, they admitted, but it was conceived to offer buyers the flexibility of a four-wheel drive without the downsides of size, compromised safety and sloppy chassis dynamics. It looked like a Liberty, but with increased ground clearance, although the large front and rear overhangs rather limited its approach and departure angles. Subaru admitted as much at its launch when it quoted data that said as many as 95 per cent of new off-roaders never leave the black top.
Boasting a modest 115 kW and 221 Nm it was sufficient to give the Outback good performance without ever threatening to leave you with whiplash. Still, it shifted smoothly, and there a choice of ‘power’ or ‘regular’ shift modes, and a ‘hold’ button that would lock the trans and control up or down shifts.
The regular model which came with alloy wheels, ABS, remote central locking, cruise, fog lamps, power windows and mirrors, roof racks, and velour trim.
Subaru dealer servicing tends to be on the high side, so check service record carefully to see that it has been done, and who has carried it out. They particularly like the combination of the wagon size and flexibility with the safety of the all-wheel drive system.
The WRX rally rocket has come to define   the small Subaru, but to forget the rest of the range would be unfair. Now, with the windows supported by frames, the doors closed with a solid feel that made the Impreza experience much more satisfying.

She says it handles well on all terrain, particularly on wet dirt roads, it looks good, the fuel economy is good, and the bucket seats are comfortable.
Offers good build quality, impressive all-round performance, pleasant to drive, and is easy to move on when it comes time to sell. The great news is that you don’t have the massive size and on-road clumsiness of the bigger four-wheel drive wagons.
It was perfect for the buyer who wanted an all-round vehicle with reasonable off-road capability without sacrificing the comfort and style that goes hand-in-hand with a passenger cars. The choice was expanded to include a five-speed manual with dual-range four-wheel drive in 1997, which added to its off-road prowess if you were serious about going bush. On top of that the Limited got standard air-con, dual airbags, leather and wood grain, and CD sound. Many say it’s great for towing, and a number have towed pop-tops and campers around the country on their holidays. Oil can quickly clog an engine's vital internal passages, and blockages quickly wreck an engine. On the other hand she says the auto transmission is sluggish on takeoff, the body sheetmetal feels very thin and flimsy, and dents easily, and there's too much plastic on the interior. However, see the notes on the Forester GT (later tagged as the Forester XT).Subaru Forester first reached Australia in August 1997 and was joined by the Forester GT in September 1998. The latter is a fun little hotshot powered by a slightly detuned Subaru WRX engine.Forester GT was renamed Forester XT in the second-generation model in an attempt to fool the insurance companies into thinking it's not a GT.
The Forester GT and XT are performance off-roaders, though certainly not to the same extent as the WRX.August 2003 saw the introduction of the second-generation Subaru Forester.
It features a bit more style than the original series, particularly around the multi-faceted tail but, yet again, function takes preference over fashion. Please leave the safety-related items to experts.WHAT TO LOOK FOROlder engines often have that typical flat-four 'dak-dak' beat when they get a lot of kilometres on them.
Subaru makes the clutch a sacrificial component so that it fails first to protect other transmission parts.Check underneath in case the Forester has been seriously used in off-road conditions. If you suspect this, taste for salt in the areas under the car.Look over the complete body for signs of crash repairs.
The easiest to spot are generally poorly matching paint colours and slight ripples in the panels.

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