Published on September 2nd, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Subaru Forester STi 1997 Used Car Review
Only a few car manufacturers can claim to have ‘word of mouth’ status when it comes to promoting their product. Ferrari and Porsche come to mind as the most sought after even for young kids growing up surrounded by fathers who have petrol running thru their veins. The next closest product will have to be the Skyline from Nissan. The latest version hit showrooms all over Japan with strong crowds making a beeline even before its launch was announced in the media. The next brand is the subject of this weeks used car review, Subaru, however instead of looking at a used Impreza we are looking at their most underrated product to date, the Forestor. Looking more like a boring family wagon on steroids, the Forestor has grown in popularity in Malaysia despite niggling issues like high fuel consumption and costly replacement parts. The reasons are simple.
Despite a disadvantages profile in cheating wind resistance, the Forestor breaks across the tarmac when requested with an urgency befitting a runaway train. Most Forestor’s entered our market thru parallel importers just like its popular sibling the Impreza. There is little to complain about when prices from the parallel importers make ownership rather inviting. Local official distributor, Motor Image has over the years introduced the lesser version with immediate stock run outs due to its good resale value and warranty. However these versions are without the big turbos, adjustable suspensions and lightweight oversized alloys that we all have grown to love when admiring these super fast bricks. (pictured below is the all new 2014 Forester which is on sale at all Motor Image showrooms)
The STi versions are the ones to own and these came with various horsepower rating. Japan domestic versions from the showroom are sold with 195 horsepower to 225 horsepower. Subaru emphasize the on-road attributes of their 50/50 drive system, which instantly redistributes torque when wheel slip is detected and the all-terrain bit takes on more meaning. At the heart of the Foresters gutsy performance is the sweet sounding turbo-charged and intercooled boxer engine, a term applied to horizontally opposed layouts, which in the Foresters case has 4 cylinders. Unlike many so-called Sports Utility Vehicles, the on-road driveabilty of the Forester is not compromised by undue ride height. The very popular Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 ride like a scaled-down 4×4, which, in some senses, is what they are. The Foresters nearest rival is probably the Audi A4 Avant Turbo, which means to say that it drives very much like a normal performance car but with the added load space advantage.
All-round independent suspension, a stiff body and hefty front and rear anti-roll bars produce a firm, flat ride that echoes the handling of the Impreza Turbo, to which the Forester is, of course, closely related. But the load-lugging virtues are not forgotten, and the Forester is fitted with self-levelling rear suspension, which copes with even near-maximum loads. Driven really hard it is just, just possible to detect an input from the centre-differential viscous coupling that directs the torque to the wheels with most traction. Under all normal driving circumstances all you are aware of is the remarkable four-wheel drive road holding with its equal division of torque to front and rear wheels. The whole system is made even more exciting by the limited-slip differential mounted in the rear axle. Ventilated front and rear discs deliver impressive braking power and, thankfully, the four-channel ABS is not overly sensitive and only kicks in when you really need it.
What is most interesting is the fact that this vehicle takes in very little depreciation year to year even with the recent dip in the used car market. Owners also have very little need to sell unless for family reasons. Even with rather high running costs, the versatility and driver satisfaction reigns and this is what keeps the Forestor a hard to find car in the used car market. Very seldom are they found in used car lots and gray units are sold in a few short weeks. Most owners’ plough in lots of money of modifications and this is sometimes reflected in its asking price. Looking for one that has been well looked after is hard and trying to locate one for sale even harder.
We recently spotted one in the classifieds. A 1998 unit with dyno tested 245 horsepower, reconditioned gearbox, and adjustable Tein suspension with whole list of other accessories for RM65k. It was sold the same day its advertisement appeared. Another unit turned up the week we were writing this and this was a stock 1997 unit with 195 horsepower and no accident and no go faster bits, Asking price was RM38,000. We liked this as it was not modified and still carried its original paint and interior looked good. When checking a used unit the most important area to check is its engine and gearbox which is the most costly to repair or replace. Even with a visit to the junkyard. Workshop specialists are plentiful and a day scanning the internet forums will have you needing all the necessary research you need to pick the best one for your budget.