It’s been almost four months since I got my Subaru Forester. This was perhaps the most highly researched car purchase I’ve ever made; I spent three months reading reviews, test-driving potential candidates, and even taking a few home for several days of extensive hands-on experience. BTW, if a dealer won’t let you have one for a few days, follow Ann Landers’ exhortation to “run, don’t walk away”. In fairness though, narrow the field down first to maybe three potential cars you are seriously interested in. Don’t waste the salesman’s time setting you up for an extended trial if you’re not serious about the car.

I finally opted for the “Limited” version of the 2010 Subaru Forester with the standard 2.5 liter engine (not the Turbo). The reviews said that this powerplant was “adequate” and that’s exactly what it is. This is no street-racer, but in reasonably experienced hands won’t get you into trouble because of a lack of power. If on the other hand, you are a dufus and slow down on the on-ramp expecting to gun it at the end in order to get on the expressway, you may well not find the power sufficient. Instead, get yourself a used 1975 Buick Electra with the 440 cu in. engine – you’ll need the extra body armor anyway.

I’ve owned a lot of cars in my time, the result of corporate jobs that gave me a new one every 2-3 years, as well as a passion for sports cars in my younger days which included 4 Alfa Romeos, two Triumphs, a BMW 320i, and some other less memorable marques. My all-time favorite vehicle (until now) was the Toyota Previa AWD van. It was a tank that weighed 5500 lbs. and Heaven help you if you ran into me, there wouldn’t be much left of your car. I owned two of these, and would buy another one in a heartbeat if they were still available in North America. My wife insists I have such fond memories of the Previa because it’s tied into all the activities we did as a family with our growing children…ski hills, chalet’s, vacations at the beach, etc. She may be right. I think it was just the love of big heavy things busting down snow banks and cruising along snow-choked highways while others were in the ditch…but hey, what do I know!

The Forester is Consumer Reports’ top-rated cross-over, neck-in-neck with the Toyota Rav-4 and the Honda CRV. Two things sold me on the truck: A much roomier driver’s compartment (I’m 6’2″, 250+), and Subaru’s benchmark All Wheel Drive system, which is the best in the industry (it’s all the company does).

I can say unequivocally that the Forester is the overall best vehicle I’ve ever had; it does everything well while doing nothing to irritate me. The construction is solid, without any creaks or rattles. The fit and finish is excellent. The engine is smooth and the transmission shifts unnoticeably. The AWD is completely seamless, i.e. you never feel it coming on (unlike my previous Toyota Highlander) and it provides a real sense of confidence under even the worst driving conditions here in the frigid and snowy North. Legroom both front and back is aplenty, with lots of space for five hefty adults. Looks is a matter of personal taste, but I like the subdued and low-key appearance that promises to look good in five or even ten years (this one may be a keeper unless I hit another deer like I did with my Outback). The enormous sunroof that spans almost the entire top of the vehicle is a great feature if you enjoy that open-air feeling. Interior controls are large and well placed, although the stereo system still features the same unit as in my previous Impreza, with its very small, ill-placed buttons. For a much larger vehicle than the Impreza, gas mileage comes in at almost the same level (same engine), at 11 liters/100 km over the last 5,ooo km of mixed driving.

Subaru is competitively priced with Toyota and Honda, although you could save a few sheckles by going to a Mitsubishi, Hyundai, or Kia (all very good vehicles). Since I was looking for a “keeper” on this one, the small premium seemed justified when amortized over a longer time-frame. And the Forester is made in Japan, if that means anything to you.