1998 Subaru Forester Turbo 2.0 petrol
Good on snow, but don't fall in love with it
Picked up another Forester at auction here in Japan, as I needed some wheels after getting in from Malaysia.
My previous Forester was making some expensive noises from the rear at 100,000km. Possibly differential and/or rear bearing/s.
The latest one has 38,000km, and in Japan you can pretty much bet the farm that this is genuine.
The Japanese economic climate means that at 100,000km on a Forester you either have to bite the bullet and shell out for expensive repairs and servicing, or replace and ship to another country, i.e. UK. Specifically, it's timing belt replacement time, which means the oil pump needs checking. And the Web is littered with anecdotal accounts of rear bearings giving up the ghost. I had taken to running in front-wheel-drive rather than four-wheel-drive. Partly to reduce the likelihood of the rear seizing up, and partly to improve fuel efficiency. Feels like taking two big dogs for a walk with them pulling in opposite directions. You switch by inserting a fuse in the fuse box under the bonnet (check the manual, you can figure it even if it is in Japanese).
Naturally the Trade in Japan is aware of the Forester's shortcomings, so it is discounted into the ground. And if you pick an unpopular colour like green, even more so. The Legacy Outback and Grand Wagon are an even bigger bargain, but I'm still wary of that 2.5-engine as changing head gaskets is not exactly my hobby.
And out here in the Japan Alps you do need the traction and ground clearance. Because once the snow is high enough to lift the car, you are quite literally screwed (technical term). Also, at this time of year with the frost coming out of the ground, what looks like firm ground quickly becomes a mud bath.
So within these parameters (buy at under 50,000km, dump at 100,000km), aim to be essentially the last owner. Particularly if it’s been thoroughly “wifed”, i.e. damaged on all four corners.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 17th March, 2008
Every Forester I buy is with bad head gaskets, and right at 170k miles. They all seem to fail at 170.
First time the H-G job is hard... but it's a snap after that. Rear wheel bearings can be pulled from a Legacy for 10 dollars. No big deal.
These Foresters are just another run of the mill but reliable car UNTIL it snows. I'm in California, and we just got 620 inches of snow for the 2010-2011 season. WITHOUT CHAINS I have driven all season without getting stuck once... pretty close a few times, but when there is 2-4 ft laid down at each storm, I'm not complaining. I keep a big strong tow rope to pull the $WD Suburbans and Expeditions out of icy patches.
Good, solid, reliable, cheap to fix, and best of all.. when a repair is done... the darned thing stays fixed.
Best of all the Legacy-Outbacks are now American made with American parts. Beats every 4WD and AWD car for low cost, never-get stuck driving.
I like my old LS400 for summer driving, but you'll never find me driving in the snow without a Forester or Legacy. Friends keep talking me into selling whatever Subaru I am driving at the time. What the heck: it's no big deal to fix them up, even when there is a bad head gasket. Quick, straightforward, and they stay fixed.
Amazing - what a difference a different culture and country - and a bit of luck - can make! My 2.0 L manual Forester has 293,000 km and appears to be going strongly. It has a new bit of exhaust and will be getting a bit of front end work soon. I have had it for over 2 years, and it has been splendidly reliable. I love the fact that it is a total road car with the additional benefit of medium off-road abilities. It will climb a 28 degree gradient or so, negotiate some pretty rough places, and is good on soft beach sand and mud.
I love it and want to keep it forever. I like a 4x4 I can throw around bitumen corners without worry.
Thanks for excellent info and advice.