2009 Subaru Forester

The Forester is the taint of the automotive world: taint a wagon, taint an SUV. It’s the embodiment of the notion that one car can be all things to all people.

But it isn’t.

As a wagon it succeeds, right until you start driving it. It’s got plenty of space for five adults, and a trunk that will hold a body and a half with the seats up and the cargo cover in pace. The rear seats recline for passenger comfort, which would be a lot cooler if they were comfortable or had, say, an actual cooler to hold all the beer you’d have to drink to like this car.

It fails as an SUV for oh so many reasons. It’s tall, but not as tall as even the smallest of comparable SUVs. It’s got more ground clearance than an Outback, but not as much as you’d want if you spend quality time in the sticks.

Then there’s the ride. Like the Outback, it stays relatively flat in the corners, but the Outback has the decency to feel taut while doing it. The Forester feels ponderous, almost detached, more so than in some other small SUVs I’ve driven (the Honda CR-V comes to mind). The ride is rough. The steering is numb. The brakes stop the car, but it all leaves you feeling rather uninvolved.

It’s a taint: taint good, taint bad.


Generalissimo: Hold on!

Walter Thurman: I am!

GEN: That’s the spirit!

The Forester lumbers into traffic.

WT: Would you consider taking this into battle?

GEN: Not on a bet!

WT: But it’s a wagon. You love wagons. It’s got space for five men armed to the teeth and a trunk big enough to—

GEN: It lacks finesse!

To prove his point, he tries power sliding the Forester, but only succeeds in scaring the old man out for his morning constitutional.

GEN: The all-wheel drive is good! The space is good! The passion…is lacking!

WT: So you don’t like it?

GEN: On the contrary! I would like to give a fleet of them to my enemies, so that when we next meet in battle, I will be assured victory!

Then he takes the car off-road. Huge mistake.

GEN: It’s improving!

WT: So now you like it?

He slides it around a turn, way, way too fast for the author’s tastes. The Generalissimo said something, but the author couldn’t hear his screaming over those of the Boy Scouts he damn near ran down.

WT: Sorry, sir, but I missed that.

GEN: I said, it is the kind of car my brother would enjoy! Dull! Pedantic! Syphilitic!

WT: Syphilitic?

GEN: It is why I’m wearing gloves, my young friend!

He takes his hands off the wheel to wiggle his digits. The author snatches the wheel, just as more Boy Scouts emerge from the trees. The Generalissimo salutes them. The author steers between a pair of hundred-year-old hemlocks. The Generalissimo retakes the wheel.

GEN: Gloves are key! Remember, young Thurman, prophylactics save lives!

WT: You’re driving a car.

GEN: You can never be too careful! That’s why I’m also wearing the diaper!

The author rubs his eyes and prays for deliverance as the Generalissimo does his best Mika Hakkinen impersonation over the undulating gravel road.

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