Subaru wanted a more efficient engine. They through all the tech they thought might help, aiming for 10-15% improvement but got only 5%.
They stayed away from DI and they clearly don't know how to make an efficient turbo (compare to Hyundai).
I could agree with some of that in that they are trying to improve the engine instead of replacing it with a complete new design. Ford just last year completely redesigned their engines and now offer the "Eco-boost" motors which are all new and use both Direct Injection and a turbo. Since they did not try to retrofit this system to an existing motor, it might have been a lot easier to design a new one from scratch. Perhaps Subaru is working on something similar for 2012 +??
I think this is a real failure on their part, since next year a new crop of RAV4 and CRV will be made available that will potentially leave them in the dust.
Keep in mind that the >500 lb heavier and bigger Chevy Equinox is making 32MPG highway, (29 for AWD), so Honda and Toyota will be under pressure to make theirs better too.
I don't really keep up with the CRV or RAV4, so I don't know what is around the corner there, but as far as the Chevy, I think their still laggin sales and poor design and build quality will keep the Equinox from doing too much damage. I have three Equinox AWD in my fleet and I can honestly say all three are complete pieces of garbage. (They are all 2006 LS models). Our fleet manager in Philadelphia ignored my advice and bought 6 new 2010 models and so far (within the first year) two have already had repeated transmission failures (same as mine here) and one complete electrical failure (fire...totaled).
Subaru still thinks that their 4AT can compete, perhaps because the RAV4 4cyl still sells with with one (albeit much better unit IMHO). Most likely Toyota is going to change it next year, maybe to a 6AT, to match the Equinox and the Escape, which is going to be all new next year too.
I agree that the Forester should at the very least offer the 5EAT or perhaps the CVT. They already use the 5EAT in Europe, Japan and Australia...why not here?
FWIW, my current company daily driver is still a 2008 Escape AWD. 3.0 V6. It is nice, but is no comparison to my Foz as far as handling. It is a nice ride, and I do like it-BUT it is a V-6 AWD and averages 20-21 MPG around North Georgia (mix of Atlanta and country highways) while my turbo Foz (2009 XT) averages 23-24 if I drive it to work.